No two catering companies are alike, and when it is time to hire a company to cater your special event, it helps to know a little bit about not only what kind of experience you are looking for, but also what the company is known for, what their strengths are, and the little touches they do to help separate them from the competition.
The biggest problem that many catering companies make is that they try to be all things to all people. They create a menu that is so cumbersome, just to guarantee that everybody will like something, it only serves to overwhelm the customer, in effect limiting their choices to the names they are most familiar with. Furthermore, it does nothing to help point out what the specialties of the catering company are. Of course, this might be a good thing: with a menu that big, it is entirely likely that they excel at nothing.
Ironically, the second most common mistake catering companies make is that they define themselves too narrowly. Somebody somewhere someday might want a luncheon featuring nothing but the finest authentic Icelandic cuisine, but if that is the entirety of your catering company's business plan, you might want to rethink your future. A larger market, where there is more competition, might allow for a catering company to offer a smaller, more directed focus, knowing that the size of the population helps ensure continued bookings, but this tends to be a very small exception to a rather overpowering rule.
A successful catering company is going to offer their customers something that fits perfectly in between. They will have a specific style of cooking and food preparation, like a Latin fusion menu or a Southern cooking menu, but they will make sure it is a well thought out, extensive and balanced menu. This is important not only to provide enough choices so everyone will be happy, but also so they can showcase their ability to cater a variety of events, from full formal sit down dinners to casual luncheons and everything in between.
Just because a catering company is big does not mean they are going to provide the service and quality you are looking for, and just because they have earned awards and recognition for their specific style of food does not mean they can match the experience that you need. The catering company that you choose for your next big event is a reflection of who you are. You would not plan a dinner party for 40 people without having a deep understanding of the food that will be getting served and the people that will be providing it; you should never treat any catering opportunity with any lower level of expectation.
Jack Terry is a freelance writer who has been covering the food and beverage industry for more than 20 years. http://www.osorioslatinfusion.com