The primary responsibility of the food catering committee is to work with caterers, venues, hotels and family members to develop a suitable menu (Within the budgetary guidelines) for any event that involves food.
Additional responsibilities include site search, negotiate pricing and enlisting volunteers for additional help.
Whether you like it or not, many people will judge your family reunion by the quality of the food.
We all have to eat and many a family reunion has been planned around meals like barbecues and one dish parties at parks. The end goal for the catering committee is to try to make sure people are happy with the menu choices while staying within budget.
Before the catering committee can start planning, they have to know if the family reunion being planned will be small, medium or large.
Small Family Reunion
Will it be a picnic in the park with everyone bringing something? Or are there going to be several meals at people’s homes during the course of the weekend? Both the above scenarios require simple coordination. Get together 2-3 three people to organize a list of what family member is bringing what to the family reunion.
Medium to Large Reunions
If you’re having a larger family reunion that involves caterers, banquet set up, and selecting centerpieces, then the responsibilities of the catering committee are far wider. Things that need to be decided upon before the catering committee can get started are:
- Will the banquets occur at a hotel? If you are blocking hotel rooms for the family reunion, then you can negotiate cheaper pricing on the food or the meeting space.
- How many meals are going to be paid for by the family reunion? How many are breakfasts, lunches, dinners are there going to be?
- Is a family reunion going to have a hospitality suite with snacks and other food items? Will they be stocked by and paid for from the family reunion money?
- If you are blocking hotel rooms for family reunion guests, then you may get a discount on the banquet menu or the meeting room?
- How elaborate will each meal be? Can the lunches be sandwiches? Can the dinners be a buffet?
The family reunion planning committee should answer all of the above questions during the first meeting (Here is a list of responsibilities for the catering committee that you can download and hand out at the meeting). In doing so, the catering committee can narrow their choices of venues, hotels or banquet halls.
How To Narrow Your Choices Of Caterers
- Do a taste test (Free most of the time)
- Don’t get a quote from just one caterer. Seems rather obvious to say it but it’s always prudent to get quotes from at least two if not three caterers so it’s easier to compare pricing, service, and presentation. If you have decided on a caterer, get additional quotes to use as a bargaining tool when you negotiate pricing. Doing so will save you hundreds of dollars.
- Are beverages included? If so, what are the choices of beverages and are they listed on the price quote? Look at the fine print to see if there is any add-on charges that may surprise you at the time of payment.
- Have the caterer show you multiple menus that they have prepared in the past. Ask for any pictures that they may have that show you how presentable each meal was.
- Ask the caterer to break down the pricing of each meal individually so you can factor all the costs. Additionally, make sure that you get a breakdown of the exact amount of gratuities and taxes that are being charged.
- Look at the price difference between a buffet and a sit down dinner. Buffett dinners are much cheaper in most hotels.
- Children’s meals should be priced differently than adults. While this seems obvious, many caterers will not agree to lower prices for kids meals. If that’s the case, then ask that the kids be seated separately and they can be served a different meal altogether (pizza or pasta with juice).
- Be ready to give them an approximate number of people you expect to attend each meal. If you are preparing multiple meals with the same caterer, then make sure to go over each meal individually in as much detail as possible.
- Get a detailed quote for every menu broken down per plate. Make sure the taxes and gratuities are listed as separate items for easy comparison.
- If you’re having a meal in a banquet room, then make sure all the decorations, linen, chair covers, silverware and any additional details are taking care of. Also check to make sure that your venue allows the kind of entertainment you wish to provide.
- The banquet hall or hotel may have their own list of photographer/videographer that they deal with. Some banquet halls will you to bring your own but may charge additional fees for the privilege. Make sure you iron out this detail before signing the dotted line.
Present all the bids to the reunion planning committee or if you have the authority, ask for a contract from the caterer that you decided upon. Make sure the contract includes every detail that you and the catering representative spoke about. Insist that they include every detail, no matter how small.
Once a decision has been made on a caterer, the challenge is to get the information out to your family reunion members so they can select what meals they want.
Organize Everyone’s Meal Choices Without Making A Phone Call
If you went with a simple buffet, then the decision of who eats what is mute. If however, you’ve chosen a sit down dinner with a choice of meals, it is very important to keep track of who wants what. Multiply this problem by three meals a day, and you could see the logistical nightmare it can be.
Make The Meal Choices A Part Of The Registration
The best way to make this process simple is to make the meal choices a part of the registration package. When people sign up for the reunion, they should be able to select what meals they want on what date. Assign one person to keep track of meal selection. If you have a family reunion website, you can have people register for the reunion and select their meals online.
The alternate method is to make phone calls individually. Let us warn you that this method is highly inefficient and very prone to error. It will also require twice as many people to administer as the methods mentioned above.
Schedule a meeting with the caterer a month before the event to finalize all the details of the event. Go through every item line by line and in nauseating detail so that the caterer and/or venue are fully aware of your expectations.
Once you’re at the event, make sure you have a volunteer who is aware of the set up, place settings, centerpieces, linen colors and any additional details. This volunteer should verify that the room is set up correctly and that all the details in the contract are honored. Make sure they do a final walk-through before the banquet starts so there are no surprises.
Planning a catering event for a large family reunion can be tricky and time-consuming. Keeping organized and staying ahead of schedule will certainly make things easier for everyone involved. The smiles on everyone’s faces at the end of the family reunion will make it all worthwhile.
What should you read next?
Since you’re planning a family reunion with a committee, why not read about the most common committees for a family reunion.