When to Call the Caterer and When to Eat Out
Caterers are a hostess’s best ally. Planning a shower for 20 to 25 people in your home is manageable, but if you are expecting more than that, weigh the cost options of hiring a caterer. They can provide china and flatware, glasses and bar equipment, and labor for setup and cleanup. More important, they can free you to be a hostess instead of the chef.
Caterers will work within your budget and with your style, theme, and food tastes in mind. The caterer also has access to resources for décor, lighting, bartending, rentals, and favors.
What about guests with restricted diets?
Any caterer worth their salt will be able to accommodate guests with dietary restrictions. Most caterers will plan for one or two vegetarian meals; however, if you are aware of guests with very specific or unusual food needs, like peanut or shellfish allergies, let the caterer know in advance.
Call the Caterer
Consider a caterer when: your guest list exceeds 35, you are planning a full meal, and you have limited time and access to manpower for prep work, serving, and cleaning up. When the shower is hosted by a group, the catering costs will be divided among the total number.
The best way to locate a caterer is word of mouth. Ask friends, neighbors, coworkers, and family if they have had any experience with a caterer. Get their feedback and make the call. Many restaurants also offer off-site catering, so peruse your list of favorites.
What should you look for in a caterer? First and foremost, you want a caterer with experience in the type of event you are hosting. They should have references, pictures of other projects, sample menus, and ideas. Here are some questions to help you find the perfect fit:
Are they available on the selected date?
Are they flexible with menu selection? Can you make substitutions, or is the menu locked in?
Do they prepare the food themselves?
Do they provide servers, or is there an additional cost?
Do they offer a tasting? Is it included, or is there an additional charge?
How do they serve the food—paper, china, glass, plastic? Will they arrange for rentals if needed?
Do they have a liquor license?
Do they provide décor for the serving tables? Can they arrange for centerpieces?
Do they have a portfolio of other events like yours?
Time to Eat Out
Eating out has become a national pastime. There are restaurants that can accommodate most budgets and tastes. And restaurant showers can be a less expensive option than catering in your home. Why? Because the cost of rentals and the labor to deliver, set up, serve, and clean up is more when the staff is on the road. At a restaurant, the supplies and labor for these services are on-site.
Try the food before signing the restaurant contract. Grab a friend or spouse and scout the site during the time frame that you plan to hold the shower. Take notes on appearance, noise, traffic flow, parking, and service. If the food for two doesn’t measure up, it certainly won’t get better when they prepare it for 22.
For a standard baby shower, you will need a restaurant that has a party room or area that feels more private and can be cordoned off. Allow enough space to arrange gifts, play a short shower game, and gather to open the presents. Picking a site with a preparty area to get a drink and have a chat before the food is served is also a plus.
It can be chaotic when the shower is winding down to its end, which makes it awkward to handle the bill. Arrange with the restaurant staff to pay the bill either in advance or in an otherwise discreet manner. Let them know when you arrive exactly who will be responsible for payment and ask about the tipping protocol—is it automatically added to the bill, or will you need to whip out your calculator? Most restaurants include the gratuity on parties with more than eight people.