Food is such a fundamental element of an event experience. Get it wrong and you will have a lot of unhappy people…

For a successful event that will leave your guests wanting more, we have collated some of our insights from our dealings with various catering companies across Australia. What you need to look out for, how to draft a brief and much more.


Most catering companies have an online presence. Jump online to read their reviews whether it be on Linkedin, Google or Facebook. Ask the venue, your colleagues or suppliers for recommendations, alternatively you could ask for a customer reference to find out what worked and didn’t work for them. Read testimonials and keep an eye out for any award winners…

Set a budget

Before you do anything work out how much you have to work with. Narrowing down your figures will help you find a caterer that meets your needs within your budget. Be up front with caterers by sharing your estimates, from there they should be able to customise a quote to suit.

Shortlist and brief

Once you have identified which caterers you want to approach, its time to create a brief. The more information you can provide here, the better for both you and the supplier. The caterers will need the following information – venue and room (including details about the venue’s facilities), expected numbers, date and event duration. A copy of your event showrun would be of value as well, to give them an understanding of the event format and how they fit in.

If you have an event theme or menu preferences, let them know! They might have or can create a package to suit. We have worked with caterers that offer different cuisine to suit your event theme such as Mexican and Japanese.


Image Credit: WSMI General Assembly 2017

You should also advise the caterers which catering style you prefer. If you are unsure, ask the venue and caterer, they know their know product and will be able to guide you to choose the best fit for your event. We’ve found a great blog that can give you a breakdown on different catering styles to consider, click here to review.

Define who will be in attendance. This could include the projected gender ratio, average age group and their preferences. For further information about profiling your guests for catering purposes check out this great article, click here.

What beverages will you serve? Would drinks on consumption or a beverage package be more cost effective for your group? Would you like tray pass service or a drinks station? You need to ask yourself these questions and make sure your caterer understands your preferences for consistency.

Compare quotes

When the quotes come in they will more than likely be formatted and priced differently. Make sure you read the fine print to compare apples with apples! Inclusions, minimum spends, staffing and delivery costs are what you need to look out for.

Wait Staff

Image Credit: WSMI General Assembly 2017

Some caterers provide a per head price whilst others itemise the costs. Some caters include GST whilst others don’t. To make it easier to compare we would collate this information into an spreadsheet which would break down the costs (e.g. catering, cutlery, staffing, equipment, etc.) per head with totals. From there our team would be in a better position to evaluate each offering.

Ask questions

Once you have created a shortlist, it’s time to ask questions. Have they catered at this venue before? If the event is outdoors, what are their protocols? Do they have the relevant licensing and insurance? How experienced are their wait staff? What is their ratio of wait staff to guests?

Asking these questions before you sign on the dotted line could save you a lot of time, stress and money later down the track…

Sample! Sample! Sample!

Not all events require a tasting, however if you are organising a gala dinner or fundraising event it might be a good idea to add it to your to do list. This should give you (and your client) an indication of which style of food service is best suited to your event; the quality and freshness of the food; and an opportunity to understand how it will fit with your event e.g. theme, staffing, etc.


Image Credit: WSMI General Assembly 2017

Ask about existing partnerships

Caterers often have a wealth of connections which you could leverage…should you ask the question. Maybe they can you put you in touch with an event styling expert or a local photographer. You may find that some caterers can provide these services themselves and could offer you a package.

Finding a caterer that is the right fit for your event takes some time. Do your research, ask questions and be transparent.

If you need assistance producing an event that will leave people raving about it, let’s talk! Contact Nectar Creative Communications on 1300 878 81.