Tips and Tricks For Planning Your Next Party

Questions to Ask Your Caterer's References

Questions to Ask Your Caterer's References 0

When you’re interviewing a caterer, it’s probably obvious that you should ask for sample menus and a tasting. But what about references? When you’re dealing with a million other details, asking for and calling references may seem like a waste of time, time that you do not have. But consider this: you’ll save yourself time, heartache and maybe even money if you gather as much info as possible before you hire a caterer. This is also true if you’re thinking of hiring a venue that uses an exclusive caterer. Even though the venue is amazing, you may find out that the caterer is not. Better to find BEFORE you sign the contract. Right?

When talking to the caterer’s references, your goal is to find out what it was like to work with the caterer and how good (or bad) the party was. True, most references will say nice things about the caterer (and some are even coached to do so) so it’s important to determine if the person is a “real” reference, cut through the fluffy praise and get some real information from the reference. The key is to ask the right questions.

If you’re not sure what questions you should ask your caterer’s references, here are some categories of questions that will help you to get down to the nitty gritty.

First and foremost, ask details about their event to ensure the person is a “Real” reference

It’s important to make sure that the reference is who they say they are. You want to make sure that the person really is a past client of the caterer. Ask details that are hard to make up on the spot but are details that a real past client is likely to remember quickly (unless the party was a long time ago, in which case the reference is probably too old anyway).

For instance, ask:

  • Location of the event.
  • How they first found the caterer.
  • Their theme and colors.
  • The meal that they served the kids at their party.
  • Their florist.
  • The name of the wine that they served.

Ask a question that requires a negative answer

Positive feedback is great but it’s not always the most helpful when you’re trying to get a full and clear picture. Be sure to ask the references questions in which they cannot only sing the caterer’s praises.

For instance, ask:

  • What is one thing you would have improved about the caterer?
  • What was one challenge when working with the caterer?

Ask questions about the caterer’s working and communication style

Each caterer is going to have a particular working style. For instance, some caterers will remind you of deadlines whereas others will only contact you if you have missed a deadline. Some caterers are very rigid in the way they deal with their clients whereas others are open to accommodating their client (for instance, they’ll send you reminders if you ask them to, even if that is not their usual way of doing things).

For instance, ask:

  • How did the caterer generally communicate with you? Email? Phone? Mail? Text?
  • Which generally got the fastest response from the caterer: an email or a phone call?
  • Did the caterer send you reminders of upcoming deadlines?
  • Did the caterer offer his/her opinion on things or did you specifically have to ask for it?
  • Where deadlines rigid or was there flexibility?
  • Did your sales person attend your party?
  • After you signed the contract, did you continue to work with your sales person or was your account passed to another individual? If yes, who?

I hope this helps as you interview your caterer’s references! Questions? Leave them in the comments below.

Happy Planning.

How to Decorate a Wooden Folding Chair: A Video Tutorial 0

Wooden folding chairs are a fixture at many event sites and they are often the standard chairs in your rental package. They are usually used for wedding ceremonies and outdoor events. If your site has wooden folding chairs, you may be stumped by how to decorate these chairs. They are not ugly chairs, per se, but you probably want to dress them up a bit. Chair covers can be expensive and a big bow does not always look good on a folding chair. The possible solution? A lovely small rosette. AllEventsRental offers a video tutorial about how to make a small rosette with a satin chair sash for a folding chair.

When I saw this tutorial on YouTube I immediately knew that I had to share it with the TSC Nation. This is an easy, affordable solution to how to decorate a folding chair that works well. Take a look:



All credit, praise and gratitude to AllEventsRental for posting this tutorial about how to decorate a folding chair.

  • Melanie Martin
  • Tags: The Decor
Should You Hire a Staffing Company? The Downsides.

