Whether you’re a professional event planner handling weddings, charity dinners, and/or community events or you’re a bride or event host looking for help planning the big day, you’re going to need a great caterer to delight your guests. Knowing the difference between an event planner and a caterer – and what each party’s responsibilities are – can help ensure your event goes off without a hitch! And knowing how a caterer typically works with event planners will help you understand how to find the best partners for your business or big day.

Event Planners and Caterers – Similarities and Differences

While some event planners offer food services and vice versa, the qualifications and responsibilities of each of these professionals can differ greatly! Some of the qualities you want in both an event planner and a caterer include:

  • Attention to detail
  • Responsibility and accountability
  • Responsiveness to your needs and wants
  • Professional reputation of excellence
  • Excellent customer service
  • Clear expectations and professional contracts
  • A good fit for your event and personality

Whether your event planner or event planning company also offers catering services, is contracting with a caterer to provide those services, or leaves it up to you to choose a caterer, make sure your service provider meets the following qualifications:

  • Operates a commercial kitchen with regular inspections
  • Holds food safety certifications such as ServSafe
  • Has handled catering jobs that match or exceed your guest count
  • Is licensed by the city and state to operate a food business
  • Has appropriate insurance coverage
  • Has the team they need to serve your guests on-site, if needed
  • Will deliver and set up your catered food options, if needed

Event Planners and Caterers – Working Together

When event planners and professional caterers work well together, you can expect a magical event! Usually, event planners will reach out to caterers after nailing down some of the details of their event. Important things to know before searching for the right caterer include the number of guests expected, any anticipated dietary restrictions or needs (or at least if allergy or diet requirements could be an issue), any restrictions or requirements of the event venue (or at least the finalists under consideration), and what type of food is desired for the event. 

Generally, an event planner will choose a caterer at least 90 days prior to the event; a good event planner knows that their partnership with the caterer is crucial and usually chooses a caterer for an event 3 to 8 months prior to the event itself! Event planners and important stakeholders – like the bride and groom in a wedding or the honoree and event chair for a charity event – should meet with the caterer to collaboratively plan the event’s menu and experience. For instance, the event planner and caterer will need to decide what foods will be served and if they’ll be served as small plates, buffet-style, or as a plated meal for seated service. 

The ultimate goal of cultivating this close relationship is to ensure that no last-minute surprises endanger the success of your event. An event planner’s advice to include dietary restrictions on an RSVP mailer, for example, could save you the embarrassment of failing to serve the needs of your guests – or, worse, an allergic reaction to the food you’ve requested. An open line of communication is also key – your event planner and caterer should be working together all the way up to the day of the event to cover details like:

  • An accurate expected guest count
  • Appropriate power for food service equipment
  • Appropriate access to food safety equipment
  • Compliance with food safety and other local regulations
  • Enough staff to serve you and your guests’ needs
  • Other preparatory and day-of event needs

Work with the Pros at Vibrant Occasions

When it comes to delighting your guests, you need a professional catering partner. Our experience serving events from just a few to several hundred guests at a time will serve you and your event well! Contact us today to see how we work with event planners to meet all of their needs.

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