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Parties and special occasions are a natural part of life. Whether it be a wedding, birthday, work celebration, or business party, special events are always surfacing.

There’s one big expectation for nearly all special events. Food.

Special events can often have up to a few hundred people. That’s a lot of food to prepare. Cooking for a big party can be too demanding a task for the event organizer.

The good news is that this task can be easily and effectively outsourced to a catering company.

Thankfully a catering company will also usually handle things like staffing, tablecloths, plates, and drinks.

Now when it comes to hiring a caterer, it is not as simple as hiring the first company out of the phone book.

It is wise do some research first.

#1: Figure out your budget.

You’ll need to determine how much money you will be able to spend on this event. That will help you to narrow down the results of your catering company search.

#2: Check out the reviews.

Is their food described as tasteless trash best served in a plastic bag with strings (read: a garbage bag), or as exquisite cuisine with memorable presentation and a lingering aftertaste of excellence? Hint: the latter one is better.

#3: Check out their photos.

Check out what companies of interest have posted on their website and social media accounts. Chances are you can’t go to an event that this caterer will be serving. But you can take a look through the internet and get a better feel for them. Their photos should show that they are professional, make good looking food, and care about their reputation.

#4: Setup a meeting.

Almost every caterer will require some sort of meeting to go over pricing.

This is your chance to really get a feel for what they’re like and their communication. This meeting could be over the phone but if throwing a big event with a lot of moving parts, you’ll want to do it in person. Consider arranging for a tasting to make sure the food is acceptable.

With these four things to look out for, you can get a good sense of whether a specific caterer will be right for you. Of course, to start out, it is important to do some research to figure out all the catering businesses in your area.