Today on The Lily Journal, we have the opportunity to hear from the creative director at Vonderhaar’s Catering, Roger Hollstegge! It’s very easy for us to tell you why Vonderhaar’s is on our catering list and has become one of the most popular caterers in the region. Along with their delicious menus, our brides and our staff LOVE and appreciate the entire team’s dependability and professionalism. With so much experience and repore, I thought they would be the perfect people to help explain how you know if you’ve found the perfect caterer for your event.
In my current role as Culinary Director for Vonderhaar’s Catering and Destinys Catering, I don’t have quite as much interaction with Brides and Grooms as I have had in the past. Currently, I spend more time behind the scenes developing menus, coordinating food production and working on special projects. But, having been in the business for nearly 40 years, I have done every conceivable job and have a definite sense of what resonates with couples who are planning their special day.
Bridal couples (and those searching for social and corporate catering) are very fortunate because there are so many excellent caterers in the region. In fact, the list of caterers who work at The Marmalade Lily is extremely impressive and we, at Vonderhaar’s Catering, consider ourselves very fortunate to be on that list. That is also very fortunate for the clients at Marmalade Lily since having great options is always a good thing. So, given several great options from which to select when choosing a caterer, how do you know which one is the best caterer for you?
Initially, some of the criteria of what you are looking for as you plan your reception may help narrow the search immediately. Many times style of food and price are factors which may help narrow the selection process. But let’s assume all things are equal and all caterers are viable options in your search process. If that is the case, how do you make the right selection? How do you connect with a caterer?
When evaluating what caterer may be the best fit to handle what may be the single largest event you ever plan and the most special meal of your life, consider the following:
How responsive was the caterer to your initial request for information? You always want to work with someone who is responsive to your needs. The sales staff at most catering companies may be juggling dozens of clients, proposals and events at any given time, so they may not get to your inquiry within minutes, but you have every reasonable expectation that someone responds to you with 1 to 2 days. We all have phones and most phones receive emails, so receiving an inquiry can happen at any time, but that also means we can send a brief acknowledgement that we received your inquiry and will follow up in a reasonable amount of time.
Was the follow up done in a reasonable amount of time? Did your caterer do what they indicated they would do? If they promised an email or call did they follow through as promised? This initial follow through builds the foundation of trust which will be the cornerstone of a great working relationship.
During your initial conversation or exchange did they answer all of your questions or, if there were questions they could not answer immediately, did they offer to research and find answers? Did they follow up as promised? Many topics and questions will come up during your planning process. How your initial questions are answered will be a great indicator of responsiveness throughout the process.
Did your caterer offer to schedule a tasting for you? Tastings can be a great way to help discern whether the caterer will be able to help you plan a great meal. Caterers love to be able to show what they can do for you; they are proud of their food and love to have you try it. Be selective when making your tasting selections as caterers may not be able to have you taste dozens of items. Tastings can certainly help you select specific menu items, but more than that they can give you a great insight to the caterers approach to food. Do they use fresh ingredients? Is it prepared with integrity and presented well? Did they discuss portion sizes with you? As far as the tasting itself, was it informative? Did the chef explain the food? Did you discuss (and was the caterer able to satisfy your questions) about special dietary needs and food allergies? Did you get a good ‘feel’ for the tasting? Was adequate time allowed to cover everything that was on your mind? *A special note about tastes. As caterers we love to show what we can do, but moderating tastes while also taking care of current jobs can be a challenge. Know that we will do our best for you at your taste and the day of your event.
After the tasting did you receive a proposal? (Hint: sometimes a generic trial proposal can be helpful before the tasting to see if you this is an initial good fit). As far as the proposal itself, was it accurate? Was it comprehensive? Was it easy to read? Was it obvious that it was done with care and accuracy? (For years I have told the sales staffs I have led and worked with that if we cannot ensure our potential clients that we can write a proposal that gets all of the details perfect, how can we expect them to entrust us with getting the details of their most special day correct?)
Did someone follow up with you to see if you received your proposal and if you had questions or needed adjustments to your proposal? It is not unreasonable to expect that your caterer make as many modifications as necessary to get it as near to perfect as possible for you.
What is the reputation of the caterer? Looking at reviews and past client comments can be very informative. This doesn’t always tell the whole story, but it can be one of the components of your decision making process. Have you looked at their website? Is it up to date and well laid out? That gives some great insight about the company and their level of professionalism. What is their social media presence? In today’s tech driven world an active social media is vital and an excellent tool that can be used to know more about the caterer you are considering.
Through the whole process of emails and phone calls, did you feel you developed a rapport with your sales consultant? You will be working for months or more with this person, so you need to feel comfortable with them. You need to feel like you can articulate your vision, dreams and expectations to them so that in turn they will work their hardest to make your every wish comes to fruition.
At the end of this process, you should be ready to select your caterer. Hopefully you will feel a great connection to your caterer; after all, you are asking them to be a huge part of the most important event of your life and you deserve the best.
What started as a small portion of Vonderhaar’s Market, our Catering division has evolved and changed with the times by focusing on current food trends, exploring exciting and innovative food presentations and striving to satisfy our clients’ ever changing needs. This has propelled Vonderhaar’s Catering to become one of the largest caterers in Cincinnati. Vonderhaar’s Catering is dynamic because over our years in business we have never become complacent with what we do. We are always looking for ways to provide the best food and service in the region. Connections to our clients, our vendors and our employees are the inspiration to our success.