How to Choose the Right Caterer for Your Next Business Meeting

There are plenty of caterers to choose from in Northern Virginia, and companies should take advantage of every opportunity to win points with their clients. While the catered meals that you provide to potential customers may not make the difference in whether or not you close a deal, they can certainly influence those clients’ perception of you and your business.


Food that doesn’t taste good, that’s limited as to choices and/or that’s presented sloppily makes a very poor impression on your guests. When you offer fresh, flavorful, attractively-served meals, on the other hand, it’s easier for them to see your company as a quality organization that knows how to take care of its clients.

To ensure that you’ll be giving your customers a memorable meal—memorable in a good way—here are some questions to ask when you’re interviewing companies that provide catering in Reston,  Herndon, and surrounding areas of Virginia, for your next business event.


1. Is the menu interesting and does it include items that satisfy special dietary requirements?

Business people get tired of the same catered lunch choices – deli platters with pasta salad, chips, pickles and cookies seem to be the quick and easy norm.  Find a caterer that’s offering something a little unique, perhaps with an ethnic flair.  Mediterranean and Italian catering menus are popular today, especially since they tend to focus on healthy, yet flavorful, menu items.


Additionally, more people than ever seem to be following special diets—vegan and vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free, low-salt, etc.  When you’re planning a business meal for important clients, you want to be sure that you make every possible effort to accommodate their various needs by providing a variety of foods. The catering company you choose should be able to suggest main dishes and/or accompaniments to accommodate your guests’ dietary requirements as much as possible.


2. Can you arrange for a tasting?

You’re probably not going to take this step if you’re talking about occasional lunch meetings in your office, but if you’re sponsoring a big event with a potential of generating lots of business you’d better have at least a few people from your office sample potential menu items and give their opinions.


3. Can they provide references from other business customers?

You’ll want to know if the catering company you’re considering will deliver meals on time, if the food is good, if the presentation is attractive. There’s no one who can provide that information better than current clients of the company that’s providing your catering around Herndon and Reston.  Those clients will be speaking from experience. So be sure to ask potential caterers for long-time references—companies that have used them for a year or more—and follow up with those references.


4. Do they specialize in events of a certain size and can they offer you special services that you might need?


While the caterer that you currently use may be exceptional at providing outstanding lunches for business meetings of 20 people in your office, they may not be up to the task of handling refreshments for 200 people at a product launch offsite.

Ask a caterer how much experience they’ve had in handling events of the size you’re anticipating (and get references from clients who have used them for events of that size as well).  Do they have a Catering Coordinator who can help you finalize a menu?  Can they provide sufficient plates, cutlery and any necessary chalfing dish set-ups?   Do they deliver?  Don’t assume anything; go over every detail of your event so there are no last-minute, unpleasant surprises.


5. Is placing an order easy and convenient? 

Are you able to find menus and pricing online?  If necessary, can they provide you with a written proposal up-front for your catered event that includes all pricing and reflects the all-inclusive final price you’ll pay?

You don’t want to get to the stage where you’ve selected a caterer and then they present you with a detailed contract that’s full of provisions that aren’t acceptable to you. If you’re looking for a caterer who can handle events for you on a regular basis, can you open an account and pay online?  Will they keep a history of past orders for your review?


6. Is your caterer someone you’d use again – and again – and again?


We’ve all worked with vendors that go the extra mile in making sure we get the product/service we need, when we need it. Does your caterer help you out when you’re in a pinch? Can they accommodate your customized requirements? Do they make it obvious that they’ll do what it takes to get your business and keep your business? Are they interested in establishing a long-term business relationship?


Which qualities are most important to you when choosing a caterer in Virginia?

17 thoughts on “How to Choose the Right Caterer for Your Next Business Meeting

  1. You mentioned to make sure that you arrange a tasting to make sure that everyone will like the food. My brother is throwing a big party and wants to have it catered. I’ll definitely have to set up a tasting, because my brother is extremely picky and will only accept the best.

    • Thanks for your message Dennis. Yes, trying the food before you have it catered is a great way to make sure you’re guests are going to love your party menu. Best of luck with the upcoming party!

  2. I thought it was interesting how the article mentioned that you should find a catering service that has a versatile menu. It states that this is so those in attendance can order to satisfy their special dietary requirements. My wife is a celiac, so I know someone in her position could really benefit from a catering service that is willing to work to meet her needs.

  3. I agree that you would want to find a caterer that allows for a tasting. It would seem that you would want to find someone who will allow you to do a tasting so you can be sure they will give you good food. I’m looking for a caterer for my wedding so I’ll have to find someone who will allow for a tasting first.

  4. I liked your last question where you asked if you’d use them again and again. My friend is looking for someone to cater a party for her. I think that if she asked someone for a recommendation like this, she would find someone relatively quickly. I’m sure at the end of her experience with them, she’ll have the same opinion as well.

  5. I like your idea to ask for references from other customers. I need to help find a catering service for an upcoming business lunch. Thanks for teaching me how to go about finding a quality caterer!

  6. It was helpful when you said that the menu should have special dietary requirements. My husband is having a big business meeting soon and wants to hire a catering service. I’ll make sure to pass this information along to him so he can know what to look for when hiring one.

  7. It’s interesting to know that asking for a tasting it’s a good idea to hire the right catering service. My husband is planning a corporate event, and we are looking for to choose a catering service to help him. I will let him know about the benefits of asking for a tasting to choose the right catering service for his event.

  8. I like that you explained the importance of sampling menu items for larger events. My boss would like to host a party for our company’s 10 year anniversary, and he wants to make sure that his employees are well-fed before we begin various outdoor activities. Maybe he should take some employees with him as he looks for potential caterers for the event.

  9. I like the idea of looking for a company I’d be happy with returning to in the future for other events and meetings. I’m supposed to set up a small event for some coworkers and want the catering to reflect the professional atmosphere we’re shooting for. We’ll have to look for a company that seems like someone we’d trust to keep coming back to.

  10. You made a point that a good catering service will offer a versatile menu with healthy foods. My boss wants to host a Christmas dinner for the employees, and he needs help finding a catering service. Thanks to your tips, I will be able to help her find a catering service to ensure the dinner she plans will be perfect.

  11. I love your tip to arrange for a tasting of the possible catered food especially if you’re organizing a big event for your business. My daughter works in the HR department of her job, and she’s in charge of organizing a big event for the corporate people. I’ll pass this tip onto my daughter so she can start looking for a catering service.

  12. One point you make is that you want to see if the caterer is prepared to handle food for a large group. My boss is looking at having an anniversary event for the company next month. We’ll have to get the right catering company.

  13. I like that you mention how it is important to know what menu items the cater has like any dietary restrictions such as allergies. My husband and I have been wanting to throw a party for my grandparent’s anniversary. I think we should find a good banquet hall catering service that can help us know exactly what they need.

  14. I want to plan the perfect employee appreciation party for my employees next month, and I know that one way to make everyone happy is to include delicious food! It is interesting that you say to find out if the company is accommodating by provides a variety of choices, including those for special diets. This is important because I know that I have at least three employees who are vegetarian and a few who are gluten intolerant.

  15. I loved that you mentioned professional catering companies can help you to arrange a tasting when you are planning an event. My wife has been thinking about how to improve our event planning, and we are looking for advice about what to do. I will make sure to follow your recommendations to choose the right catering company to help us.

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