By Jennah Lagomarsino
Throughout my 18 years in the event industry, I’ve had the opportunity to work with the finest event caterers, chefs and restaurants in the business. One thing I can say with certainty is that catering has developed into an art form; the days of buffets with chaffing dishes and white china are no longer.
In the current event climate, clients are looking for a unique, one-of-a-kind, handcrafted food and beverage experience for their guests and making it interactive is a key component. We encourage our clients to incorporate as much interaction with the chefs as possible. Denver-based Epicurean Group has been an excellent partner in helping us create some great interactive stations. One of our favorites is a live mozzarella pulling station where we elevate a chef on a stage to interact with our attendees utilizing samples of the warm, melt-in-your-mouth mozzarella.
What do I do to ensure that my clients get that wow factor they are looking for? What should I expect from my catering partners? Here are some pointers when it comes to choosing the right Colorado caterer for your event.
- Work with the experts. Seek out the best, most experienced caterers to partner with. We lean on them for their expertise and depend on them to bring creativity to the table in order to enhance and build upon the theme of the event we are producing. Some of our most successful events with themes have been Colorado seasons, allowing us to match décor to food theme. Another very popular theme this last year has been Colorado microbrews—food and beer pairing.
- Know your audience. In order to select the right event caterer, you need to know what will appeal to your guests. Do you have hearty eaters who enjoy a meat and potatoes style menu or do you have a group of foodies who prefer a more intricate, fusion style of food options? Presentation and entertainment are important, but satisfying the client’s expectation and feeding the masses is equally as important. When planning your event, understand how you can make Colorado a spotlight, perhaps through farm-to-table sourcing of local Colorado products, both food and alcohol. Think about adding something that creates a wow for your guests.
- What is the caterer’s specialty? Be sure that catering capabilities align with the needs of the event. Many restaurants offer catering but may not specialize in large-scale, off-site catering. There is a big difference between the two, and you want to ensure F&B is a seamless experience and that guests are fed, inspired and having a great time.
- Schedule tastings. My expectations are high when it comes to coordinating a tasting prior to the event. When my client comes into town for a tasting, I expect the chef will be present and the scene set for creating a station as it would appear at the actual event. Tastings are invaluable to the success of an event, as long as everyone is open, honest and constructive about what will work and what may not.
- Enough Staff On-Site. Often your caterer can design beautiful displays but if they can’t keep each station replenished, food quality and look don’t matter. Every good event caterer should have food prepped and ready in the back of the house for refill, and it is imperative they have the right amount of staff in place. From station attendants and staff replenishing the food to bussers, everyone provides a pivotal role to the success of the event. Believe me, this is one element that I am a stickler about—if you don’t have the appropriate amount of staff it doesn’t matter how phenomenal your menu is or how interactive and creative you make the stations. At the end of the night, the one thing that the client will remember is that they were hungry because the caterer couldn’t keep the food stocked.
- Event Layout. Nobody wants to walk through a line balancing their plate and a roll of silverware. Everyone involved in the production of an event should walk through as a client would experience everything. Walk in their shoes. See things through their eyes.
The truth is that catering really is an art form. We work with the best caterers, give them direction for what our hopes are, and then we let them be creative. At DSC, we are only as good as our service providers, and catering is such an important element of our events that is imperative we work with the best!
Jennah Lagomarsino is Director of Client Services for DSC, a destination management company based in Vail and with offices in Denver, Colorado Springs, Salt Lake City, Park City, Jackson Hole and Lake Tahoe.