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caterer.....savings or BAD idea?

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rainbowtrout

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So...

My grandmother has suggested that we have their good friend B. do the catering for the wedding to save money. Supposedly she's catered a lot of weddings (her children and their friends) in the past "just for fun."

But-- I've never tasted any of her cooking and I can't ask for a sample or criticize much of anything if we let her set this up. Once someone is doing it as a favor, your ability to cricize goes way down. Besides, B doesn't come with plates, napkins,waitstaff, a buffet table, etc...so would it actually be MORE expensive to hire someone to just bring all the accessories from a catering business? Plus, we would have to buy all the food, which I imagine we can't get as cheaply as the caterer can. Finally, the food and the music are our two priorites, so I want it to be as good as possible.

On the other hand, it might save a nice chunk of change (brunch for 40-60 people outside of Boston, say 1,000-2,000?).

If those of you with experiance hiring caterers could chime in it would be greatly appreciated!

Here's my tentative idea for a brunch buffet:

eggs benedict
stuffed french toast w/maple syrup
herbed chicken crepes
----------------------
fruit
scrambled eggs
bacon, sausage
cold cuts, cheese,rolls?, salad
-----------------------
wedding cake
strawberry shortcake
--------------------------
OJ, water, mimosas
 

rainbowtrout

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I think I''ve posted before about this, but I''m planning on making the cake myself but have a backup baker lined up just in case. Whether or not we go with B, I REALLY don''t want her to make the cake--she does the make-it-and-freeze-it route, apparently
 

Kismet

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As I see it, you have 3 issues you need to address: cost, quality & aggravation.

Cost: Have you received estimates from any caterers yet so you can actually compare costs? All the catering estimates I received were all broken down by specific costs so it should be easy enough for you to go to the grocery store/rental center and compare DIY vs Caterer. You probably also have to take into account things that the caterer already owns but you would have to rent like those sterno warming trays. I''m not sure where you''d hire waitstaff though.

Quality: If you have no idea how good her cooking is and food is one of the two things that you really want to be excellent, then do you want to take the chance that it could turn out to be horrible?

Aggravation: I''m assuming she''ll just take care of the food and you''ll have to deal with everything else. Do you want that aggravation?

My gut instinct is to say don''t do it. You''d basically be saying yes to a blind item that''s really important to you.
 

rainbowtrout

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I''m leaning towards no here Kismet, but what I am worried about is the typically EXTREMELY medicore fare I''ve had from caterers in the past--and thus ending up paying more for something that is equally bad. Hopefully I''ll be able to find something within my price range that is also very yummy.

I don''t have any estimates yet because I''m in Africa until September. We''re starting long distance planning offically in a few weeks though, so I''m trying to come up with something to tell her about B now...


Anyone have a vague idea what a menu like the above would cost to have catered to someone''s house? I may email some vendors soon to see, but I''d like to know what other people paid.
 

Jas12

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just m2c, but I would not want the worry associated with B, not to mention the possibility of the food being substandard. I would find a caterer, ask to come in and do a tasting, then go from there. I don''t think a brunch is going to be nearly as expensive as a dinner...and i wouldn''t even tell the caterer it is for a wedding (b/c prices seem to go up).

Another idea: If you are only having 40-60 people ( a managable number) I would consider asking one of your favorite restaurants to cater it--if you know of a terrific place I am sure they could arrange something like this.
 

rainbowtrout

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Thanks Jas--do you know how far in advance one usually books a caterer? I feel like theknot.com might dramatically overstate...
 

sumbride

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I was thinking restaurant too because Eggs Benedict, Crepes, and scrambled eggs aren''t things that can really "keep" for a long time in warming trays without getting soggy... Restaurants probably have better experience on turning buffets around with fresh trays. I usually think caterers are better at dinner items than brunch. And that''s definitely a manageable number for a restaurant that also caters.

I do think the knot dramatically overstates their timelines if you aren''t in a big city fighting with hundreds of other brides for the same services... but earlier is better. That said, my grandmother is having my engagement party catered in April and she hasn''t booked yet. She''s not anticipating a problem. Just depends on if it''s a popular weekend or not... i.e. no brunch catering on Mother''s day! I think you''ll probably be ok.
 

rainbowtrout

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Hmmmm....I wish I KNEW a great brunch restaurant in Boston. Hello, Zagats. I guess I''ll hit FI up to go try a few and see if they cater as well.


