The Question I Love to Hate
Last night I was asked a question I’ve come to hate. It’s the one question I am most asked when I tell people I am a caterer. It is- “what is your specialty”?
Now granted, a questioner doesn’t necessarily mean “what kind of food do you specialize in?” (they might mean do you specialize in private parties, corporate etc.), but often that is the intent of the question, and it is asked just that way. And unfortunately, after 12 years of hearing the question I’m afraid I don’t have much patience left for it. I’ve explained to people that I don’t specialize in any one type of food, that I believe the caterer’s job is to suit the client’s taste, and hopefully to match my tastes to theirs. Sometimes it does, and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes I have to prepare and serve items that I would never serve at a party of my own. I’ve even had a client once give me her family’s recipes to work from for her mother’s birthday party.
And this leads me to the insight I had driving home last night. A catering company is not like a restaurant. Diners will often pick a restaurant specifically for the kind of food it serves, as in- “I feel like eating Italian tonight, or Mexican”. But the starting point of a catered event is not the food, but the event, the special occasion. A high school graduation party where the guest of honor is an 18 football star, will require very different food than a bridal shower where the guest of honor will be a 28 year old woman.
And who are your guests? Are they primarily clients and associates, or friends and family? A holiday party where clients and associates are the invited guests will require very different food than a backyard 4th of July bash for family and friends. What is the client’s intention for the event and in entertaining their guests? Is the event casual, or more formal? Is it to impress, or to kick back or get down? Even a wedding may be a hybrid sort of event where clients and associates are invited, in addition to family and friends. This may require juggling different styles of parties, and a more varied menu if your family expects a certain kind of food that may not necessarily be to the liking of some of your other guests.
And yes, I will always consider my client’s tastes, and their food likes and dislikes. Are you and your guests adventurous diners? Do you love spicy ethnic foods? Or would you like to stay more “middle of the road” if there are many guests whose taste you don’t know quite as well?
So, what’s my specialty? Well, I believe, it’s to fulfill the needs of my clients and their guests, and to do it supremely well, of course.
Until next time-