12 Questions You Need to Answer for Your Caterer



Whether you are hiring a caterer for small birthday party or a corporate event with several hundred guests, there are 12 questions you need to answer before that first meeting.

Answering these questions helps your caterer prepare thorough event pricing – and can begin to help define types of food and service best suited for your event.

You should go into your first meeting with answers to the following questions:

  1. What is your planned budget for the event?

Be realistic. Clients often come to the table with the idea that for $7 a person everyone can be fed, served beverages, have appetizers passed and all the flatware and paper goods be provided. Professional caterers must also factor in labor costs, fuel and transportation charges, wear and tear on equipment – plus the physical needs of your event.

  1. Where will the event be held?

Your location or a third party venue? The event’s location helps determine what power, heating or cooling needs the caterer must have, plus if there will be a need for additional tables or tents for outdoor venues.

  1. What kind of event are you planning?

Needs for a garden wedding reception versus a reception held indoors are vastly different. A sales awards banquet is much more formal than a company picnic.

  1. What is the date of your event?

Having a date pinned down alleviates just being “penciled in” on the caterer’s calendar. Catering companies are busier at some times of the year than others – you may be competing for a date!

  1. How many people will be eating?

One way to control costs is to know EXACTLY how many people will be eating. Caterers typically add a small percentage of over production to accommodate last minute guests – but you want to avoid having high waste or, worse, running out of food!

  1. What time will your visitors be arriving?

This key fact helps the caterer hit the timetable so hungry guests aren’t languishing or spending too much time at your bar! Caterers take this time and work backwards to build their entire production schedule.

  1. When will the meal be served?

Again, this data helps plan better so hot food is hot, cold food is cold –and servers or food station staff are on their marks.

  1. How long do you have for your guests to eat?

Part of your catering expense is cost of labor – driven by time on site. Help reduce your costs by defining the dining time – instead of leaving food service open for the entire event.

  1. What type of meal are you planning?

Served, stations, buffet, box lunch – the type of meal you want determines types of foods that can be served, heating and cooling needs and labor and presentation costs.

  1. What dietary restrictions and food allergies do your guests have?

More and more guests are faced with a variety of food allergies or dietary restrictions. Learning this information when arriving on site leaves no options for the caterer – they bring everything with them. By providing this information in advance, your guests’ special needs can be taken into account and usually accommodated!

  1. What kind of drinks do you want?

Water, soda, juice, spirits, coffee, tea – This is another cost factor that can be determined at an initial meeting. Consider the variety of guests you will be serving and what their preferences may be for beverages. Bar service may require special permitting or use of a specialized bar caterer.

  1. Are you going to want rental china, glassware, silverware or paper and plastic?

Hard goods have a cost beyond the rental fee – it takes more labor to move, set and wash china and flatware. And, disposable goods may be less hassle – but may not fit your event. For environmentally conscious clients, we also offer a line of disposable, single use bio-degradable or single-use goods made from sustainable materials.

Score a Trifecta with an Authentic Derby Day Menu

The season for horse racing’s Triple Crown – Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes – is right around the corner. What better time to plan a themed party!

The scene around the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes is nothing to scoff at – but the pageantry, history and all-around good time of the Kentucky Derby is what makes Churchill Downs so very special on the first Saturday in May.



Burgoo and cornbread — authentic and delicious

Ladies in flowery dresses and oversized hats are showstoppers alone, but the culinary legacy of the Kentucky Derby deseres some credit for making this the most happening weekend of the year in Lousiville. From beaten biscuits with country ham to the simple and crowd-pleasing beer cheese to finger-lickin’ good fried chicken – a Derby party offers plenty of options and plenty of great food.

Top that off with the signature Derby beverage – the Mint Julep – and you’ll feel like you’ve picked a trifecta at the finish line.

hot-brownKentucky Derby party food can be simple an authentic – like burgoo and beer cheese – or simply elegant, like beaten biscuit with country ham or The Hot Brown.

A Kentucky Derby party catered by Cape Creations was a combination of casual foods and fancier dishes – including smoked salmon profiteroles.

We’re happy to help plan and prepare your party – we’ll be ready to serve before post time! However, if you want to have a DIY party, here are a couple of recipes to get you started:


The Hot Brown. (Photo and recipe
courtesy The Brown Hotel)

Kentucky Burgoo

Just like Brunswick stew? Hardly! Many regions of the US have their own versions of these marvelous and rich one-pot stews. Burgoo got its start from neighborhood “burgoos” where each family brought canned goods from their grdens and threw meat in the pot – from chickens to pork to wild game like rabbits, squirrel and venison. A long, slow cook is required!


1 four- to five-pound hen

6 onions, finely chopped

1 pound beef stew meat

2 green peppers, finely chopped

1 pound (of another meat — more beef, lamb, pork, chicken, game, etc.)

1 medium turnip, finely diced

4 quarts water

8 to 10 tomatoes, peeled and chopped (2 large cans)

2 cups shelled fresh butter beans (2 cans drained)

2 cups corn (2 cans drained)

One 10-ounce can tomato puree

2 cups thinly sliced celery

2 cups finely chopped cabbage

2 cups finely chopped carrots

1 red pepper pod

2 cups fresh okra, sliced

1/4 cup salt

1 Tablespoon each lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, and sugar

1-1/2 teaspoons coarse black pepper

1/2 teaspoon cayenne


If you make this in 2 parts, on successive days, it is not such a chore.

