When to Call a Caterer

Have you always assumed that only big events need to be catered? That only businesses or people planning weddings need a caterer?

No? Oh good. Then you already know that a caterer can do:

Holiday Parties
SuperBowl Parties
Family Reunions
Funerals
Baby or Bridal Showers
Company Picnics
Company Parties
Church Events
Family Meals
Administrative Meetings
Bachelor or Bachelorette Parties
Breakfast
Brunch
Lunch
Dinner
Brinner
Appetizers
Dessert Bar
Birthday Parties

Phew! And that’s not even the full list! Anything you are doing could very easily, and sometimes more cost-effectively, be handled by a caterer rather than doing it yourself.

Sometimes hosting a party is a lot like Pinterest. That lovely wreath that you could buy in the store and might cost you $20? Oh hey! Let’s make it ourselves and it ends up costing you $80.

The same can be said for food items. While you think that it is simple to build a menu, buy the ingredients, make the food, what we sometimes forget to factor in is our TIME. Our time is our most valuable resource. Is preparing the dishes for whatever event is going on the best way to utilize your time?

If the answer is no, that is when you should call a caterer.

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Is That Really a Thing?

This weekend we had the pleasure of serving a meal for a wedding. The decorations were beautiful. The bride and her dress were beautiful. And, since it was an outdoor ceremony and reception at a local county park, most importantly the day was beautiful.

When the bride and I started discussing her meal six months ago, she was in a slight panic. Her caterer that she had originally hired had decided that he couldn’t afford to do catering anymore after a disastrous showing at RAGBRAI last year. Unfortunately, that was the case for a few caterers in our area. Not so much that they went out of business, just that business hadn’t been as expected for such a big event.

In any case, she was frantic to find a new caterer and we had met at the bridal show a couple months previously. She had tried the food, but of course, already had her caterer picked so had passed us by at that point.

Fortunately she remembered us in her time of need.

As we discussed prices and what her budget was, we started throwing out ideas for her menu. We did the usual pork sandwiches, hot buffet, yada yada yada.

Then she asked if we had ever done breakfast before.

A plan started developing for her to serve Brinner at her wedding reception. Yes. It was served at 5:30 in the evening. That is the best part of Brinner…also known as Breakfast for Dinner.

Her menu consisted of pancakes, biscuits and gravy, scrambled eggs, sausage links, and bacon.

Quite possibly one of the best wedding meals we’ve ever done. It was delicious. It was creative. And most importantly, it was fun.

Remember, this event you are planning? It is your special day. You need to decide what kind of message you want to send your guests.

You want it to be memorable.

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.

Recipe of the Week – Brie Burger Sliders

We occasionally get calls to do appetizer parties which is great! It gives us a chance to try new things on a small scale that could be made large scale as well. This appetizer is one such recipe.

Sliders are such a fun little burger. You can put most anything on one and, though it is little, it can pack a mighty punch. Today’s recipe is a Brie Burger Slider.

brie burger sliders

The first time I grilled one, I hadn’t seen the recipe so I was slightly unprepared for the blueberries in the meat, but truthfully, I never tasted the blueberries. There is simply a sweet taste to the burger. The brie, while not my favorite cheese, compliments this burger well. And the grilled onions…well, in my opinion a burger is never complete without grilled onions!

Even better though, this slider not only makes a great appetizer, but it can also make a spectacular regular sized burger, which may have to make it’s way into our regular Backyard BBQ options!

Choosing A Menu – Hot Buffet Style

Often we are asked to “send me your menu and price list”.  The best part about our catering business is that we have no set menu!  We let you choose what you want and price it from there.  That is what “Creative” is all about, right?

We do have a “fall-back” menu that works well for weddings: our two-meat buffet.  It all starts with a lettuce salad, complete with homemade dressing, plus additional goodies like sunflower seeds and croutons.  Our standard dressings are Ranch, Thousand Island, and French, but we can do other dressings as well if you like.Lettuce-Salad

Then we have vegetables and potatoes.  Glazed carrots are my favorite.  Sometimes people will choose two vegetables to give their guests more options, which is great.  I’m a huge fan of starches, so potatoes and dinner rolls are top on my list too.  Mashed potatoes are real, freshly peeled, cooked and seasoned perfectly for your pleasure.  Depending on the meat chosen with the meal, you will usually get two different homemade gravies as well.  We also do baby reds or cheesy hash browns.

Mashed-Potatoes-Gravy

Meat options for a two-meat buffet include oven baked chicken, roast beef, turkey, ham, or pork loin.  The most popular is pork loin and the oven baked chicken.  Mark cuts the pork loin right on the spot for your guests, which is a nice added touch (and something we don’t charge extra for).  The meats are all seasoned to perfection and melt in your mouth.Chicken-Roast-Beef

Again, this is a fall-back menu.  We love having the opportunity to do fun and different things as well, so make sure to shoot us some ideas as to what you are thinking about as we love to experiment!

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!