As you all know, we at Fork & Knife Catering spend a great deal of time in the kitchen when it comes to preparing for and executing an event. We decided to ask our friend Shauna Sawicki from Blondie Creative Agency to give us her take on things from an overall Event Planning perspective. Shauna has worked on small and large scale events ranging from private parties, to weddings, galas, fundraisers and corporate conferences for almost 2 decades. Read below to hear some of her best tips for ensuring the catering and food aspects of your event are a smashing success!
First off, thank you to Fork & Knife Catering for allowing me to take over one of their blog posts! Not only do I love Chef Van Dam and his wife Christine as people to work with, their food is absolutely delicious!
I’ll start by saying the obvious, planning even the smallest of events takes a great deal of work. There are so many things to consider like your venue, guest list, and marketing if you are planning a business event etc. I’ve worked on large and small events for close to 20 years, and although I am all about elaborate décor, there is one thing that stands out as what REALLY sets an event apart from the rest: food.
How many times have you heard a conversation where someone was explaining how spectacular an event was, and the person beside them pipes in and says “yes and the food was AMAZING!”? Food not only fills the bellies of hungry people, it completes your event. It is the bow on the top of the gift that turns an event into an experience.
When planning the food and catering for your event, there are a few key things to consider:
1. What is your theme? Your theme can determine many things about the food and catering of your event, such as:
– What your menu will be. If you are having a Mardi Gras themed event, work with your caterer to create a menu of delicious southern Creole or Cajun style food! Having a black-tie event? Elegant French cuisine will surely set the stage for your event.
– What is the distribution method of food for your event? Are you envisioning an elegant plated meal, buffet style, or cocktail reception? Every event theme pairs well with a style of serving. Your caterer can help you determine what serving method will work best for your event.
– In addition to the above, is there any kind of décor rental that pairs well with your theme and menu? Having a Tiki Bar for a luau takes your theme to the next level.
2. Does your venue offer an onsite kitchen and food storage such as refrigerators and freezers? Is there an area for preparation or will all food prep need to be done off site?
3. How many people will be in attendance and how much should you order? Rule of thumb I have always gone by when doing any kind of food platter or canape style is to order more than you need. There is absolutely nothing worse then running out of food at an event and either having to apologize profusely to your guests or have someone leave the premises to try to gather some additional items to put out. *Side note: I am in no way promoting food waste and one thing I highly recommend doing is getting in contact with organizations such as a local homeless shelter before your event and try to arrange to bring any large portions of left over food from your event to their facility to share with their residents.
4. Are you charging tickets for your event and how much should you charge? If you are hosting a corporate event or a fundraiser, you need to ensure you cover your cost of food and any other expenses accordingly. The style of serving will play into this. Plated meals generally cost more so a gala dinner with a plated 4 course meal will most likely incur more costs that need to be covered compared to a cocktail reception with hors d’oeuvres. Always make sure you know the entire cost of catering before determining ticket prices; this includes the cost of service staff and rentals if required.
5. Have you checked with your guests to ensure there are no dietary restrictions? If this is a large event and you are not able to check with every guest, try to always offer one vegan and one gluten free option. These are 2 very common food requests. Additionally, severe food allergies wreak havoc on the lives of people who have them. Predetermine a communication method with your caterer, either onsite in person or by telephone if needed, to allow you to answer questions that may arise about specific foods and potential allergies. If you are collecting RSVP’s from attendees, always give your guests an option to note if they have any dietary restrictions in their confirmation of attendance.
6. Will you be providing alcohol service? If alcohol service will be a component of your event, you need to check with the appropriate liquor laws of your area and what pertains to your event. Typically, you as the host will be responsible for ensuring you have all of the proper permits and licenses to serve or sell liquor. In British Columbia you can review these guidelines and contact information at: https://specialevents.bcldb.com/help
My mantra when planning an event is to be proactive rather than reactive. Going through the above list and getting all of these items checked off will assist you in hosting an incredible event that leaves your guests talking about it for weeks and months to come!