Could a restaurant that caters possibly set up in the kitchen to make new eggs and whatnot? I also don''t know if one in the city would be willing to go 45 mins outside of the city limits...there aren''t any great restaurants close to their house, I know that.
 

Hudson_Hawk

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Hmmm...good brunch places near Boston. Well in Boston there''s the Pour House on Boyleston St. Joe''s American Bar and Grille does brunch as well as the Cheesecake Factory. Not sure what their rates would be like. Your best bet is probably just to call your favorite brunch places and ask if they cater.
 

Hudson_Hawk

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Which side of Boston are you on?
 

rainbowtrout

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FI lives in North Cambridge.
Granparent''s house is in Dunstable, near Lowell..north of Boston.

I only have ever lived in Boston for 4 months! I am in NYC next year and will have to visit/rely on FI and grandparents for on the ground planning.


Unfortunantly, I''m not a fan of Cheescake factory or American Bar...it doesn''t help thaat in those 4 mos I never went out to brunch!
 

sumbride

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We need to page Selkie and Aljdewey. I think they both know caterers and that area pretty well.
 

Hudson_Hawk

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That''s okay they were just the first two places I thought of that served brunch. The good news is that Cambridge is FULL of amazing restaurants and since they''re small I bet they''d cater. One of my all time favorites is the Grafton St. Bar and Grill and I''ve heard really good things about Harvest. Here are some others.

Christopher''s Restaurant and Bar
Cambridge Common
Henrietta''s Table
Daedalus
Full Moon
OM Restaurant & Lounge
Legal Sea Foods
Hi-Rise Bread Company

These are all from citysearch.
 

Kismet

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We used Swartz Catering in Somerville for our wedding and they were excellent. Susan Shapiro was excellent to work with. This was 9 years ago, however, so things may be different now.

We''ve never actually got our act together on a Sunday to have brunch here, but we''ve eaten dinner atTryst in Arlington a number of times and the food is very good.
 

rainbowtrout

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hands down, my favorite restaurant in Cambridge was Oleana .....AMAZING. Of course, that was also the only meal out basically all summer, but still!
I'm 98 percent sure Sortun doesn't do catering, and if she did it would be too expensive...although I'm really, really tempted to get FI to call Oleana and ask....

I also don't know if she does brunch. Worth telling him to call, though.

Heh-- I wonder how FI will feel when I tell him his new mission is to go out to brunch until he finds a great place! On second though--telling a man to go eat, could be worse. ;-)


ETA: oooh, Kismet--she has a sample wedding brunch menu up, that's a new one--ususally there aren't any. Very encouraging. I'll send it along to FI...
 

Selkie

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Check out this caterer: Creative Buffets. I think last time you posted about your wedding plans, I hadn''t yet picked a caterer, but this is the one we decided to go with. They are located in Haverhill/Lawrence, which isn''t too far from Dunstable. He''s travelling to Gloucester for our wedding, so yours should be no problem.

I haven''t been to a tasting, but he was highly recommended by a friend of my mother''s. For her, he catered a picnic lunch for 75 for $900, and will be charging me $1000 for 50 people for a full buffet dinner with 2 entrees, salad, bread, sides, drinks, etc. I''m sure a brunch would be much less. You can use his menus, but he will also customize for you. And he does cakes, but they''re basic sheet cakes, so if you want something fancier you might look for a baker.

I met with him in October, because it was the only time I was going to be in Mass. before the wedding on July 28. He was telling me that only weddings book that early, and most of his summer non-wedding jobs start booking in spring. Based on that, I don''t think you need to worry about finding a caterer (as long as it''s someone outside Boston and the suburbs) more than 6 months beforehand.
 

E B

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This place looks good...

Plymouth Bay Catering

From the website (this is a 'party catering' option, I don't know if they'll charge extra for a wedding):


Assorted Fresh Fruit Display
*
Corn Bread with Honey Whipped Butter
*
Quiche Lorraine, Bacon and Cheese Quiche or Country Vegetable Quiche
*
Scrambled Eggs
*
Bacon and Sausage Tray
*
Home Fries
*
Dessert Platter
*
Coffee and Juice Station

$14.50 per person
 

rainbowtrout

Ideal_Rock
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Messages
2,105
Thank you guys! I''ve put these caterers down on my list of potentials, and told my grandmother I''m not soooo crazy about B. She was very good about it, said it''s my wedding and she''s just there to offer suggestions.
 

aljdewey

Ideal_Rock
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9,144
Hi, Rainbow:

Most of the restaurants suggested here are really too far away from your venue location, in my opinion.

