Not-for-profit organizations are often challenged to hire a caterer as an integral part of their fundraising efforts. Here are some topics to consider when planning your event.
Before You Set the Menu Budget
Consult a caterer who is well versed in fundraising activities before finalizing your actual event ticket price. There are many alternatives to menu planning that will help in offering a marketable ticket price while still producing an outstanding event. Ceruti’s has helped plan, promote, and produce not-for-profit events that have raised as little as $500 and as much as $100,000 at a single event for local charities.
The Location Decision
Be realistic as to the number of tickets or admissions your group can sell. Each venue has different capacities. Before reserving or securing a location be sure to ask the following set of questions:
- What is the total square feet of the banquet space?
- What are the dimensions of the guest tables? Example: 60” Round, 8’ Banquet
- Does the facility offer sample floor plans from previous fundraising events?
- Does the facility have built in audio-visual equipment?
- Does the facility offer a tasting of the menu items proposed?
- What type of uniform/attire does the banquet staff wear?
- How long will it take to serve the meal?
- How many buffets will be set up?
- Is the facility licensed to serve alcoholic beverages?
- Does the provider of alcoholic beverages have liquor liability insurance?
- Will the facility be available throughout the entire day for set up?
- Does the facility offer any “off season” discounts?
The Bid and Proposal Process
It is always best to collect two to three catering bids. Judging those bids on an “apples to apples” basis is equally important. Have the perspective caterers bid on the exact same menu items, so that you can accurately compare the bids. This will help you establish a base line from which you can negotiate.
Qualify Potential Caterers
Check if the caterers on your bid list are licensed and properly insured. As part of the proposal, ask them to include a copy of their Health Permit and a copy of their General Liability Insurance Certificate.
Not all caterers have the same aptitude in handling tough logistical situations. Fundraising events have specific logistic issues that do not pertain to other events such as weddings. These logistical issues require a trained eye and a catering mind to prevent logistical disasters from happening. Select a caterer that knows the site and has experience with it.
Communication Is Key
The caterers should be aware of all activities taking place during the event to help coordinate their details and effort with yours. Ask a key representative from the catering company to be on your committee as an ad hoc, non-voting member. If this is not possible ask a catering representative to at least meet with your committee. It will help a great deal if routine communication is established early in the developmental stages of the event.
Advertising and Promotion
Offer to promote the caterer on your advertising and promotional materials. Sometimes caterers will provide a discount in exchange for publicity on event flyers, radio and television spots, and having their name on admission tickets. Having the caterers name on the event program or being announced during the event can also enhance your ability to negotiate with the caterer.
What Is Your Purpose
Provide the facility and caterer with your not-for-profit mission statement. Know what your specific purpose or goal is for the event. Catering companies cannot afford to help every organization, however the more they know about your organization the better chance you have of partnering with a vendor.
A well-established caterer in your community will also have well-established contacts with vendors. Ask your caterer to assist you with more than just the food and beverages. You will often find they have invaluable contacts for unusual entertainment, interesting theme décor ideas and other services. Ceruti’s Catering offers full service event planning including decorations and more.
Menu Tasting And Commissary Inspection
If you are not familiar with the caterer, always request a taste test of the proposed menu. The caterer should be able to prepare the food under the same conditions that will be experienced at the event site. Arrange to visit the commissary before you make your final decision. Remember that taste tests are very costly to caterers; don’t ask for one until you have narrowed your choice to two or three. Ask to see what types of table service will be used.
Offer your volunteers to help defray the cost of service personnel. There are many positions in catering suitable for a first-time helper. It creates a true sense of interaction among the volunteers and can help offset the costs of some event personnel charges.
Request an Event Critique
Ask the caterer to be present at your wrap-up meeting. Expect a full written report from the caterer about the event logistics, guest comments the staff received and final food service counts, regardless of contractual obligations. You will find this information very helpful in designing your next event.
Do’s & Don’ts
DO offer early bird ticket specials and ticket sales by the table.
DON’T sell tickets at the door or the same day of the event .
DO offer a menu that is commensurate with the admission price.
DON’T request the caterer to compromise quality in an effort to save money.
DO verify the total capacity of seating at the venue or facility prior to selling tickets.
DON’T oversell the size of the venue. It can ruin the entire event.
DO leverage your purchasing power by consolidating the number of vendors. (Example: The more you can purchase from one vendor such as food, equipment, decorations, and rental items the more you create a win-win scenario.)