Being on the catering committee is a popular request in many class reunions planning committee since most people love to plan menus, décor and venue.
Plus, you get drive around tasting food at different caterers.
It is a visible position that can be both stressful and rewarding at the same time.
Selecting committee members can be tricky since it requires so much local involvement
Depending on the complexity of the event being planned, you may need three to four people on the catering committee.
When selecting classmates for this committee, make sure they have varying skill sets. Select someone with an event planning background and another with a financial background. These two will keep each other in check when it comes to getting value for dollar spent.
Also, keep in mind that the committee should be made up of local classmates. Many of the responsibilities listed below require a hands on approach and is not practical for an out of towner to accomplish with any measure of success.
Here are the responsibilities for the catering committee.
Give your newly minted committee members answers to the following questions:
How many different events are they planning for?
Is the committee planning just one big dinner on Saturday? Or is there a cocktail hour to plan for? Are there any plans for a BBQ on Sunday? Make sure to let them know what they have to plan for ahead of time so they can allocate their resources properly.
What is the location of each event being planned?
Will the catering committee need to rent a banquet house or a hotel ballroom for any of the events being planned? Or is the college or high school providing a location that the class reunion can use to host the event.
If the banquet is being planned at a hotel, then ask for discounted menu prices (typically 10-15% off) if you have blocked hotel rooms for out of town guests. Generally, class reunions need a lot of hotel rooms so it is best to get discounted group hotel rates and have everyone stay at one location.
Once you have decided on the above, its time to get the major goals accomplished.
The best piece of advice we can give you here is that you should ask the alumni office for a list of recommendations for caterers. These folks have worked with dozens of reunions and know which caterers exceed expectations. Have the alumni office recommend three to four caterers where you can go for a taste test.
If you are planning the banquet at the school, then the tables and chairs will more than likely be provided at little or no cost to the class reunion. The china (plates, glasses), utensils, and linens will have to be provided by the caterer.
Also, the caterer will be help responsible for collecting and removing any trash. Make sure to discuss these items with the caterer before signing any contracts.
If the banquet or event is at the hotel, then you need not worry about linens, china or tables and chairs as they are all included in the price of the room and food. Learn more about this by reading “Questions To Ask A Hotel Before Booking A Banquet”
There are two options for any banquet that you may be planning. A sit down dinner or a buffet. A sit down dinner is preferred by many people for weddings and other social events but a buffet is the popular choice at class reunions. Having to get up and and move around helps get different people talking and mingling from table to table.
When planning the menu, don’t guess what everyone wants. Ask the caterer for four menus that you can present to your classmates. Take a poll on the class reunion website to find out which menus are most popular with classmates.
It is the most diplomatic way to get an answer without having to guess. Just keep in mind that there are people who will have special needs (Gluten free, Kosher, Halal, vegan, etc.) so make sure you inform the caterer ahead of time.
Want to go for a budget menu? Plan on having filling items that don’t cost as much. Items that include pasta or sandwiches can be a good alternative to an extra meat dish.
Plan The Program
Whether you are planning one event or several banquets during the class reunion, the following guidelines should serve you well.
- Plan a pre-dinner cocktail hour one hour ahead of time to help early birds mingle. Have appetizers there if you can squeeze them into your budget.
- Dinner will generally have some kind of entertainment so make sure you plan the floor plan accordingly. Also, make sure you talk to the activities committee to find out how much time is required by the entertainer (Comedy skits work very very well).
- An after dinner dance is traditional. Leave yourself an hour for this event. Also, plan enough space for the DJ or band.
- In many class reunions, the president of the graduating class serves as the emcee. In other cases, there is a professional speaker there instead to help liven things up with jokes. However, If you are planning to hire an emcee, book them well ahead of time.
Has Everyone Paid?
Some class reunions ask for one registration fee that includes all the activities including the banquet dinner.
Others, however, are a la carte and require classmates to only pay for meals that they are interesting in being a part of. If that is the case with your class reunion, then make sure you have a volunteer that is keeping track of who has paid and who has not.
Also, you will need someone at the entrance collecting tickets and taking payments from last minute walk-ins (If you are accepting cash at the door, then make sure to have some kind of lock box and a secure location to take it to once the money has been collected).
Decide on Decorations
Have one qualified volunteer decide on decorations. Having more than one will cause too many delays and lots of going nowhere. Make sure to give them a budget that they can work. To learn more, read “How To Decorate A Class Reunion With Nostalgia And School Spirit“.
Linen colors can be customized accordingly as well. Just remember though that if you do use custom colors, they will cost extra. Many hotels and banquet houses have house linen for which they charge a minimal amount.
Make sure to let the person who is doing the decorating know if you need school colors to be used in the room.
Use a small bouquet of flowers if you have the budget for it. If not, there are tons of other choices including elegant glasses with candles, or decorative trinkets that you can give away at the end of the event. Just make sure that lit candles are allowed to be used in the venue you booked.
Budget For Everyone
Make sure you budget for any volunteers, help, and any speakers that you are bringing in.
After Dinner Program
Coordinate with the class reunion activities committee to plan the after dinner program. Make sure to coordinate any AV equipment needs ahead of time with the activities committee as well. Common needs are podium, microphone, speakers, projector, laptop, screen, and extra tables.
Things You Should Know
Most colleges or alumni offices will provide you meal tickets that you can use for the class reunion. These are the tickets that you send out once someone has paid for their meal package. At the time of the class reunion, plan to have someone at the entrance collecting them.
Is The Class Reunion Dinner “Kid Friendly”?
You may in the course of an entire weekend plan several dinners and lunches where kids are allowed. However, the big Saturday night dinner can be excluded from that if your class reunion planning committee wants it to be.
Many families don’t mind not bringing their kids so long as alternate arrangements have been provided. If you do restrict kids to any event, provide babysitting services (At a cost) to those that need it.
Alcohol Serving Policy
Know the alcohol service policy in the state that you are having your class reunion. Instead of going around searching for the policy, just ask the alumni office an dthey can give you a good idea of what is allowed to be distributed in your class reunion.
Want People To Reserve Early?
Charge extra for late reservations. We charges an extra $5 for attendees that walked in to encourage everyone to make a decision earlier. Nothing motivates like money.
School or College Campus
If the banquet location is an outdoor location, then make sure you have a Plan B in mind to move indoors due to weather. Some colleges have tents for such occasions and most provide them at no cost. Another advantage of having the banquet on campus is that the tables, chairs and linen are provided at minimal or no charge to the class reunion.
Planning several meals can be very challenging but it is well worth the effort you put into it. In addition to having appreciative classmates, you will also end up connecting with old friends, and creating new memories that will last a long time.
What should you do next?
Check out our class reunion planning guide for more advice on topics that matter to you most.