Five Questions to Ask Your Caterer

Occasionally, I will get messages wondering about our services. Not surprising since people want to get the most bang for their buck. Many times, the bride (or party-planner) isn’t sure what questions she (or he) should be asking so here are some ideas for you as you prepare for your next party.

  1. Do you have a food license?
    This is probably the most important question. There are a few reasons you should consider this (and why you should consider not have family members or friends prepare a meal for your wedding or party guests).

    First, you have your safety issues. If a business has a food license, then that means someone from the health department has been out, checked over the area where meals are being prepared, and deemed them worthy of cooking for others. When you rely on family and friends to cook your meal, no matter how wonderful a cook they are, there is no one checking on their food handling capabilities.

    Second, a business with a food license, takes the liability if something was to happen to the guests at your party. While we all hope this should never be an issue, do you really want to risk family members being blamed for food poisoning? Catering businesses need to prove that they have the capability to provide safe food, and know the proper temps for serving food.

  2. Do you have references?
    Another excellent question. References mean that a caterer has been doing this and has a track record of making people happy: providing a good menu, food that tastes good, and price that is affordable. A good caterer should be able to provide at least three recent (within 3-6 months), non-family references. Even better is when they have repeat business, but as a caterer, that can be slightly more difficult depending on how often a person plans a party.
  3. Do you require a deposit? What are my payment options?
    This is a double question, as money tends to be. Be sure you know, up front, what you are expected to pay before an event and when the final payment is due. It’s also a good idea to check on whether the deposit (and payments made) are refundable in case of a change of plans. Many caterers do require payment in full by the event. Other financial questions might be whether they accept credit cards and checks. I would be leery of a business that accepted cash only.
  4. Will I get a written quote? How long is the quote good for?
    Make sure a caterer is willing to give you a written quote prior to making any definite plans, but find out how long they will honor the price they have given you as well. You will want time to research your catering options and credibility of potential caterers. Nailing down a caterer a year in advance is great from the standpoint that you can mark that off your “to-do” list but it is also one of the most expensive (and remembered) parts of your wedding so you want to make sure you have made the right decision.
  5. Do you provide servers? Tableware? Do you charge mileage?
    Along with these questions should be whether there are additional fees. Also, make sure to read the quote/contract. If these things aren’t covered, ask the question. The last thing you want is to be surprised by additional fees on the day of your party.
  6. Choosing a caterer doesn’t have to be difficult. You just need to be prepared, do your research, and know what questions to ask.

New Happenings…

In May, as I approached graduation from Buena Vista University, I found out that my job was no longer my job, that I had only been an interim position and that someone else had been hired for the position I was enjoying. I was disappointed and felt slightly lost. What was I going to do?Three Things

After some soul searching and talking with Mark, I started looking at other options. Do I look for a new job? Do I try to make my media business take off? Do I start pushing the catering business?

Truthfully, I was pretty lost. I didn’t know where to begin. Really, we needed my income, but if i started pushing the catering business more, that could cover my income. The problem is that I don’t cook. So then I had to figure out how to get Mark in the kitchen cooking AND his income.

That’s when I started talking about taking the catering trailer to businesses for lunch meals. I started with a survey, asking how often people went out to eat on their lunch shift, if they would like to have a business bring food on site for them to purchase, and other various questions related to that. Results were pretty unanimous that it would be of interest.

My next step was to approach businesses to see if they would be willing to bring in a vendor for their employees. It didn’t take me long to find five businesses willing to give it a try so I started lining them up. I now have three businesses that want us weekly and two that want us every other week. I’m still looking to fill one more spot and Mark is taking a leave of absence at work so we can give this a try to see if we can make it work.

After that, I put together was a Recipe of the Week spot on the radio. This includes a weekly blog post on my part, Mark trying new recipes and finding things he likes, and social media push from MORE 104.9 in Spencer. Today is our first one and I’m pretty pumped about it.Catering Logo

For those who love our catered meals, never fear, we are not moving away from that. We are simply looking at ways to expand our business because we have more, bigger, plans that we want to bring to life!

If someone were to write a book about your business, what would the title be?

business bookThat is the question I came across in my “Idea a Day” Email that I receive from Likeable Media.

I love to write, but I have found that I’m not always that creative with the marketing aspect. Possibly because I can’t find a way to make it personal? I can put personal stories into words, but to try to make my business personal, I struggle.

There is no reason to struggle though. What could possibly be more personal than owning and operating your own business? The stories that I could tell make this business real to me.

But the stories aren’t always my stories to tell. The last thing I would want to do is tell a story about an event, only to offend potential customers.

So I struggle.

Culinary Creations? Sounds like a cookbook.

Tips and Tricks of a Home-Based Caterer? Sounds too DIY.

Perhaps that is why I have a hard time keeping this blog going. The stories I want to tell aren’t mine to tell so I keep quiet. And really, how many “5 Steps to an Amazing Event” posts can a person really read (or write)?

Hmmm. Well there’s a topic to use.

A Little Home-Made Goes Along Way. Perfect.

McCreary’s Creative Catering

Mark and I began McCreary’s Creative Catering in 2008, out of our home in Langdon.  We took our attached garage and enclosed it for a secondary, catering kitchen.

Mark is the chef…and he is amazing if you haven’t already tried his food.  I was  never a “picky” eater but after eating Mark’s food for the last 20 years, I have become “particular”.  He has done cooking since high school in Terril (where we grew up) and at the Lakes.  We also owned our own steakhouse for three years in Lester Iowa.  When we moved back, he cooked for the Spencer Golf and Country Club and has also worked at Perkins, so you could say that cooking is in his blood.

Me, on the other hand, have no desire to cook.  And why should I?  Very seldom does Mark make something that I could have made better (although our idea of chili is completely different and I do make flat cakes better than he does).  My job is to hold down the fort: organizing, planning, and keeping books up-to-date.

Our catering business started small, just doing little dinner parties, maybe meals for 60-80 people, but has grown into weddings, employee meals, backyard BBQs, open houses, business luncheons…you name it, we’ve probably done it!  The majority of our jobs are in a 30 mile radius of Spencer, but we have traveled 150+ miles…including a family reunion in Indianapolis!

If you are finding this through our Facebook page, then you already have an idea of what we are about, but for those of you who are new to us?  I can’t wait to meet you!  My plan for this blog is to give tips on parties, menu ideas, possibly some recipes (if I can get them out of Mark), and maybe a video blog or two.  I can’t wait to share this and our business ideas with you!