So you have found a few lovely venues that you and your fiance are considering for your wedding.
Or you are a professional planner and your client is eager to rent a private estate for their upcoming event.
In either circumstance, there may be a type of cuisine or a specific caterer that you have a previous relationship with and you simply have to have that food at your event.
However the venue comes with their very own chef and catering staff.
Should you insist on bringing in your own catering?
What do you do?
You should probably go with your venue’s caterer & here is why...
Home Court Advantage
You should probably go with the in-house caterer simply because they have done multiple events on location, working with the same people and they know the idiosyncrasies of the event space.
They know where to go and more importantly who to ask when they need something.
They know exactly how many staff members they need to pass hors d’oevres and how to choreograph where each server moves in order for everyone to get a bite of the appetizers you painstakingly chose for cocktail hour.
They know how long the salad course is going to take and when to start plating and serving your different courses to various tables spread throughout the reception area.
This will ensure that your entire event goes smoothly.
If food is coming out at odd times, everything is off, from speeches to dancing.
At one of our most popular venue’s, the Bali Gardens Estate, there are actually several different event spaces that can be utilized for just one event.
Recently we managed a lavish Indian wedding where the ceremony was on the main lawn while the cocktail hour was poolside at the back of the property.
Because our in-house caterer was familiar with the Bali Gardens Estate, they knew that they would have to set up three different food preparation stations.
They had a main one where most of the heavy duty cooking was done, complete with extra lighting for evening hours, a portable sink, oven and of course drop clothes to protect the pavement.
Poolside, hidden from the guests, they created a plating and grilling station with portable grill and a protective covering.
For dinner service they actually built a lighted tent area close to where the guests were so the food could come out hot and fresh(very important).
They also knew where all of the outlets were so they did not need to include a costly and noisy generator that a caterer who was unfamiliar with the property might add on to your total.
The experience your venue’s caterer brings to the table is not limited to their depth of knowledge about the venue but their knowledge is also probably varied.
Since there have been a variety of events at the venue, surely somewhere in that variety lies something that you and your guests' palate would delight in.
If your particular ethnic dish is not on the menu, it may just be because that item does not have a wide appeal.
Chances are, if you ask, there may be something the chef can do to replicate the type of cuisine you wish to serve.
Although when you see that a venue has their own chef and catering staff, you may feel limited or worried that the food won’t be up to your standard, but this is rarely true.
To ensure that you will love the food served at your event, request a chef’s bio, and even better, schedule multiple tastings or get a demo from the chef himself in your home.
Hidden Costs and Risks with Outside Caterers
Keep in mind that if you go with an outside caterer there may be an additional fee associated with doing so.
So if you are trying to cut costs, this is rarely the way to go.
In addition to your venue’s outside catering fee, there may be costly fees not traditionally advertised in your caterer’s quote.
Some of these could include staffing, building a field kitchen, equipment rentals, or service charges for closing their primary place of work or even for disposing of/hauling waste off the property.
Not all venues will provide access to a full catering kitchen and hopefully the outside caterer is planning on cooking all of the food fresh and onsite!
Also, if the catering service is accustomed to working exclusively out of their kitchen there may be issues with the food due to weather or equipment variations.
This is a risk you have to take when bringing in a caterer who may be unfamiliar with your venue.
Lastly, the biggest risk would be losing your security deposit due to damages to the venue.
No one wants a big unexpected expense after you have carefully budgeted for your event.
If your caterer spills grease and stains the paving stones or if they dump ice on the lawn and kill the grass, if their large truck breaks tree branches; these expensive damages will be taken from your security deposit.
Every reputable caterer is respectful of the places they work with, but there is a whole other level of respect when they are working on their home court.
How to get the best of both worlds
If your heart is really set on a caterer, keep in mind that you don’t have to have them work this particular event.
Especially if this caterer is a friend or family member and the event is your wedding.
Have them attend your wedding and use them for any other wedding related event.
Don’t forget about the various other times you and your guests will be dining together: Engagement Party, Wedding Shower, Bachelor/Bachelorette, Rehearsal dinner or even a fun after wedding Brunch.
If you are a corporate planner and you don’t want to neglect previously established relationships, simply use that caterer for a different event.
Chances are feelings won’t be hurt if everyone acts professionally.
To have your event go as smoothly as possible and to insure that your food will be delicious, fresh and exactly what you decided on during your tastings, it really is better to go with the in-house caterer.
To combat risk and avoid hidden fees or additional costs, the in-house caterer is definitely the way to go.
Your friend, family member or business contact will definitely understand and there are lots of other ways to incorporate their food, where the cost and risks aren’t as high.
Your outside caterer might be a fantastic chef and and wonderful caterer but they just might not be fantastic for this particular event.
Do you have any experiences or tips to share? Please do in the comments below...