As a restaurant owner, it can be easy to get busy with employees and marketing, and forget about keeping the quality of your food high. Unfortunately, if you order from the wrong food vendor, you might not end up with dishes that you can be proud of. When I opened my first place, I chose my first vendor based completely on price, which was a mistake. Instead of turning out fresh, delicious food everyday, I found myself struggling to hang onto customers. I want you to avoid making the same mistakes I did, which is why I want to teach you about the importance of food vendors.
If you are hosting a large event, such as a wedding or family reunion, you will probably want to hire a professional caterer to supply the large quantities of food you will need. However, you may feel limited by the set menus that many catering companies offer, especially if you have a particular family recipe or ethnic dish that you want to serve at your event that is not commonly offered by caterers. The good news is that most caterers will work with you to provide a menu that you are happy with and can accommodate you budget and your guest list. However, if you will require a specialty dish from a caterer, there are a few steps you need to take.
Find a Caterer Experienced With Specialty Dishes or the Ethnicity of Your Specialty Dish
Most caterers have one or two specialty areas. If you want a specific dish from a less-popular cuisine, it may be difficult to find a caterer who has the exact experience that you need. However, you can usually find a caterer with similar experience. For example, if you want a Cambodian dish, you may find a caterer who specializes in other cuisines from southeast Asia rather than a caterer who specializes in French cuisine. Similarly, if you want to adapt your grandmother's cornbread recipe to your large event, you should find a caterer who specializes in BBQ or southern food.
Order Well In Advance
Depending on the complexity of your dish, your caterer may have to make several trial dishes or order specialty ingredients. For example, if you insist on Turkish Cheese for a spinach pie rather than feta, it is likely that your caterer will have to special order it from a vendor outside of their regular network. It may take more time to arrange this and for your order to arrive, so it is imperative to order as far in advance as you can.
Give the Caterer Multiple Names of the Dish or Recipes to Work From
Even if your dish is well known, such as enchiladas, there are several ways to approach it. It is important to give your caterer a few sample recipes or pictures of what you are looking for when you place your order. If your dish is not well known, you should give your caterer both the English name of the dish and the name or names it is called by in other countries. This way they can look at several recipes and figure out an effective way to scale the dish for a large crowd while keeping the main flavors and style of the dish.
Complete a Tasting With the Caterer
Ask your caterer if they are willing to do a small sampling of the dish about a month before your event. This way, you can be sure that they have the correct dish and that you will be happy with it on the day of your event. While a specialty sampling may add more to your overall bill, it should be worth it to make sure your meal is correct.
Recognize that Substitutions Will Have to Be Made
If your dish is not well-known, it is likely that your caterer will have to make substitutions in the recipe. They might have to substitute out-of-season ingredients for fresh options or omit items that cannot be found in your area. If you want an exact replica of a family recipe, especially a dish that is not local, you should realize that this can increase the cost of your catering bill significantly. However, if you are willing to allow substitutions, your caterer may be able to give you suggestions that will keep you within budget.
A specialty family or ethnic dish can make an event more personal and special for all of your guests. However, it is important you plan it in advance with your caterer to avoid any surprises.