A good caterer will help you coordinate the event, design the menu, and take away your last minute headaches so it’s essential that you get as good a caterer as you can afford.
Here are some tips that you should take into consideration when looking for a good caterer for a class reunion.
Money Saving Catering Tips
When looking for a catering venue, most people think of banquet houses or hotels. Both of these options can be quite expensive. Instead, look into cheaper options like a community center, Elks Lodge, or a VFW. You can even rent out a church hall to host a banquet.
If You Have To Go With A Hotel
If you have to go with a hotel, then look into 2-3 star hotels. Many will offer all the amenities you need without the necessary cost of a 4-5 star hotel. Plus, block hotel rooms for out of town guests and get even better discounts on food and beverage.
If you are looking at professional caterers or a hotel to host the banquet, then ask for need dates from both. These are dates that the hotel is very slow and will gladly provide discounted rates on both food and hotel rooms.
If you are using a banquet hall or a hotel, make sure to ask if there are any fees for things like storage, corkage, setup, cleanup etc. You can, in most cases, negotiate these to zero so long as you ask ahead of time.
Hotels and banquet halls generally have all the equipment you need such as microphones, projectors, cords etc. Instead of renting these items from an outside vendor, put together a list of things you need and ask the venue to provide at a minimal cos. To learn more, read “Questions To Ask A Hotel Before Booking A Banquet“.
Do It Yourself
Many locations like Elks lodges, and VFW’s will even provide lower priced menus that are just as good as the higher end options. In fact, if you really want to save some money, get a bunch of classmates to do the cooking for the entire group.
Vendor Meals Are Cheaper
Caterers often charge less for vendor meals. When going through your counts, ask the hotel to lower the menu prices for the band, entertainment, photographer etc.
Limited Choices = Limited Cost
Instead of planning an elaborate meal, try limiting the choices to two entrees (One meat and one vegetarian).
Instead of negotiating menu prices for food, try to lower the price per person for soda. Charges of $3-$4 per person are common and are very negotiable since they carry such high margins.
Tips For Selecting A Caterer
Use A Recommended Caterers
In most cases, the alumni office has several caterers that they work with on a regular basis. Start by going to these as they are familiar with the site’s layout, and kitchen. Having done class reunions, they will also have more ideas related to your Class Reunion Theme.
Get Referrals Instead Of Just Making Phone Calls
If the alumni office does not maintain a list of recommended vendors then ask friends and family for recommendations. Many people that have planned wedding, or meetings know a good caterer and will gladly provide a referral.
Money Isn’t Everything
Don’t base your decision on cost alone. Take into account the deposit needed, payment schedule, cancellation policy and contract stipulations too.
Will They Have Enough Staff?
How much wait staff (1 per 15-25 guests) are they going to have on hand to service the class reunion? Will they have a busser (1 per 50 people), a bartender (1 per 100 guests), a banquet captain (1 per 150 guests), a buffet attendance (1 per 75 guests).
Nothing Is Better Than A Live Event
Observe an event that the caterer will be working on in the near future to see their operations. How clean is their kitchen? How smooth are the transitions between courses, how experienced does the staff appear? Are the linen, plates, silverware of good quality?
Practical Catering Tips
Decide on the kind of event you want to have in the class reunion planning meeting. Do you want a formal dinner or a buffet lunch? Will the event be themed, formal, both, neither etc. Being able to clearly express what you needs are when selecting a caterer will get you more accurate pricing and less confusion at the actual event.
A week or so before the event, provide the caterer with an agenda of the class reunion dinner. The agenda should include approximate times that you are expecting dinner to be served, speeches to commence, dance to begin etc. Providing this information to the caterer will give them a better idea of the flow of the event and will help them manage expectations.
Know Your Guest Count
It is your responsibility to provide an accurate head count. Raising or lowering the count should be done to ensure that adequate arrangements will be made for each guest. Make sure to do so before the guarantee dates pass by. If you do not provide a guarantee by this date, the caterer will prepare for the maximum number of people that you contracted for.
Communicate All Changes To The Caterer
In any kind of event planning, there are going to be changes. Whether you need to change linen colors or you need to add a half dozen people two days before the event, changes are inevitable. Make sure to communicate any changes to the caterer so they can be better prepared.
Looking for the best deal? You’re not going to find it by looking at one caterer. Shop around and ask lots of questions. Will the caterer throw in some appetizers to gain your business. What kind of discount is your group getting for booking your meeting here?
Set Up Budget
The Class Reunion Planning Committee has given you the responsibility to shop around and get the best rates. Once you have several caterers interested in doing business, you can then start to create a preliminary budget based on the prices you have received from multiple caterers.
Make sure to account for service charges like taxes, and gratuities.
Is your event family friendly? Are you doing anything to keep them busy during the banquet? Kids are usually charged a lower rate for banquets so make sure to maintain a separate count for them
If your class reunion banquet or luncheon is going to be off-site (i.e. not at the school), then make sure the location is close by. Most of your classmates will be familiar with the area and many may also have family nearby. A good location to host a class reunion is the hotel you reserved for out of town guests.
Buffet or Plated?
Hands down, we would recommend a buffet. It gets people up and forces them to mingle. After all, isn’t that why everyone is there anyways?
There is usually a security deposit required when you sign a contract with a caterer. Know the deposit amount, cancellation policies, head count policy, and guarantee dates before you sign anything. In many cases, the deposit is refundable up until a certain date.
The caterer must have a liquor license if they are going to serve alcohol at your event. If your event is at a hotel or a restaurant, then the establishment already has one.
Should You Tip The Servers?
Most contracts charge tax and tip on top of the menu prices. The tips do make their way to the servers so you should not feel like you have to tip. However, if you do receive exemplary service, there is no harm in giving more. Just make sure you budget for it.
Keep in mind that attendees may have dietary restrictions like low salt, Kosher, vegan etc. Make sure the caterer can prepare meals accordingly.
Planning a banquet for your class reunion is a huge responsibility. Even people with years of experience find the exercise to be stressful. However, at the end of the night, it is extremely rewarding when you see the smiles on everyone’s faces as they catch up with old friends, seek out a favorite teacher, or rekindle a lost romance.
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Since you’re planning a class reunion, why not get some great tips to help you organize the event.