Joined Dec 2, 2000
Do you offer a preprinted menu to your clients and have them choose from the menu items or
Do you only cook the things your clients are requesting..and built up your repertoire that way.
Which works better and why?

Thank you..


Staff member
Joined Oct 7, 2001
We have quite a large database of menu options for our clients to look over. Obviously, this is what we would like the client to order as costing, and portioning are already taken care of. But our salespeople only use this as a starting point. Since we are a high-end caterer we allow our customers to customize their menus and events. We start off with our clients looking at menu options to give both them and us a rough idea of what they want. If they see nothing they like, then we will work with them to create the food they wish to serve. With such a large database of menu items, this usually just requires changing a sauce, veg or starch.

Since we work at some of the museums here in town, we also create theme menus and buffets tying in to the rotating exhibits. For example, the Cleopatra exhibit was just here so we created a number of menu items and buffets to reflect that region of the world. A new exhibit, "Chocolate" is about to open, so we have created a "chocolate fantasy" dessert buffet.
Joined Apr 19, 2001
I've worked it both ways; worked at a large catering company, who had preset menus, and smaller places (and by myself), where we customized the menu to the person/event.

When I talk with a potential client, the first thing I ask is - What do YOU like? Second is what's your budget? Gives me a jumping off point to then develop a menu that's geared both toward their tastes and their budgets. Sometimes I also ask 'What's your absolute blue-sky 'dream menu'? I've found that sometimes people won't ask for a food item because they think it's astronomical in price, when it really isn't. I had a client who adored cavier, wanted it in everything. We compromised her budget by doing a HoDo with deviled quail eggs and baby potatoes topped with a little cavier - she was thrilled that she could have cavier at her party and still not break the bank.

My personal preference is creating menus for each client; way more fun than set menus! But I also know from working high volume caterers that set menus need to be in place.

Just remembered another thing the 'volume' caterers did; they had 3 basic price groups, low, middle, high end. They did groupings of each category (aps, mains, salads, etc.) for each price range, and then the customers picked from each category, both price-wise and item selection. (Kind of like the Chinese menus that say, 'pick two from this category, or three from that one'). Clients still felt like they were 'personalizing' their menu, but made it easier for the sales people and kitchen staff to organize.

I keep a notebook of menus from other events I've done; a 'picnic', a 'bridal shower', 'small dinner party', etc. Gives the clients ideas - ever have a client who just gave you a blank look when you asked what they wanted?!
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