Author Topic: A Little Help with the Caterer  (Read 3224 times)

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QueenofAllThings

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A Little Help with the Caterer
« on: September 13, 2012, 03:27:23 PM »
As mentioned in a previous post, I am using a caterer (for a cocktail party) for the first time. I've selected a woman who catered a family lunch - her food is very good. We've been in touch via email and have swapped some ideas, food-wise. I have no contract yet.

Here's my issue - she has 'tried' to call me several times (according to her emails) but each time, the day 'has gotten away from her'. I finally connected with her this morning, and she asked if she could call me back in 10 minutes 'after she'd dealt with her kids'. That was 6 hours ago. As I've said, I like her food and her prices, but I'm feeling a little bit concerned about her professionalism. She comes across as "all us moms are in this together" - and I understand, I really do. But this is a business, and I need to know I can depend on her.

Is it too soon to send an email indicating my concern? I don't want to offend her, but am wondering if I should give her an out if she's too busy to take this on. Would you send it or give her another day or two (the party is in a month)? How would you word it?

cicero

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Re: A Little Help with the Caterer
« Reply #1 on: September 13, 2012, 03:50:37 PM »
do you have other options? I wouldn't feel comfortable with that kind of caterer. if you are *ok* with the whole "we're all moms in this together" style, that would be fine. but you're not. and you are right, this isn't professional - a caterer is not just someone who knows how to cook - they have to be capable of following health and safety rules, they have to be capaable of pricing their services, of being available to answer questions, of showing up on time etc.

when my son was going to be bar mitsva i was going through  chemotherapy and unable to do anything. i spoke to 3 local caterers: the first two were similar to what you are describing here - not getting back when they said, being all "don't worry about that" instead of giving me prices etc. the third - and the one we ended up hiring - is a mother of a zillion kids who worked out of her home, and yet her professional persona was professional and she did a beautiful job. I told her from teh start - i can't deal with things, i need you to do it all. and she did.

ETA - i posted before i could say: definitely call or email her and voice your concerns.
« Last Edit: September 13, 2012, 03:52:26 PM by cicero »

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QueenofAllThings

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Re: A Little Help with the Caterer
« Reply #2 on: September 13, 2012, 04:41:30 PM »
Thank you, Cicero.

To clarify, since I didn't in my OP - I said "we've swapped some ideas food-wise" and that isn't fair to her. She has given me three menus at three price points, so I don't feel I'm dealing with an amateur. She has a legitimate business; I just am getting the vibe that she's a little overwhelmed at the moment.

jpcher

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Re: A Little Help with the Caterer
« Reply #3 on: September 13, 2012, 06:38:09 PM »
As mentioned in a previous post, I am using a caterer (for a cocktail party) for the first time. I've selected a woman who catered a family lunch - her food is very good. We've been in touch via email and have swapped some ideas, food-wise. I have no contract yet.

Talk to the person that used her before. Find out if they had the same run-around and if they worried about the service. How did this person find the caterer? Have other family members used her before?

Ask the caterer for a list of references.

Sometimes great "artists" are scatterbrained about the business end, but pull off a wonderful service in the nth hour (while you stew and worry. ::))


Since she's given you 3 menus/prices I think you should e-mail her (tomorrow) and let her know that you have a few questions about the menu, the contract, etc.



Caterer:

I've received your menus/price lists and they look great. I would like to discuss a few finer points concerning my party, your services and a contract*.

Please let me know when you are available so that we can set up an appointment where we can discuss the event in further detail, either in person or via phone call. I am available (or not available) at these times/dates.

Your prompt attention to this matter would be greatly appreciated.

Queen



See how/when she responds.

No need to give her an "out" (unless that's what you want to do) because you haven't signed a contract yet (maybe that's why she's a bit lackadaisical?) At this point, to her, all you've been doing is fact-finding.

If she doesn't respond in a timely manner (that fits your schedule . . . after all you are the customer) then there is no need for further contact with her at all except the polite "Thank you, but I've hired a different service."

In the mean time, start looking for alternatives PDQ. Just in case.




*Contract issues: When does she need a final headcount? Deposit? Cancellation clause? How does she handle specialty items (allergies, vegan, etc.) Are her servers bonded? How many servers? Clean-up? ;D
« Last Edit: September 13, 2012, 06:39:49 PM by jpcher »

QueenofAllThings

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Re: A Little Help with the Caterer
« Reply #4 on: September 13, 2012, 07:32:40 PM »
Thaks, JPCher. I had asked her to call me this afternoon. She called me this a.m. (I wasn't home) and when I called her back, well ... see above.  I think I'll give her another day and then send an email ...

Roe

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Re: A Little Help with the Caterer
« Reply #5 on: September 15, 2012, 02:27:21 PM »
Any contact yet?

