Planning Your Event – 10 Catering Terms You Should Know

Planning Your Event – 10 Catering Terms You Should Know

Planning a large-scale event such as a wedding or Bar Mitzvah can be a bit of a daunting prospect. It is often the largest event that most people have ever planned, before or since and it carries with it certain expectations from family and friends that can leave you in quite a quandary over which decision to take next. The options available are seemingly endless.

At Sainlo Events Catering dealing with the food aspects of these decisions and helping clients to arrive at the best menu for their event and their guests, is our bread and butter – if you will pardon the pun!We understand how difficult it can be to pick up that phone to the first caterer and enquire about your event catering.

The fear is basically born out of under-confidence, a fear that we will be considered –  or worse, made to feel  – ill-informed by the person at the other end of the phone. This is really unlikely to happen, remember that the person you are contacting wants the opportunity to provide a catering service for you.

The fear is real though, and it leaves us fumbling our words and possibly ending up with a less than accurate quote, in the worst cases we feel we had a bit of a bad experience. We learn as we go along, interpreting terms and noting down must-ask questions with each call but wouldn’t it be great to start with that confidence and overall have a better experience?

To ease this pain we have compiled a list of terms – an event catering glossary if you will – of the jargon regularly used in the catering industry, that we realise is not necessarily understood outside of the kitchen. Hopefully this will help you to build the confidence that leads to your perfect menu for that special event without fearing that phone call anymore.

10 Catering Terms You Need To Know

  • Covers This is the number of people you intend to feed at a given sitting. A person requiring a meal is a cover.
  • Dry-hire There are two main types of venue Full-service and dry-hire. A dry hire venue allows you to book the space and then bring in all of the other services you need. You might need to think about exactly what elements you will need in this setting, what does your venue supply what will you need to hire (tables, chairs, etc). The upside is you will have complete control of your event setting.
  • Plated, buffet or silver service If you have a plated meal you will be served at your table everything will be on the plate when it arrives – buffet is a self-service meal guests will queue up to fill their plate with their choice of food, silver service is a half way house, plates are served empty and then waiting staff add menu items at the table. You could also request a social dining experience where dishes are served to each table and they serve each other.
  • Tableware hire You will almost certainly need to hire in plates, cutlery and glasses for your meal but do you also need table linens, napkins and centre pieces too. It is a great idea to think this through (or ask your venue exactly what they can supply with the room) and then your caterer can get you the most accurate quote for your hire charges as possible.
  • All-inclusive price Caterers vary in their quoting policies. Some give an all inclusive price this will include all your tableware hire charges and staffing. Others quote on just food and add those services on (because client needs, and therefore the costs, may vary). It is a good idea to find out from your caterer what the price they’ve quoted includes – if it isn’t already clear from their proposal. And if you want an all inclusive price ask for one on your best estimate for numbers and hire requirements.
  • Room dressing Your caterer might ask about room dressing, this refers to any decorations you are adding to the room. You may have an event planner or venue manager doing this for you, or you may be doing it yourself. If you require anything to be added to the set-up by your catering and waiting team make sure that they know in advance.  
  • Tasting This is an opportunity to try some of the menu options available to you to get a sense of who your caterers are and what the food is like. For larger events such as weddings it is advisable to book a tasting with your chosen caterer before you make a final decision about booking, it is likely that there will be a nominal fee for this service that is often discounted from your final bill when you book with that company.
  • Site-visit Your Caterer will probably ask for a site visit for a large event. Event caterers go into lots of different spaces but it is important to plan appropriately for each one. Knowing what facilities are available, the path from the kitchen to the table, the accessibility for loading and unloading and what additional equipment may need to be brought in is important in ensuring the smooth running of your day. Dependent on the set-up, you may meet the caterer there and run through your plans for room layout or it may be possible for this to be done by the venue manager. This will depend on the venue and also your personal preference.
  • Risk assessment Your venue may ask you for a risk assessment from your caterer. This is a safety net for the venue to ensure that the caterer has thought through logistics for the venue and has thought about how to keep the kitchen area and the guests at your event safe while they are working to provide you with a delicious meal. Most caterers have a template and will know exactly what needs to be added for your venue following the site visit.
  • Public liability insurance This is one of those standard things that your caterer has and provides on request. Some venues are happy to leave that between you and your caterer others want to see a copy before your caterer can work on site. Worth checking before the day because it is a simple admin thing that could cause a big upheaval if it isn’t considered in advance.

We hope this list will help you on your event planning journey but the other thing to remember when you do make that call is that if a term comes up that you aren’t sure about it is fine to ask. At Sainlo Events Catering we make a concerted effort not to slip into jargon and acronyms with prospective clients but it can happen to any of us from time to time so if you want anything clarified make sure you ask.

If you would like to talk to us about bringing a touch of luxury and straight talking to your event catering please get in touch

A version of this blog was published in February 2017 on Sainlo Events’ blog Recipes for Success here.

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