  1. Put the meat, onions, peppers, turnips, water and tomatoes in a large pot; bring to a boil and simmer slowly, covered, for about 4 hours. Let cool and strain, setting aside meats.
  2. Cut chicken and meat finely, removing all skin, bone, and gristle. Kitchen scissors are good for this job. Return to stock and refrigerate.
  3. The following day, lift off half of the fat, add all the veggies. Cook another hour covered until until thick.
  4. Add the additional seasonings. If you finish the cooking in the oven, it will eliminate stirring and watching.
  5. Cook, uncovered, at 300 degrees for about 2 hours until the consistency of a thick stew. This will make a gallon. If made before hand, reheat in the oven to ensure against scorching.

The Hot Brown

In the 1920’s, Louisville, Ky’s., Brown Hotel drew more than 1,200 guests each evening for its dinner dance. In the wee hours of the morning, the guests would grow tired of dancing and retire to the restaurant for a bite to eat. According to the hotel’s history of this dish, diners were growing bored with the traditional ham and eggs, so Chef Fred Schmidt set out to create something new for his guests. His creation was an open-faced turkey sandwich with bacon and a delicate Mornay sauce – The Hot Brown.

Ingredients (Makes 2)

1 1/2 tablespoons salted butter

1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, plus extra for garnish

Pinch of ground nutmeg

Salt and pepper

14 oz. sliced roasted turkey breast, slice thick

4 slices of Texas toast (crusts trimmed)

4 slices of bacon

2 Roma tomatoes, sliced in half




  1. In a two-quart saucepan, melt butter and slowly whisk in flour until combined to form a thick paste or roux. Continue to cook roux for 2 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring frequently. Whisk heavy cream into the roux and cook over medium heat until the cream begins to simmer, about 2-3 minutes.
  2. Remove sauce from heat and slowly whisk in Pecorino-Romano cheese until the Mornay sauce is smooth. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.


  1. For each Hot Brown, place one slice of toast in an oven safe dish and cover with 7 oz. turkey. Take the two halves of Roma tomato and two toast points and set them alongside the base of turkey and toast. Pour half of the sauce over the dish, completely covering it. Sprinkle with additional cheese.
  2. Place entire dish under a broiler until cheese begins to brown and bubble. Remove and cross two pieces of crispy bacon on top. Sprinkle with paprika and parsley and serve immediately.

A DIY Bar Can Be Fun

Handling kitchen duties can be overwhelming for the host of a special event. That’s where caterers come in – we work on-site or prepare off-site and deliver to your home or special event venue.

Tackling bartender duties isn’t so stressful and may be a way for you express yourself and save a few bucks at your next special event. Here are some ideas for your bar needs:

a diy barExplore discounts: Most wine shops and package stores offer case discounts on every 12 bottles – and some offer a discount on just six bottles. If it’s wine crowd and the party is going for three hours, plan on nearly one bottle per guest – that’s one drink an hour. Also, work in advance with your package or wine store operator and ask them to seek out any special deals for you. Lots of wine comes to market that never sees shelf time – and many of those are bargain bottles that are just right for a large crowd.

Ask guests to pitch in: Some wine and package shops have gift registries. Instead of getting overloaded with another toaster, create a wine and liquor gift registry and let your guests pick up the tab for your favorite beverages.

Mix in bulktequila: You don’t want to be tied to bar-tending duties any more than you want to slave over a hot stove. Some cocktails mix well in bulk and guests can self-serve from a container with a spigot. You don’t have to be an expert mixologist to put together these recipes. And, mixing in bulk allows you to use less expensive brands of liquor and mixers bought in bulk at warehouse or discount stores.

Some ideas include:


Manhattan (Serve over ice in small rocks glass, makes 38 oz)
750 ml rye whiskey
10 oz sweet vermouth
3 oz dry vermouth
Garnish with Luxardo cherries

Whiskey or Vodka Mule (Serve over ice in small rocks glass, make 85 oz)
1 liter Vodka OR bourbon
11 oz lime juice
40 dashes of Angostura bitters
40 oz ginger beer
Garnish with lime wheels

ironhorseDon’t get hung up on labels: If you are serving champagne cocktails, don’t get all hung up on the label – after all, your bubbly is about to get diluted with juice or some other mixer. Set aside that special bottle to be shared by the bride and groom – or bridal party – and use the less expensive bubbles for mixers and guests. Consider the options of sparkling wines from the US, Cava from Spain or Prosecco from Italy – you may just get more bang for your buck with bubbles from outside of France!

Beer bliss: If you are among the growing number of craft beer enthusiasts you probably know a home brewer or two. Ask your favorite homebrewer to craft a special “wedding ale” for your event. It’s a way for the brewer to show off his skills and for you to have a remarkable and one-of-a-kind beer for your event.

Measure, monitor: While no one wants to get serious at a party – you are serving alcohol and by doing so assume the risk as host. To keep consumption – and expense – in check, use small glasses or cups, make plenty of ice available for cocktails and consider cutting off alcohol service an hour or so before the party ends. Offer coffee soft drinks and water. Lastly, don’t let guests who have had too much to drink get behind the wheel. Call a cab – or arrange to have drivers available to take home guests who have had too much to drink.