You don’t know what pressure is until you’re called upon to pick the catering company for an important event. If anything goes wrong, or the event is a bust; you’ll be to blame – and no one will let you forget it. But these nine tips from industry experts can improve your chances of pulling off an awesome event, free from bumps and errors so everyone can have a great time.

Don’t procrastinate. Start making phone calls as soon as you know about the event. The best caterers book up quickly, you don’t want to be stuck with your second (or third) choice.

Right-size it. Is your event for 30 people? 500? Make sure that the caterers you consider have the experience (and equipment) for an event of your size.

Check out the venue. If you book a venue with-in house catering, you’ll save yourself a lot of heartache. If that’s not an option, make sure that there are no unanticipated glitches or rules that would prevent your chosen caterer from working at your venue.

Check references. Check references. Check references. The importance of this cannot be underestimated. It’s the only way to really know about their service. Call the references that are provided and check out online reviews first.

Choose your food. Do you want upscale appetizers and champagne? An outdoor pig roast? Choose a caterer experienced with the kind of food you want. Ask for a tasting to ensure the quality lives up to their claims.

Discuss service options. Do you want a seated dinner? A buffet?  A cocktail hour with passed Hors d’oeuvres? Ask the caterer how they serve (and how many servers they will provide) to be sure that service is what you envision. They may even have options you haven’t considered.

Get itemized quotes. Request quotes from at least three caterers. Compare them line by line to make sure there are no hidden costs.

Get all the details in writing. Your contract should spell out every detail. Nailing everything down ahead of time can prevent last minute headaches. It will also give you legal recourse in the event of a breach.

Relax and enjoy the event. If you’ve done the legwork and hired a great caterer, you’ll have little to do on the big day, but sit back and enjoy.

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