AstiTheWestie

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Re: A Little Help with the Caterer
« Reply #6 on: September 15, 2012, 03:27:20 PM »
Red flags are waving for me. I run my own graphic design business, and if I tell you I will get back to you in x amount of minutes, you can bet I will. Unless there is a true emergency. Which leads me to my next question ... does your potential caterer have a back-up plan in case (God forbid) there is a true emergency?

doodlemor

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Re: A Little Help with the Caterer
« Reply #7 on: September 15, 2012, 05:09:48 PM »
There is a whole parade of red flags marching here, and if you continue trying to pin this person down I suspect there will be one aggravation after another.

I think that you need to find another caterer.  If this person ever does get back in touch you need only tell her that you thought that she was not interested when you didn't hear from her.


QueenofAllThings

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Re: A Little Help with the Caterer
« Reply #8 on: September 15, 2012, 07:56:20 PM »
It's Saturday evening, and no contact yet.

I'm guessing the economy must be rolling along - the caterer, the tutor, and the electrician have not called back. So - clearly no one needs work!  :P

JenJay

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Re: A Little Help with the Caterer
« Reply #9 on: September 15, 2012, 09:35:06 PM »
Good grief! I'd send her one final email (or leave one final voicemail) that said "I'm not comfortable with how difficult it is to reach you, so I've decided to work with another caterer."

Roe

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Re: A Little Help with the Caterer
« Reply #10 on: September 16, 2012, 10:12:17 AM »
Good grief! I'd send her one final email (or leave one final voicemail) that said "I'm not comfortable with how difficult it is to reach you, so I've decided to work with another caterer."

Yeah, me too.  I've learned from experience that giving one too many chances usually ends up working against you. 

Hmmmmm

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Re: A Little Help with the Caterer
« Reply #11 on: September 16, 2012, 10:47:18 AM »
I think I'd send one final email, but it would be to let her know you've decided to go in a differnry direction.

jpcher

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Re: A Little Help with the Caterer
« Reply #12 on: September 16, 2012, 02:05:04 PM »
Thaks, JPCher. I had asked her to call me this afternoon. She called me this a.m. (I wasn't home) and when I called her back, well ... see above.  I think I'll give her another day and then send an email ...


You posted this on Thursday . . . did you send her an e-mail on Friday? and still no response?


It's Saturday evening, and no contact yet.

I'm guessing the economy must be rolling along - the caterer, the tutor, and the electrician have not called back. So - clearly no one needs work!  :P


It's not unusual for business to take a Saturday/Sunday off, unless it's an emergency type contact.



But, yeah, I agree with the other posters. Find a different caterer ASAP.
Time-wise (less than 4 weeks 'til your party?) You're cutting it a bit close to finalize booking with another caterer.

From your previous thread "Tipping the Caterer" it sounds like this is a high-class affair with servers and a bartender. Cocktail party . . . What I'm  picturing is Hors d'oeuvre  on trays being walked through the party by servers? Or do you plan on having buffet style appetizers and the servers are there replenish the buffet?

How many people are invited? What are your thoughts as to service? How do you picture the party? Dress-up classy? Or casual where you don't have to worry about food prep?

I'm asking because, as an alternative to a catering service, you can always call your favorite restaurants and have choice appetizers delivered. I've done this many times in the past (even with full meals.) The restaurant provided chafing dishes and instructions for food safety (This should be refrigerated until service, that should be kept warm, etc.) The delivery people set up my buffet and left.

Of course, all of my parties are on the casual side. I didn't have any servers or bartenders and I did have to pay attention and replenish certain items, but it was a whole lot simpler than doing all the work myself.


I'm with you, Queen . . . Having a party where you can relax and not worry about food and prep and all that? is a wonderful (luxury? ;D) experience.



I hope it all works well for you!

sourwolf

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Re: A Little Help with the Caterer
« Reply #13 on: September 16, 2012, 02:42:43 PM »
I'm asking because, as an alternative to a catering service, you can always call your favorite restaurants and have choice appetizers delivered. I've done this many times in the past (even with full meals.) The restaurant provided chafing dishes and instructions for food safety (This should be refrigerated until service, that should be kept warm, etc.) The delivery people set up my buffet and left.

I think this is a fantastic idea and might be the easiest way to go.  They might even be able to pro IDE people to serve.  I would definitely talk to the relative who use the caterer to see what their experience was but I probably wouldn't be comfortable using her.

PastryGoddess

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Re: A Little Help with the Caterer
« Reply #14 on: September 16, 2012, 04:39:01 PM »
It's Saturday evening, and no contact yet.

I'm guessing the economy must be rolling along - the caterer, the tutor, and the electrician have not called back. So - clearly no one needs work!  :P

Saturday evening is usually when caterers are busy with parties.  If she is a one or two person operation, she has to do everything, including working jobs.  This in no way gives her an out for not being in contact with you during the week, but I just wanted to point that out :)