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Catering Companies vs. Self-Catering: When to Hire Professionals and When to Do it Yourself

When planning a party, wedding, or other large event, it can be tempting to try to take care of the catering yourself. While DIY catering requires more time and effort, and requires the help of friends or family, it is also often cheaper, and gives you the most possible freedom in planning menus. In some situations, self-catering isn’t realistic or causes unnecessary stress, but sometimes, DIY catering is the way to go. Here’s a look at some events where self-catering is realistic, and others where hiring a catering company is the better call.

When Should You Self-Cater?

If Money is Tight:
While many caterers do allow for some flexibility in budget, the safest way is to take care of the catering yourself. Being responsible for all the planning and cooking is a lot of responsibility, but it does allow you complete freedom in managing ingredients to fit your budget. However, it is important to note that self-catering isn’t by default going to be less expensive. Costs can include not only ingredients, plates and silverware, but also equipment to cook everything if you need more than you already own.

You (or your friends) have Cooking Experience
If you or your friends or loved ones have culinary experience beyond the average home cook, it can make self-catering a lot more realistic. If you don’t have at least a few practiced chefs around, your menu options are limited, and you run the risk of ruining dishes. Before considering doing the cooking and serving yourself, first make sure you have a team with the necessary skills to pull it off.

Your Guests have Lots of Dietary Restrictions
One of the most common problems people run into with catering companies is difficulty meeting all guests’ dietary needs. If your group has an extensive list of food allergies, or if you have many guests who are vegetarian, vegan or gluten-free, it can be easier and safer to do at least some of the cooking yourself to ensure everyone’s needs are met.

When Should You Hire Professionals?

Your Schedule is Packed
When leading a busy life, it can be difficult to free up the time necessary to self-cater. Rather than try to stuff everything into your schedule and cause yourself undue stress, it’s best to hire a catering company to take care of cooking and serving if you have a tight schedule.

You and Your Friends Have Little Cooking Experience
Simply put, a large self-catering job with a team of amateur chefs can make for a stressful and difficult task. Cooking for and serving large numbers of guests isn’t easy, and if you can’t put together a group of friends with cooking and food service experience, hiring a catering company is much more realistic.

You Need a Luxurious, Restaurant-Quality Experience
Sometimes, the dining experience of your guests is crucial, particularly for large weddings or parties for special occasions. If you’re set on providing excellent service as well as restaurant-quality food, it’s safer to hire a catering company. Most catering companies bring plenty of equipment to not only provide excellent food, but also get you as close as possible to having a restaurant in your home.

You Plan to Serve Large Quantities of Alcohol
If your self-catered event serves alcohol, you are liability for the safety of your guests, and run the risk of getting into legal trouble should anybody run into alcohol-related health problems. Most caterers are licensed to sell alcohol, be it only beer and wine or hard liquor as well, and many provide OLCC-certified bartenders to ensure all your guests are safe and happy.