Should You Hire a Staffing Company? The Downsides. 0

If you’re on this website you have probably realized that there are a million and one details required to execute a catered affair. The three main areas are the food, the setup/breakdown and the food service. A quick internet search will likely return a number of staffing companies in your area. These companies provide caterers, bartenders and chefs for a flat hourly fee. In some situations, this can be a brilliant solution and in others it can be an absolute disaster. We’ve seen both.

It’s completely up to you to decide if a staffing company is the answer to your prayers. Here are some things to consider while you decide:

You will quarterback the catering staff.

Even where the staffing company provides a catering captain (sometimes called a banquet captain), you must still instruct the staff on exactly what to do. “Set up the buffet” and “set 8 table settings at each table” may not be enough detail for you to be happy with the results. Therefore, you (or a friend/family member) must instruct, monitor and guide the catering staff throughout the event.

At the end of the event, you are still quarterbacking.

Generally all sites have clean up requirements such as how to handle recyclable containers, placement of trash bags, cleanliness of kitchen and repacking tables and chairs. Even if the staffing company is conscientious, since you, and not them, have a contract with the site you will be liable for any broken rules.

Days after the event you might still be quarterbacking.

A day or two after the event, rentals (linens, tables, stemware, etc) must be accounted for and returned. Again, since you, and not the staffing company, have a contract with the rental company you must ensure that all equipment is returned on time and in the manner required by the contract.

  • Melanie Martin
How to Create a Hot Chocolate Bar

How to Create a Hot Chocolate Bar 0

Baby, it’s cold outside.  No, really, it’s cold outside. The evening weather woman calls it a "cold snap" but it feels more like a "cold avalanche" here in the Northeast, U.S.. When I got home from running errands, the first thing I wanted was a cup of hot chocolate. As I was sipping I was thinking about how delicious hot chocolate is and, naturally, my thoughts turned to how to incorporate hot chocolate into a party.

A hot chocolate bar is an easy, inexpensive item to add to your wintertime party. Your bar can be simple or it can be extremely elaborate (think: multiple types of chocolates and many mix-ins).  Your guests will love the unique twist on an old favorite.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

The Hot Chocolate/Coca

Toppings and mix-ins are important but the guest of the hour will always be the hot chocolate/cocoa itself. The flavor of your hot chocolate/cocoa is very important.  Luckily, there are a ton of hot chocolate/cocoa powders on the market. My favorites are sipping chocolates because they have a richer taste. If you’re really enterprising, you can opt to make your own hot chocolate/cocoa (here's a great recipe from The Pioneer Woman).  For the greatest variety, I recommend that you select at least one dark chocolate, one lighter milk chocolate and one white chocolate for your hot chocolate bar.

The Milk

Whole milk or heavy cream are generally the best options on a hot chocolate bar because they create an extremely creamy taste. Another option is to use water and to add evaporated milk or heavy cream. I think this version tastes a little thin but I won’t judge you if this is how you like your hot chocolate. Of course, please remember your lactose intolerant guests. Soy milk (original, not vanilla flavored) is an excellent lactose free option.  If you wish to avoid soy, coconut milk is another option but keep in mind that it will slightly change the taste of the hot chocolate.

The Toppings and Mix-ins

This is where you can have a great deal of fun with your hot chocolate bar. Old classics such as whipped cream, marshmallows, shaved chocolate, mint and chocolate syrup are…well, classics because they are always crowd pleasers. Other incredible toppings are ground hazelnut, pieces of caramel, chocolate chips (they melt slower than shaved chocolate), candy canes (crushed for a topping or in-tact for a cool stirrer) cardamon, nutmeg, vanilla extract and pieces of Andes mints.  I also really love to add a dash of cayenne pepper to hot chocolate (a la Mexican Hot Chocolate).

Set the bar up on a buffet.  Set out mugs at the start of the buffet.  Set the hot chocolate up in a pretty, insulated dispenser right next to the mugs.  Next, present the toppings and mix-ins in pretty bowls with spoons in each bowl.

Happy Planning!


  • Melanie Martin
  • Tags: The Bar