I have sourced for caterers for my company functions (during the major festival of CNY, Hari Raya, Deepavali and Christmas) as well as for a family wedding.
When it comes to company functions, many of us want to source for a good and reliable caterer. I know searching for caterers can be a headache, especially if you are just put in charged of this and do not know where to source for a good, honest and that cook food delicious enough to make your staff or guests happy. Having had the experience of working with a few caterers for my department function, here are some lessons that I’ve learned especially applicable to the Malaysian tastebuds:
Food portion must be sufficient
Some caterers would quote a price and when you bargain with them to reduce, they would agree to reduce it- and they would just reduce the portion of the most expensive dish. We have ordered from a few caterers who agreed to price reduction but when the dishes arrive, the main dishes would normally be so little that ended up not enough (because they expect one person to take just two minute piece of chicken – they’ve cut the chicken to very small pieces and for over hundred pax, they just came in one tray….so not enough).
It’s embarassing for the organisers if the main dish portion is not enough. And it’s not professional for us to station people there to limit staff to take just small portion, rite?
Food must be delicious
That should be a no brainer. But some would rather take from the cheapest than the most delicious. That’s why it is important to take from someone who have previously tried the food and now recommending to you. It’s hard to find a caterer who can provide good food at cheap price. The established and popular ones can give delicious food but often the price quoted is high as well.
We used to work with one caterer who used to have delicious food- but somewhere along the line, the food had gone so lousy that the staff all complained. If the food is lousy, you would need to let the caterer go. We were lucky that we were finally able to source from a reasonable priced caterer with good food.
Forget about the fanciful type of food- it’s the taste that matters
When we are selecting the menu, we would want to give exclusive food type to our staff. But how many of us can afford having salmon, oyster and steak in our food menu?
There is no point of the name of the food quoted by the caterer sounds bombastic or sophisticated but the taste is horrible. You can order the regular rendang chicken or mutton- and if the food is delicious, your staff will remember and appreciate. If the food is lousy, no matter how great is the name, all you would get is people coming to you to complaint.
Caterer must be punctual
When we work with the caterer- we need to remind the caterer to be punctual, especially if the function would happen at specific time. I’ve dealt with caterers who were about 2 hours late. So ensure the caterer is aware.
Ensure no hidden charges
Sometimes the caterer did not quote the exact price and later add on prices as add-ons for ‘unexpected expenses’. When I work the caterers, I would inform them very clearly that the payment would require an approval sign-off and the cheque amount cannot be altered later. Therefore, any additional charges such as transportation, waiter and disposible packets (for staff to pack back extra food) must be factored into the invoice. When I communicate clearly, the caterer also ensure that all additional costs are factored in or else we would not pay for the extras.
In case you are also planning for Lion Dance, since Chinese New Year is around the corner, you may want to read this article, also based on my experience of sourcing for Lion Dance: