While catering dates back to the 4th millennium BC in China, the culture of grand eating and drinking is more popular today than ever before. The success of the food served is an enormous challenge and can make or break an event. When making plans for a special occasion, one of the many and most important decisions is the menu and whether you want to hire a caterer. Because catering goes beyond simply preparing and serving food, the benefits of hiring a professional often outweigh the burden of handling it alone.
While it may seem easy to throw together some appetizers and tidbits, much more goes into catering an event.
“The last thing anyone wants to do is worry about all the details and miss out on enjoying their guests,” Anja Stief, owner of Dish & Design Catering in Mount Pleasant, said. “People often get wrapped up in planning an event, then try to overreach and come up short.”
In the catering business since 1999, Stief has handled her share of events.
“I’ve seen and heard it all,” she said. “Having a professional handle all the details will help eliminate a lot of stress and give the client peace of mind.”
Hosting anything from a small dinner party of 10 to a large wedding of 500, many people believe they can save money by handling the food themselves.
“Honestly, they end up spending more time and resources than they would have otherwise,” Stief added. “There are so many things people don’t consider when doing it on their own.”
Catering isn’t a matter of just feeding people. There’s shopping, preparation, serving and clean up to consider.
“Some events run on a certain time frame,” Stief said. “You have to think about how long it takes to set up, what’s a reasonable amount of time to get people fed, how many helping hands are needed and if everything is put away and where it needs to be at the end of the event.”
Robert Patterson, owner of Top Shelf Catering Company and co-owner of Sticky Fingers, agreed.
“If you’re hosting a small dinner party or a large event, the last thing you want to do is worry about the stress of putting all this on yourself,” he said. “If you’re dealing with the food, there’s no time for you to entertain your guests and make sure they’re happy.”
Now in its fifth year of business, Top Shelf has handled events with anywhere from 20 to 20,000 people. Patterson said that while no one wants to waste food, “the last thing you want is not to have enough. There’s a lot more to it than people understand. When it comes to planning a menu, people have no idea of how much food to prep. We err on the side of caution. We always say that we don’t sell catering; we sell non-embarrassment.”
It’s hard to put a price tag on the security of knowing someone is taking care of it all.
“No one wants the risk of being embarrassed so you’re paying for peace of mind,” he added. “There’s less stress on you and you’re able to enjoy your party.”
Holly Herrick, media writer for Charleston Hospitality Group Catering, said whether it’s a formal or informal occasion, it’s worth it to put it in the hands of a professional caterer.
“Letting someone else handle the prepping, cooking, packaging, delivering, serving and cleanup is well worth the expense,” she said. “It’s much more work than people can comprehend. Even if someone loves to cook and thinks they can do it all, it makes more sense to let someone else handle it, especially if it’s an emotional day like a wedding.”
Making it so clients can relax and just enjoy their event without distractions is “what we do,” Herrick said. “If someone doesn’t want the aggravation of dealing with all the little details and prefers to not spend all of their time away from the event, it’s best to turn it over to a caterer and let them take care of it for you.”
Jenna Locke, senior catering director of Cru Catering, said caterers are there to help make an event successful and to take pressure off the hosts.
“Though it seems easy to pull some food together to entertain friends, you tend to find yourself in the kitchen longer than you planned, when you should be greeting your guests or getting yourself ready,” she said. “So many of our clients tell us after we’ve catered their event that it was so easy. They didn’t have to worry about a thing and were able to host their guests without a worry.”
Locke said people underestimate the details of what it takes to put on an event.
“When you’re hosting guests, you don’t want to find yourself in the kitchen or constantly worrying if food needs to be replenished or if it’s staying warm,” she explained. “A caterer will focus on the food quality and presentation throughout the event. And, of course, once all your guests have left, everything will be cleaned up and put away for you. For a do-it-yourself bride, you want your family to enjoy the day, and no one wants to worry about who is cleaning up at the end.”
Using a caterer also makes a statement and reflects better on an event.
“I think it allows you to pay more attention to your guests and be more relaxed from start to finish,” Locke added. “That’s what it’s all about. When the host comes across as cool, calm and collected, the guests are going to feel that immediately, and it will set the tone for the occasion.”
To make your next party, gala or special celebration a success, consider hiring a caterer to handle the details. Whether planning an elegant soiree or an informal gathering, catering experts won’t leave anything to chance, ensuring an event you will look back on fondly for many years to come.
By Diane Pauldine0