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Event catering tips

09 April 2010 by

Special or themed events can be hugely popular, attracting new customers as well as providing something different for regulars, but for it to be successful, a function will
involve careful planning. We have 30 tips to ensure your event goes with a swing.

1. LOGISTICS

Organising a successful themed event requires careful planning. Take time prior to the day of the event to finalise the logistical aspects of the party. A well considered and thought-through plan will reduce nasty surprises on the day and will make the whole event experience far less stressful and much more enjoyable.

2. BUDGETING

Generally, the cheapest events are drinks parties and the most expensive are seated events, as they usually require equipment hire. Try to be realistic about what you want to achieve and decide early on whether you will pre-sell tickets or charge at the door, so that you can budget accordingly.

If you are holding an event on your own premises, decide on a budget and then endeavour to stick to it. Thoughtful planning will help you keep to your budget - those last minute panic purchases when you remember something essential that you have forgotten are always going to cost you more.

3. STAFFING

The ratio of staff to customers is approximately 1:20 for waiting, 1:35 for buffets and 1:50 for drinks. What will the staff wear? Will they wear their normal uniform or something special for the particular event?

4. DATE

Unless your event is based on a calendar event, such as the World Cup Final, check that your chosen date does not coincide with another important event.

5. LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

Where in the building is the best place for the event? Will your guests have enough room to move around easily? Are there potential queuing bottlenecks for buffets at service counters? Consider setting up different counters for different foods and drinks to spread over a space. If you're expecting a larger than normal crowd can you set up an additional temporary bar elsewhere?

6. WORKABILITY

Is your theme workable? There is no point spending time and money on a concept that will not work in your venue. Are there restrictions with regards to space or the style of cooking that will make your theme impractical?

7. THEMES

Decide how far to go when embracing a theme. For example, are you going to put up a poster and a few flags or will your venue be undergoing a full transformation, with staff in costume, a tailored menu, themed cocktails etc?

8. GLASSES

Any popular event is going to put enormous pressure on the glassware. Make sure there are enough glasses to cope with demand - hire extra ones if necessary - and avoid serving drinks in hot glasses straight from the glasswasher. Nothing ruins a drink like a warm glass, however merry the revellers.

9. MARKETING

Keep local press up to date with news of special events to promote your outlet. More people trust their local papers than any other source of news, so use this valuable resource to your advantage. Target the What's On sections of newspapers in advance of the event, or ask your local reporter to take part.

10. TIME

Set aside enough time to prepare the event. There is nothing enjoyable about scrabbling around at the last minute.

11. SOUND

Check that any sound is well-distributed around the room, and not loud in one area and quiet in another.

12. FORMAT

Inform guests of the format of the evening so they know what time bars open and close and when food service starts. Menus or a guide will help.

13. VISIBILITY

Have food and drink visible: when they can't see refreshments, guests can get anxious and congregate around the kitchen and block bars.

14. SERVICE

Make service easy - it's not a restaurant, so do as much prep as possible for the number of confirmed guests or tickets sold. Don't serve 200 guests one drink at a time - get 100 drinks ready to be finished off.

15. SOMETHING NEW

Themed events are a great opportunity to offer something different to regular customers, and entice new customers along. Have a tailored menu for each themed event.

16. CONTROL COSTS

If you're new to themed events and unsure how many customers to expect, frozen foods help with portion control, are easy to prepare and minimise waste in the kitchen.

17. DEALS

Food and drink matching meal deals are a great way to encourage custom, so pick out your key sellers, try them out together and if they work, match them.

18. CONVENIENCE

Sharing platters are perfect for events such as themed quiz nights and football matches. They offer a convenient food solution that's easy for caterers and chefs to turn around, particularly during busy periods.

OUTDOOR EVENTS

19. LICENCE

Is the area you are holding your event in covered by your premises licence? Do you need to apply for a temporary licence? Make sure you allow time to get this sorted.

20. WEATHER

Always develop a wet weather contingency, we are, after all, in the UK. Although we all dream of a long hot summer the reality is we may well be affected by rain.

21. BE PREPARED

Equip your staff with appropriate kit. This can be everything from sun cream and insect repellent to waterproofs.

22. STANDARDS

Just because you are serving outside and it may seem like a more relaxed environment does not mean standards can slip. Your customers will still demand quality and be just as discerning as they normally are.

23. STORAGE

It may sound obvious but in a beautiful garden think about how you're going to store and display condiments, manage rubbish disposal etc.

24. SAFETY

Ensure you undertake the necessary risk assessments. Health and Safety brings new challenges in a new environment and there is no excuse for cutting corners.

25. SEATING

Make sure you match your dining/seating provision to your catering offering - you want your guests to be comfortable and be able to eat their food.

26. BAR

Drinks, especially if they are themed, often have a high profit margin so customers need to be able to purchase them easily. If your event is outside make sure you set up adequate bar facilities. Guests expect these to be of the same high standard as a permanent bar, able to dispense a variety of alcoholic and soft drinks and copious amounts of ice.

SPORTS-RELATED EVENTS

27. DRINKS

Consider a separate beer bar for easy and quick service. If it's a cash bar, encourage deals such as pitchers of beer or bottles of wine rather than glasses - they'll be easier to serve and will allow guests to concentrate on the match and you on service

28. FOOD

Make food easy and quick to serve; ideally grab food that can be eaten on the go or ready five minutes before the interval. Do not make stacked, fussy restaurant food for a time-critical event.

29. CELEBRATION

Make sure you have a supply of Champagne on ice. Celebration can lead to impulse purchases.

30. STOCK

Keep a supply of extra stock in case a sports event runs into extra time or play-offs, and make sure you'll have enough serving staff if this happens.

CONTRIBUTORS

Amadeus
0121 767 3329

Couture
0207 247 5987

Foodservice Equipment Marketing 01355 244111

McCain Foodservice 0800 146573

Nestlé Professional
0800 745 845

Nomad Food & Design

The London Kitchen 020 3267 1198

Winterhalter 01908 359000

Zap Event Hire
01926 832829

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