August 01, 2002
Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio August 2002 Current Issue
August 2002 ChecklistPLANNER'S PORTFOLIO:




The following checklist was compiled with the help of Kurt Brown, director of catering, Boston Marriott Copley Place, 110 Huntington Ave., Boston, Mass. 02116


  • What is the nature of the event (awards ceremony, business meeting, fund-raiser, gala dinner, dance or other social occasion)?
  • Is the function part of a meeting, or is it a stand-alone event?
  • How many people are expected to attend?
  • Is this a first-time event? If not, use data from previous functions to help determine numbers.
  • Where and how will the event be catered (on- or off-site, using a hotel’s catering department or an outside caterer)?
  • If the event will be held off-site, are there adequate cooking and food-preparation facilities, including freezers, refrigerators and running water?
  • Does the site have adequate general storage and load-in/load-out access?
  • Will any VIPs be present?
  • Will the event have a theme?
  • Will there be live entertainment?
  • Will alcohol be served?
  • What is the budget?

  • Begin planning as far out as possible. Last-minute planning can result in higher food and labor costs.
  • Give the caterer details of the event, including number of expected attendees, date, time and location.
  • If using an outside facility, arrange for the caterer to site-inspect the venue and kitchen facilities.
  • Discuss with the caterer any dishes that were not successful in the past. Provide a list of clients’ preferred foods and items to avoid.
  • Address food allergies, vegetarian requests and any particular ethnic or religious preferences. (A general rule of thumb: About 5 percent of attendees request vegetarian dishes.)
  • Determine if a buffet-style or plated meal is more conducive to the nature of the event.
  • If considering a buffet, ask for a selection of foods that stay fresh and hold up well. Avoid fried foods, sliced meats and breakfast items such as scrambled eggs, which dry out quickly.
  • Consider whether food will be prepared on-site or made in advance and then trans- ported to the event. Some types of fish, such as sole and flounder, do not hold up well if prepared ahead of time.
  • Discuss how food will be transported if it is being prepared off-site.
  • Discuss cleanup procedures. If catering staff will handle the cleanup, ask if an extra fee applies.
  • Before committing to a final menu selection, ask the caterer for an actual tasting. If this is impossible, ask to see a photo portfolio of dishes the caterer is comfortable preparing.
  • If planning to serve alcohol, ask the caterer for consumption guidelines and to recommend wines within budget.

  • Inspect the caterer’s facility. Cleanliness is a good standard by which to judge professionalism.
  • Ask to see the caterer’s business license as well as health-department certification; reputable firms should have both.
  • Ask if the use of silverware and linens is included in the quoted price.
  • Determine the number of wait staff necessary. If a certain caliber of wait staff is needed, the caterer should be made aware of this.
  • Ask outside caterers for at least three references, and check them before signing a contract.
  • Provide a final head count to the catering department 48 hours before the event.

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