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How to make your corporate catering event a huge success

Great events start with detailed planning. Time, organization and a little bit of creativity will surely help you pull off a successful event that is enjoyable for hosts and guests alike. If you find yourself in charge of planning a company catering event and you need it to go off without a hitch, there are several key steps you should follow.

1. Determine a budget and set a timeline

Before you start sending invitations, paying deposits and planning menus, it's a good idea to know your budget. Your budget will help you narrow your choices and help you decide what items are necessary to the event and which are luxuries. Set a time and date for the event and start making a time line or checklist, complete with deadlines and delivery dates. Scheduling important dates such as when to send invitations will help you stay organized.

2. Secure a location

Coordinate schedules and ensure that the space in which you plan to have your event is available on the date and time you need it. Consider the size of the space and make sure it is large enough to accommodate the group but not too large that it would feel overwhelming or empty. Consider the room set up and make allowances for tables, serving stations, buffet lines and seating. Also make sure there is adequate access to restrooms and kitchen facilities. If it is an outdoor event make sure you plan for a backup location in case of bad weather.

3. Know your guests

When planning your company catering event it's important to know who will be attending. It's important to consider the time of day of the event, the professional levels of those attending and any special accommodations for your guests. Try to tailor your event to your guests. Consider an appropriate theme. This will help you make other choices about food, decorations and location. If timing allows, send a "save the date" notice to your guests so they can start planning to attend the event in advance. When sending invitations include an RSVP in order to nail down a head count as soon as possible.

4. Choose a reputable caterer

Find out if your company has a list of preferred vendors or if your company has had good experiences with caterers in the past. If your company doesn't have a list, you can research caterers online. Read reviews and ask for references. Consider hiring a local catering company with plenty of experience. Set a time to meet the caterer to discuss their services and menu offerings. Get price quotes from two to three caterers. A good catering company will be able to provide on-site cooking, servers, serving utensils and dinnerware. They also should be able to offer a variety of breakfast, lunch/dinner, appetizer and bar service options. Food should be fresh and items made from scratch.

5. Plan a menu

Consider the time, location, audience and budget when selecting the menu. For example, if your event is a lunch held outdoors in Texas, you may opt for a traditional barbecue meal. Consider serving appetizers or hors d'oeuvres to guests as they arrive. This can help people mingle before the meal is served and can set the tone for the entire event. Also decide if you will serve alcoholic beverages, tea or coffee. Provide various food options for your guests. Food should be accessible and appealing to a crowd. You should also provide options for people with dietary restrictions and specials diets. A caterer can help assist you with providing options for gluten-free, vegetarian or kosher meals.

6. Consider the presentation

If you have a theme consider appropriate decorations. Make your own or hire a florist, designer, or lighting expert to help create an inviting and comfortable atmosphere. Also, if the budget allows, decide if you want to have any type of entertainment such as a band, DJ, or games. Other options include hiring a photographer to capture the event.

7. Recruit a team of volunteers

If you already do not have a group of helpers now is a good time to recruit volunteers to assist on the day of the event. Assign tasks to people in order to ensure the even runs smoothly. You may need people to help decorate and set up tables. Others can help greet guests or handle deliveries. Also consider getting help to clean up after the event. About a week before the event assign duties to volunteers and supply them with a itinerary of the event. Answer any questions your volunteers may have about their roles.

8. Signage and printing

Think about any printing needs such as seating charts, menus, programs and signage. Finalize the menu and consider placing a menu card on tables or labeling items in a buffet line so guests can choose what they would like to eat. Printed signs around the venue can also help guests find restrooms and understand the timeline of the event.

9. Expect the best but prepare for the worst

On the day of the event check the weather. Also check in with caterers and other vendors to see if they are running on time and if there are any last-minute items or accommodations they need. If problems arise, handle them calmly and quickly. Keep clear lines of communication with volunteers, vendors and attendees.

10. Follow-Up

After the event get feedback from attendees. Consider sending a quick survey my email. Ask what they enjoyed about the event and what they think could be improved upon. Take notes from the feedback so you can make changes or improvements the next time you plan an event.

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