Dunstable is only 9 miles from Nashua, NH, so that''s probably your best option.

This one looks to be the best of what I''ve found: http://www.onlycatering.com/. It appears he does on-site breakfast menu catering as well as weddings, so he''s probably well qualified for what you need. Appears to come highly recommended, too.

The caterer Selkie suggested is also a good option - creative catering.

Other possibilities: http://www.celebrationsmenu.com/weddings.htm (Nashua, NH)
http://www.countrytavern.org/GHCC/index.html - they specifically do brunch buffets
http://www.marthas-exchange.com/catering.php - Martha''s is a well-liked restaurant in Nashua and has a catering arm, too.
 

ladykemma

Ideal_Rock
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Jan 2, 2006
Messages
2,194
Date: 1/31/2007 5:15:16 AM
Author:rainbowtrout
So...

My grandmother has suggested that we have their good friend B. do the catering for the wedding to save money. Supposedly she's catered a lot of weddings (her children and their friends) in the past 'just for fun.'

But-- I've never tasted any of her cooking and I can't ask for a sample or criticize much of anything if we let her set this up. Once someone is doing it as a favor, your ability to cricize goes way down. Besides, B doesn't come with plates, napkins,waitstaff, a buffet table, etc...so would it actually be MORE expensive to hire someone to just bring all the accessories from a catering business? Plus, we would have to buy all the food, which I imagine we can't get as cheaply as the caterer can. Finally, the food and the music are our two priorites, so I want it to be as good as possible.

On the other hand, it might save a nice chunk of change (brunch for 40-60 people outside of Boston, say 1,000-2,000?).

If those of you with experiance hiring caterers could chime in it would be greatly appreciated!

Here's my tentative idea for a brunch buffet:

eggs benedict
stuffed french toast w/maple syrup
herbed chicken crepes
----------------------
fruit
scrambled eggs
bacon, sausage
cold cuts, cheese,rolls?, salad
-----------------------
wedding cake
strawberry shortcake
--------------------------
OJ, water, mimosas
I have cooked many 250-300 people feasts for the SCA, this menu is not do-able for crowds, too many fussy bits and last minute assembly you would need a staff of 20-30 people to pull this off.

Ix-nay on the friend of the family too.
 

ladykemma

Ideal_Rock
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2,194
Date: 2/1/2007 12:41:22 AM
Author: EBree
This place looks good...

Plymouth Bay Catering

From the website (this is a 'party catering' option, I don't know if they'll charge extra for a wedding):


Assorted Fresh Fruit Display
*
Corn Bread with Honey Whipped Butter
*
Quiche Lorraine, Bacon and Cheese Quiche or Country Vegetable Quiche
*
Scrambled Eggs
*
Bacon and Sausage Tray
*
Home Fries
*
Dessert Platter
*
Coffee and Juice Station

$14.50 per person
ok i trust this caterer. do-able menu with prep in advance. this cateter is realistic, quiches, and most of the food could be prepared the night before. and fee is reasonable. this would need a five person staff to pull this off.

edited to add: this caterer screams "experienced in cooking for crowds" to me.
 

diamondfan

Super_Ideal_Rock
Joined
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Messages
11,016
It is an offer with nice intent, but I would not do it. You are asking for problems, having to get proper quantities of food, get it to her, get the accessories etc... I am not really sure you will be saving much in the long run and you might end up with a disaster...
 

Finding_Neverland

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Jan 10, 2007
Messages
412
My daughter works banquet service for a large Hotel here in town. I had her look at your menu. She said there''s nothing on your menu that isn''t doable. But it''s really gonna depend on the company/caterer you choose.

Her hotel serves those same foods on breakfast/brunch buffets they do for events. Everything is prepared 2-3 hours in advance of the event and held in "hot boxes". Basically, while the crew is working setting up the tables and chairs, the food is being prepared and held. Then the food is brought out to the buffet chaffers in stages. As needed, extras are prepared in the kitchen.

I was really surprised she said that. I expected eggs benedict, french toast, and crepes would get soggy or leathery on standing. But Daughter says they do it all the time.

As for getting extras prepared in your kitchen,.......... That could be a problem. The kitchen where you''re having your reception would probably have to pass a County Health Codes inspection. Generally, when people run small food businesses from home, they have to have one kitchen for family use and a seperate kitchen for commecial foods prep.

