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A Comprehensive Caterer Checklist For Any Event


There are many things to consider when starting an event planning business, especially when you are preparing to cater at your client’s event. A comprehensive caterer checklist can help make sure that everything is taken care of and nothing is missed. By planning ahead and being organized, you can minimize stress and ensure that your client’s event goes off without a hitch.

Before the event:

Assist your client in choosing the menu. This is perhaps the most important step in the catering process. You’ll need to assist your client in making decisions regarding the kind of food your company will serve and how much of it. Will your company provide appetizers, main courses, or dessert? Once your client decides on the menu, be sure to ask your client about any dietary restrictions or allergies that the guests may have.

Encourage your client to set a budget that has flexibility built into it. Special events can be exciting; help your client be prepared with a general budget and a “wish list” of additional special items, as well. Be sure to offer meal suggestions that will fit within your client’s budget and a few specialty items, such as an elegant dessert, that will pique your client’s interest in spending a bit more.

Prepare the client contract. List all agreed-upon details in the contract, as well as the charges for each individual item and total costs for the quantity ordered. The payment terms and cancellation policy should also be included. . After your client signs the contract and provides a deposit, keep one copy of the contract for your business and give one copy to your client. 

Purchase and prepare the food and beverage items. Order any tables, chairs and linens needed. Working from a timeline and checklist, start working about one week in advance to buy beverages, confirm deliveries, and begin preparing food. Follow your day-to-day checklist and, during the two days prior to the event, follow your hour-by-hour checklist. This will ensure you are fully prepared and ready to serve on time with all elements of the event in place. 

On the day of the event:

Set up the buffet. If you’re preparing a buffet, be sure to set it up in an easily accessible location. Put all of the food on platters or in serving bowls and make sure that there are utensils available for guests to serve themselves.

Set up the bar. If your client chose to offer drinks at a bar, be sure to set it up in an easily accessible location. Make sure that there are glasses available for guests to use and that the liquor is properly stocked.

Serve the food. Once everything is set up, it’s time to start serving the food. Continually check to determine that portions are served correctly, water glasses are filled, and other requests, such as a vegetarian meal or pasta dish, are quickly met.

Plan for last-minute client requests. Clients will sometimes announce additional guests have arrived, or that some detail of your catering or serving plan needs to be altered. Depending on the request, try to accommodate your client with courtesy and respect. Emotions run high at such events; you will earn a stellar reputation by working with your client to provide solutions to unexpected issues. Smile, make adjustments and carry on! 

Clean up. Once the event is over, it’s time to start cleaning up. Be sure to collect all of the dirty dishes, glassware, barware and silverware items. Clean all dishes at the venue kitchen or transport the items to your commercial kitchen for cleaning. Ask servers to bundle linens, stack chairs and move tables, as needed, and ensure everything your business brought to the event is removed and the event space is clean before you and your staff leave.


Planning an event can be a daunting task, but by following this comprehensive caterer checklist, you can be assured that everything is taken care of and will be ready as needed. Also, be prepared for last-minute requests from your client and work toward any needed solutions with your client. Your reputation as an excellent catering company will quickly grow!