How to Select a Kosher Caterer

In today’s information age, one can find a wealth of information at one’s fingertips on one’s cellphone or laptop. Sometimes, too much information is confusing and making a choice becomes more difficult.

So, what criteria should be considered in choosing a kosher caterer?

For starters, he/she should keep Kosher at home. Having a Kosher caterer who is not an observant Jew is like having a taxi driver who has multiple traffic offences (you just cannot rely on him/her). The caterer should have Kosher certification, which will allow all the Kosher-observant guests to comfortably eat at your event/do.

For example, do not choose a caterer who has lost his Kosher certificate, such that the Rabbi and his family, will not eat at your event. If many of the event attendees are Orthodox, then ensure that the Kosher certificate meets their requirements (ask the Rabbi and a few others, before committing to the specific caterer).

Always go to check out a caterer at an event in real-time. See how the kitchen staff and serving staff function. Check for hygiene and cleanliness. See if the number of serving staff matches the number of guests. It is extremely annoying to watch five hundred people eating and to be sitting at one of the tables, which awaits to be served (or, yet worse, for whom no portions remain)!

The caterer should be recommended by someone you know. His/her pricing, variety of food and beverage and style should be both professional and attractive. Check out the caterer’s website and try and get some recommendations from people who have had him/her cater a similar event of a similar size at a similar venue.

You should check to see if he/she provides silverware, plates, serving dishes, tablecloths, chairs and tables, or if these are provided by the hall/venue. Do not wait for the last minute to find out that neither the caterer nor the hall provide tablecloths and napkins, for example.

Normally, caterers should provide a free tasting session and printouts of various menu selections. Get a feeling for the taste versus price. Find out about hidden extras. How much do wines and additional soft drinks cost? What if unexpected guests show up? How many additional portions can be provided in real-time and at what costs?

If there is a buffet reception, ask for an exact list of the salads, petit fours, cakes, cookies, pickles etc., which are to be served. Determine how often the bar is to be replenished. Get a listing of the drinks being served at the bar, if there is one.

Ask about children’s portions and costs. At most Jewish events, about 15-40% of the attendees are children and teenagers. Ideally a young children’s portion should cost around 50% of an adult portion. Teenager’s portions should cost around 75% of an adult portion. It’s often a good idea to have a young children’s table and a separate teenager’s table or two. It is also wise to ask the caterer to provide a few vegetarian/vegan/ gluten free meals.

Always ask your friends for recommendations and save yourself the legwork. Be nice to the caterer! Catering is a hard business, catering for a Jewish event…….

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