So preparing extras at the house may be an issue. Definitely something to address with any caterers you contact. One way to get around that issue is to gross up your food amounts a certain %. You''re anticipating say 50 people,....... Just order 5-15 extras of some things. Or 10%-30% extra of some items. Caterers have a very good feel for which items will go more than others and should be able to accomodate you in that area.

The friend offering to help with the food is a nice gesture. But when you figure you''re gonna have to do set up, come up with chaffing dishes, serving wear and servers,.......... Overall, I''d think it would be best just to hire a professional caterer. Someone who can do a "turn key" operation, start to finish. Then, all you have to worry with is tables and chairs for your guests and serving tables for the food.
 

rainbowtrout

Ideal_Rock
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Messages
2,105
Hey guys,

The menu idea is based off my favorite brunch at a place my dad plays the Sunday brunch music for. It's an upscale hotel so I imagine they *do* have a staff of 20 or so people...and a big kitchen.


I do want something a bit fancier than the simple menu with the quiche...we'll see. Perhaps I could have one of those "omlette stations" or the like to dress it up.

That's a good point about the health codes, I hadn't even thought of that. Shoot.

LK, are you saying it's not doable at all, or would just be helluva expensive? And is there anything craft-y you *don't* have experiance at? :)

Thanks FN for having your daughter look it over!
 

ladykemma

Ideal_Rock
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Messages
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Date: 2/4/2007 3:36:15 PM
Author: Finding_Neverland
My daughter works banquet service for a large Hotel here in town. I had her look at your menu. She said there's nothing on your menu that isn't doable. But it's really gonna depend on the company/caterer you choose.

Her hotel serves those same foods on breakfast/brunch buffets they do for events. Everything is prepared 2-3 hours in advance of the event and held in 'hot boxes'. Basically, while the crew is working setting up the tables and chairs, the food is being prepared and held. Then the food is brought out to the buffet chaffers in stages. As needed, extras are prepared in the kitchen.

I was really surprised she said that. I expected eggs benedict, french toast, and crepes would get soggy or leathery on standing. But Daughter says they do it all the time.

As for getting extras prepared in your kitchen,.......... That could be a problem. The kitchen where you're having your reception would probably have to pass a County Health Codes inspection. Generally, when people run small food businesses from home, they have to have one kitchen for family use and a seperate kitchen for commecial foods prep.

So preparing extras at the house may be an issue. Definitely something to address with any caterers you contact. One way to get around that issue is to gross up your food amounts a certain %. You're anticipating say 50 people,....... Just order 5-15 extras of some things. Or 10%-30% extra of some items. Caterers have a very good feel for which items will go more than others and should be able to accomodate you in that area.

The friend offering to help with the food is a nice gesture. But when you figure you're gonna have to do set up, come up with chaffing dishes, serving wear and servers,.......... Overall, I'd think it would be best just to hire a professional caterer. Someone who can do a 'turn key' operation, start to finish. Then, all you have to worry with is tables and chairs for your guests and serving tables for the food.
there's a big difference in a caterer who drives to the site and sets up, and a full blown restaurant with a full kitchen and a full staff on site.

when i cook for crowds i say to myself, ok how am i going to cook this, transport this, assemble this, and keep it warm, while not getting anyone sick? and how many helpers will i need? i usually transport frozen the night before and allow to thaw overnight.
 

rainbowtrout

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Boo. There just HAS to be a way to get a delicious brunch menu....unfortunantly I don''t think most breakfast food reheats well at all.

Ah well, I couldn''t have afforded to have it at the Plaza anyway (i.e. place where they could make a great brunch on site)
 

ladykemma

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Date: 2/4/2007 4:06:45 PM
Author: rainbowtrout
Boo. There just HAS to be a way to get a delicious brunch menu....unfortunantly I don''t think most breakfast food reheats well at all.

Ah well, I couldn''t have afforded to have it at the Plaza anyway (i.e. place where they could make a great brunch on site)
waaaaait... the restaurant was sounding good! how much per head? i thought you were going to have a caterer come on site but a real restaurant would be a good idea.
 

diamondfan

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I also think just think a restaurant might be a good idea, makes more sense and might be easier in the long run...
 

rainbowtrout

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So:

Wedding is at house. Am open to either caterer or restaurant...I'm honestly not really sure what the differance is?

Unless you are saying have the reception AT the restaurant?
 

ladykemma

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Date: 2/4/2007 4:12:39 PM
Author: rainbowtrout
So:

Wedding is at house. Am open to either caterer or restaurant...I''m honestly not really sure what the differance is?

Unless you are saying have the reception AT the restaurant?
yes
 
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