What used to be considered luxury is today an integral part of business and private events. Of course, we are talking about catering.
At the outset we need to clearly define the difference between a highly professional catering & banqueting and what the law in Croatia defines as “catering facilities”. Today in the market almost every restaurant, pizzeria, bar, snack bar, tavern, etc. offers catering services as a side job, and this can be attributed to the current legislation. Before the law it is almost the same if one is organising the delivery of one pizza or a party for 200 people, as they are both business entities considered to be “catering facilities”. This allows individuals to abuse the system, leaving the organisers of business and private meetings unprotected, because they must themselves assess and explore the degree of quality of works. Unlike catering, hotels are categorised and organisers from the start know what quality of service they can expect in a hotel with three, four or five stars.
How to hire a quality catering?
When hiring catering services one needs to begin to take steps that can clearly indicate what kind of service one can expect:
● Check whether the restaurant that offers catering services is specialised in this area or is its main activity restaurant, bar, cafeteria, snack bar, etc. As in all other industries, also here it means a lot if it is a company specialising in a particular area. Thus the activity can be performed much better and is investing a lot more effort if it is the main and only source of income of the company.
● Check the capacity of the kitchen, warehouse, the fleet …. It often happens that the “paper suffers anything”, so it is impossible if you want to be sure of the safety of food and do not want to jeopardize the entire event. Getting a quote for organising a reception for 350 people from the catering facility whose kitchen has 35m2, three fridges, one person in the kitchen and food transports are done with a small van with no cooling system… in such a case our common sense dictates that a deal with such capabilities is not possible.
● Check how long the company has been operating in the market and be sure to check the reference list and experience with similar projects.
● If you care to make a good impression on the event you organise, certainly insist on looking at food preparation, cooling appliances in the kitchen, the fleet with which the caterer carries out its activities, staff uniforms, big and small items (tables, chairs, accessories, cutlery, plates, etc.). There is a big difference between what you are promised in a telephone communication and what the real situation and the possibilities of performance in the field are. So you take a little time and ‘scan’ through to the end capabilities of the caterer, since your business reputation greatly depends onthis.
● Be sure to ask for special purposes and food tasting, but remember that for five people almost anyone can prepare a quality food tasting, so it is very important to pay attention to all the other indicators.
● Check the food safety control system. According to legislation HACCP is a minimum and is mandatory for all restaurants in Croatia, while ISO 22000 is a maximum and reduces the possibility of any health defects to zero. ISO system requires significant investment in space, training, equipment … therefore, we recommend that you seek ISO certification and be sure.
● One of the most important things is to check the stability of the company. For example, if in 2013 you organise a congress for 2015, you need to be sure that the company will still exist in two years.
● Care must be taken that only carrying out searches on the web site can be risky, because what looks great on the website may be far from the reality.
How to send a request to a quality catering?
Given that the catering is often a very complex process and requires individual application – as opposed to restaurants, hotels and other fixed locations, this is still working on some “other” location – the individual needs of the group, the improvisation, and the handling of the new space is of paramount importance.
Therefore it is important to query the catering and specify these few things:
• The location and date of the banquet and the number of guests
• Time and duration of the banquet
• Specify whether this will be a gala lunch or dinner with seating areas or stand up versions with cocktail tables
• Take into account the wishes of the guests and the age of the group, sex (whether a predominantly male, female or mixed group), religion (Halal, Kosher, etc.), opportunity, language barriers (waiters and chefs who speak a certain language)
• State the budget – if it is defined, it is easier to adjust and determine which direction to go in, without much loss of time
Once you make the above checks and insights into companies meeting the criteria, please contact the catering and ask for a meeting with a specialist who will listen to all your wishes, will know how to advise you well, and propose a joint visit of the site … Bids on paper in this case are just a formality. It saves your time and engagement of experts so that you can avoid misunderstandings, relax and concentrate on the rest of your project.
Types serving and menu
Highly professional and quality catering can offer different ways of serving, often come up with a completely new concept of lunch or dinner, set a new trend … This can be a standard buffet in all its variants, to show cooking (e.g. preparing various pasta, risotto, stew, etc. in front of guests), prepareing grilled meat in front of guests … all the way to Teller service, which is often the most challenging, because a quality performance requires a large number of waiters, cooks and equipment. To make the performance good, it is essential that in just a few minutes a group of 200 guests gets the food on the plate, that one waiter is serving a table of eight people, etc. There is also a more classic version of serving food on trays (very little represented in organisations, business meetings). A significant proportion have stand-up receptions with finger food menus that again can be set in the buffet or served as a flying service (the waiters are circulating with trays of food between guests), or a combination of these.
So it is useful, before a concrete offer, to visit the site with a catering specialist, as it could turn out that they are offering you something impossible at this location.
This is the stage where the days and weeks of good planning come to the fore and are reduced to a day or two-day operational activities. It is important to arrange details with other suppliers working on the project (music, lighting, tent, etc.) beforehand to prevent crowding and confusion on site.
So it should be determined who is coming to the location and when, and possibly arrange to open the location a day before to prepare the space. All details should be negotiated with just one or two persons in charge of catering to avoid misunderstandings. During the event, it is best to negotiate exclusively with the head of catering, not directly and individually with the staff at the reception. Thus one avoids the destruction of already established concepts and avoids confusion of operational staff. Of course, the person in charge of catering must have at any time a concrete response to the situation and must know the potential and actual problems and situations. Mutual trust is very important for a successful business.
Given the current major disruptions in the market and the fight for every job, the organisers of events often find themselves in a dilemma as to whether to accept the best priced offer of catering. However, price-quality ratio is extremely important: in order that the value of deals can be compared, be sure to compare them using all of the above items. Price as a numeric amount is a very misleading basis for comparison. Quality is what you should take the decision on, because this is a very sensitive segment in which there is not much room for corrections.
For the last ten years Marko Bošnjak has been working in the hospitality industry, of which the last four years in the catering Favory, one of the leading Croatian highly professional caterings. In addition to standard private and business facilities, the branch Opatija is specialised in the field of business and congress tourism: they have devised special menus for events, interesting concepts with food and drink for team buildings, gala dinners, presentations, incentives, and much more.