Have you ever ordered catering for an office meeting or networking event? Whether it’s an informal get-together in the office for a simple working lunch or a fancy cocktail party, the worries are the same . What if there’s not enough food? What if there’s way too much food? How do I cater for dietary requirements? The list goes on.
But fear not, dear readers. Ordering catering can be a piece of (delicious) cake. At You Chews your catering is our business. We’ve organised catering for thousands of events all over Sydney and Melbourne for hundreds of corporate clients. Here are our top ten expert tips which will ensure the process of ordering great catering at your next event is the best ever, hassle-free.
1. Variety is the spice of life.
Nothing excites people more than to be pleasantly surprised when working lunch options expand outside the dreaded stodgy stale sandwich platter. If it’s a regularly-scheduled team lunch with food as the focus, trays of hot, filling food served buffet style are a great option. For a working lunch, finger food platters provide for an easy way to grab a (non-messy) bite and get back to work. What about entertaining clients? Think outside the sandwich. A build-your-own taco bar or a Mediterranean mezze can be the perfect way to make a lasting impression with zero extra effort.
2. You’re hot, then you’re cold…
Katy Perry was right. When considering menu options, the type of event you’re catering for should dictate the ordering of hot or cold food. For an event where food is the focus (like a team lunch), hot food is great – it’s filling and substantial, but most importantly, it’s served and eaten straight away. For an event where food is more functional (like a working meeting), cold food like French baguettes or Asian noodle salad boxes are a better bet. You never know if a meeting is going to run over and no one wants lukewarm pasta carbonara at their well-deserved lunchtime break.
3. Cover your basic dietary requirements.
Vegetarian and gluten free options have virtually become staples for the typical catering event. We recommend ordering at least 25% vegetarian options for a mixed crowd – meat-eaters also eat and enjoy veggie options. There may also be vegan, nut allergies, and other requirements/intolerances in and amongst your guests. Sending a simple RSVP asking for dietary requirements can help to guide you (and the catering choices you make).
4. Practice portion planning.
One of the most common questions we are asked at You Chews is, “How much food should I order”? But the answer to this question really starts with you. First, you need to ask yourself – what are attendees expecting? Or more importantly, what are our goals when ordering catering for this event?
Which one of these statements sounds like you?
- We’re only providing food so that people show up to our event, but we’re really not looking to feed them a proper “meal”.
- We want people to leave satisfied, but nothing too crazy.
- We’re really looking to provide people with a good amount of food.
Once you have the answer to this question, you can then plan your choices around a budget, because the budget is really what will dictate the amount of food that is ordered. You Chews catering packages are priced per person with the amounts of food provided specified, so you can make your menu choices based upon the number of attendees and budgeting bracket.
You also need to consider the people in attendance. Men eat more than women. If your event is predominately males, you’ll want to order extra portions – we recommend one extra serve of food per ten people, particularly for buffet-style meals where people tend to help themselves to seconds (and thirds!).
If it’s a networking event with finger food, bear in mind that if tasty finger food is left out on platters for the guests to help themselves (rather than having servers walk around with trays where portions are controlled), the food can be gone in a flash. This is particularly true at evening functions where people have had a few drinks and it’s close to dinner time. As a general rule, four canapes per person per hour is the minimum amount. But it really is up to you as to how much food you feel is appropriate for the type of event you are having.
Ending up with too much food isn’t great, but it’s much preferable to not having enough. Chances are, even if you do slightly overorder, the food will eventually get eaten.
5. Bank the budget
Catering costs can vary across a huge range of prices. It’s useful to already have the amount of money you’re willing to spend on food pre-determined. If you need some help determining a suitable budget, we’ve provided some basic guidelines below.
Breakfast/Morning Tea/Afternoon Tea: budget for one item (fruit cup, mini muffin, bacon and egg slider, cake slices, a serve of crackers and cheese) being $5 each. (Some items will be less, others more – this just provides an estimation for budgeting). 2-3 items per person for breakfast is preferable; for morning / afternoon teas, 1-2 pieces can be enough (just remember what your goals are in terms of wanting to feed people!)
Lunch: for a sandwich lunch, $10 allows for 1 full sandwich per person. If you’re after something a bit more exciting, a budget of up to $15 is generally enough to provide a reasonable amount of variety (e.g, a pasta dish or two, a roasted meat, some salad / steamed veggies.) Note that this also depends upon the number of people you’re ordering for. The more people who eat, the more variety you can provide. The same goes for dinner.
Finger food / networking: high-quality canapés are anywhere from $2-$4 per item; remember our 4 pieces per person per hour recommendation. Platters (meat and cheese board, antipasti, etc) are a good budget-friendly option without comprising on quality. In this case, anywhere from $10-$15 per person would be considered a fair amount for a light nibble.
6. Plan ahead
You’ve got enough to worry about; you don’t need to be rushing around at the last minute trying to find a last-minute catering option. Reserving your order ahead of time can make it a whole lot easier (and cheaper!) to ensure that you don’t miss out on the menu that you’re after, as our most popular menus book out quickly.
This is our general rule of thumb for when to place a You Chews order (note that this order will also depends on the quantities you are ordering for, as bigger orders require more prep):
- 5-7 business days for a canape/cocktail event with staff and beverage service
- 48 hours for evening finger food/platter orders
- 24 hours for a breakfast/lunch order
Please note this also depends on your Food Partner of choice; some need more lead times than others. This is all the more reason to plan ahead as much as possible.
7. Dodge the stodge
It’s well-documented that most Australians are trying to eat healthier. Catering doesn’t need to be any different. If you’re feeding your team lunches that are refined-carb heavy and stodgy, the effects may have a negative impact on the rest of the day’s productivity. A shared office meal should be tasty and healthy.
Our in-house dietitian has personally selected several You Chews catering menus that are good for you and taste great too. Whether it’s a morning tea or a platter of canapes at after-work drinks, You Chews has got you covered.
8. Determine the drinks
If you’re serving alcohol at your event, a rough guideline is to allow one beverage per person per hour. Always have non-alcoholic options. Having water pitchers or jugs easily accessible for self-service are not just a great touch for your guests – they are generally more cost-effective. Just ensure that they are continually kept topped up.
For casual office events needing beverages, individual bottles of water or juice work well for some events. Larger bottles of water or juice with cups for self-service are a cost-effective way to keep attendees hydrated.
9. Provide the information necessary to ensure an on-time delivery.
Ask any event organiser and they will tell you that one of the most important factors when it comes to a food delivery for a meeting and event is that the delivery arrives at the requested time. What they don’t realise is that the key to a smooth, on-time delivery starts with clear and complete delivery information from the customer. This may include but is not limited to: parking instructions (if it is paid parking this may be added to the final bill), logistics information (which may include loading docks or service lifts directions), and any other specific access information. Most importantly, the delivery driver must have a contact name and number onsite to receive the delivery upon arrival. If you are ordering the food but also running the event (such as organising a workshop) and may not be available to receive the delivery, designate a secondary contact person.
10. Expect the unexpected
The reality is, no matter how hard you try, sometimes things don’t always go to plan. It rains so less people attend your event; a last-minute guest has an unusual dietary requirement you haven’t planned for; more people turned up than you anticipated.
To accommodate fluctuating attendee numbers, our recommendation is to order for the minimum number of people you are anticipating (which reserves your spot) then waiting until the cut-off lead time to add to the order if necessary.
At You Chews, our mission is to make it easy for you to find and order the best catering for your event according to your needs. Using these tips will make it easier to make decisions, saving you time, money and hassle in the long run.