John Maher: Hi. I’m John Maher. Today I’m here with Curt Fougere, a fourth generation Woodman, and Kristi Swett, a fifth generation Woodman. Today we’re talking about a timeline of a catered event. Curt and Kristi, welcome.
Kristi Swett: Hi, John.
Curt Fougere: How are you doing?
Timeline of Catered Events
John: Good. Kristi, what’s the order in which things happen on the day of an event that I’m having catered, or perhaps the days leading up to the event?
Kristi: The days leading up to the event, you really finalize all of the details. You dot your i’s and cross your t’s, like we like to say. If there are any special things that need to happen on that day that the caterer needs to be aware of, that’s a great time to let them know that, to make sure that the cooking isn’t going to interrupt a toast if it’s something important.
Then, on the day of the event, it’s great to know how the team is going to show up to your location. Depending on the type of services you have, some things could arrive the day before. It’s good to know, “Do I have to be there to accept deliveries? What’s coming when? On the day of the event, how’s it going to flow?” To talk through that beforehand is always a great idea.
Checking in Before the Event
John: How long before the event should I talk to my caterer about those issues? Call them a week before, or should I know well before then?
Kristi: I would say two weeks to 10 days before is an OK time, for us anyway. Larger parties and weddings, we definitely try to do it six weeks out, and then have another meeting three weeks out just so everything is really walked through.
But on a corporate party or a casual backyard party, two weeks is plenty of time to get all those details arranged.
How much flexibility is there in case of unforeseen circumstances?
John: Curt, is there some flexibility in the timeline on the day of the event? For example, what if guests arrive a little bit later than expected?
Curt: We try to be as flexible as possible in our catering events. Usually, there is a set time for the serving to start. Generally, when we arrive at the event we try to talk to whoever’s in charge of the event to make sure that we’re on time and that they’re still looking to do that service, starting the food service at that time.
But we do run into lots of problems, whether it’s traffic for people showing up late or they have other obligations. We try to be as flexible as possible in the sense that if somebody has a serving time at one o’clock but they know that their guests are stuck in traffic, could they hold it off till two o’clock.
Usually, we’re very flexible with that. We will just slow down the process of cooking the food so that we don’t have the food cooked and it’s not sitting waiting for the guests to arrive.
Contacts for Catered Events
John: Is it a good idea to make sure that the caterer has the name of one person at my party that they can talk to in the event that something is not coming out the way that it should or to ask a question about when things are happening? Do you always have the name of somebody on hand?
Curt: Yeah. We always try to have at least one contact person at the event, that either set up and did a lot of communication with the catering company, or somebody that knows what’s going to be going on but is at the event.
If we run into an issue of us running late, being stuck in traffic, we have somebody to call to let them know that we’re on our way, everything’s fine, and we can adjust to that.
Or, if there’s somebody that has a food allergy that may come up, we can talk to that person that’s in charge, so at least we have an idea of somebody we can go to, is always good to have at the event.
John: Can we plan ahead for some guests to arrive late to the party? Like, for example, if I know that a group of people are going to have to arrive a couple of hours late but I want to make sure that there’s still going to be some food left over for them, is that something that I can arrange?
Curt: Yes, you can arrange that, either if you know beforehand and let the caterers know that. Sometimes we’ll have people that are, like I said, stuck in traffic or coming on a plane that might be delayed, or they just know that they’re going to have four or five guests that might be showing up close to the end of the party.
Just let your caterer know that timeframe beforehand, and either they can slow down on the cooking for that portion for them or they can set food aside to make sure that those people have meals when they show up.
Equipment Arrival and Setup
John: Kristi, if I’m hiring or renting a tent or decorations or some other catering equipment ‑‑ in your case, if you do a big clambake — I know you have some equipment that you have to set up, big pots and things like that for that ‑‑ when does all of that stuff arrive?
Kristi: The tent would typically arrive the day before so they have time to set that up, it’s ready to go. If it is raining or something the night before, that tent’s there and keeping that space dry for you. Decorations are something that normally arrives the morning of.
Depending on the company you hired, they might actually bring them with them when they arrive, so it’s something that is transported with the caterer that’s coming.
The same thing with the catering equipment. Unless the party is really large and we have to rent warmers or things like that, most of the equipment we bring ourselves and take away, so it’s really not there any long amount of time.
John: What about when tables and chairs are rented? When does that arrive? Will the company that brings the tables and chairs set those up for me?
Curt: Usually, the tables and chairs, you’re going to contact, or your caterer’s going to give you an idea of when those materials are going to arrive to your event.
Normally, you would want the tables and chairs set up before the event, obviously, so you can decorate, get everything set up inside your tent so that you know what it’s going to look like — are the people going to be able to flow around before the event — before people start showing up.
John: Am I going to be surprised when they drop off the tables and chairs and leave them on my front lawn and expect me to set those all up, or should I really know ahead of time whether or not setup is included?
Curt: You should know ahead of time. You should talk to your caterer about that, or if you’re renting that equipment, you want to ask the people if there’s a setup charge that goes along with it.
Most caterers do just drop off the tables and chairs, but they will provide setup for you. Or, your caterers could be setting those tables and chairs up as they’re putting on linens and getting decorations set up for you.
John: Just check with the caterer and/or the company that’s doing the tables and chairs and coordinate that?
Curt: Exactly. You definitely want to make sure that you have an idea, because the last thing you want is to have an event for 200 or 300 people and last minute be scrambling trying to set up those tables and chairs, because it’s a lot of work.
John: What about linens and centerpieces, things like that? Can I rent those? Is setup of those included as well?
Curt: Usually, with linens and centerpieces there tends to not be a lot of charge. If there’s a linen drop‑off, your caterers, if they’re just putting linens on the tables, generally they’ll do those and set up the tables for you.
But if it’s being brought by the people that are bringing the tents and you want them to set up, it might be a small charge that goes along with the setup of tables and chairs with it.
John: Kristi, some people now are hiring a bartender and maybe setting up a little bar area for their event. What about things like buying ice for the bar or even buying liquor for the bar? Does that fall on me as the person holding the event, or is that something that I can ask the caterer to do? When does the bar setup happen?
Kristi: It’s always something that you can ask the caterer to do. Some catering companies do in‑house bar tending. Other people use a third party. Some venues require some type of bar tending service for you to hire if you are going to have alcohol there. Then, some people have a serve-yourself and don’t have a bartender there.
In terms of the ice and the bar equipment and setup, that also depends on how much you want to do for the event. Some people go and they purchase, they have coolers and they have everything, so they can get all the product and have it set up and ready to go. The bartender would just come in and be serving the product.
Other corporate or large weddings, you don’t have that equipment just laying around the house or in the backyard, so you can arrange for a liquor delivery who can also deliver the ice for the bar.
John: Some homeowners now are hiring bartenders to take care of the bar area so that the homeowner doesn’t have to worry about that or maybe keep track of how much people are drinking and things like that. Are there other reasons for hiring a bartender?
Kristi: Yeah. Nowadays, it always is a concern, drinking and driving, and the laws are getting more strict. Some homeowners, if you do a lot of parties at your house or if it’s a corporate thing, definitely look into your insurance company. There might be a little bit of increase for your policy, but it would cover you just in case something happened.
Or, you can hire the bar tending service and they would have that liability insurance, so you as the homeowner could be a little bit more at ease.
John: Sounds great. That’s excellent information. Kristi and Curt, thanks again for speaking with me today.
Kristi: Thank you, John.
Curt: Thank you.
John: For more information about catering, visit the Woodman’s website at woodmans.com, or call 978‑768‑2559.