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IT'S THAT TIME OF YEAR: Caterers offer tips for the holidays

caterersIf you want your holiday party catered, here’s a tip from a pro: Book it with your caterer right after the first of the year. That way you’ll likely get the best possible date for your party or other event before the procrastinators realize the holidays are just around the corner.

That’s the word from Richard Chenoweth of Scranton’s Restaurant and Catering in Pascagoula.

“Basically try to rebook in January if you want the prime dates,” he said. He tries to get his regular customers to pencil in the dates first and then does what he can to accommodate newcomers and those who wait before they make plans. “Luckily we have several different venues to move people around,” he said.

The catering business has been steady over the last several years but Chenoweth expects this one to be exceptional because large corporations celebrated milestones during 2013. “We had to hire 50 extra staff for the two weeks in October in addition to the staff that normally works events when they aren’t working at the restaurant.” Otherwise, he said, some years are good, others not so much. “There’s no rhyme or reason to it,” he said.

Scranton’s has more than 30 years of experience catering gatherings such as wedding, rehearsal dinners, corporate events and in-home dinner parties. Services are offered at a private 3,200-square-foot banquet hall in Scranton’s historic restaurant and and a 5,000-square-foot ballroom at the Grand Magnolia Ballroom and Suites.

Taylor Grocery Special Events Catering in Taylor bills itself as the premier caterer for the North Mississippi area.

Catering manager Butch Scott, who’s been in the business for 20 years, also advises party planners to book early for the holidays.

“The sooner you can have your date, go ahead and book your caterer,” he said. That way you can be sure to get the caterer you want.

Scott said catering in Oxford isn’t as tied to the economy as it is in other places. “A lot of our economy is driven by the University of Mississippi and that’s pretty steady year-round,” he said.

Scott has been with Taylor since 2006 and said the full service business does everything from “small get-togethers in your backyard to big weddings and formal banquets.”

Taylor Grocery is famous for catfish and barbeque, Scott noted. “We cater a little bit of everything,” he said.

During football season, there’s tailgating and also catering for visiting team alumni groups, including LSU and Auburn, he said. “This time of year a lot revolves around football,” Scott said.

When the football team has an off day, weddings help fill the Taylor Grocery catering calendar. “We do a lot of weddings, somewhere around 30 plus a year,” Scott said. There are also family reunions and employee picnics to cater.

Christmas parties aren’t as much a part of the catering business as they were 10 years ago, however. “We probably see just a small percentage of the parties we used to do,” he said. “Everybody used to do employee Christmas parties.”

More manufacturers are getting away from Christmas parties because of the economy, he said. Even though things are starting to improve for some companies, the parties “never came back,” he said.

Elements Catering and Floral Design owner Kelly Pittman is based in Columbia but she serves customers from Jackson and Gulfport to New Orleans and Birmingham. She started the business in Atlanta in 2009 and moved home to Mississippi in November 2012.

She suggests booking your holiday party during the week, say on Monday night or a late Sunday afternoon for a couple of reasons. “It cuts down on cost,” she said. “Spaces cost more on weekends and you can get some great rates on catering, as well.”

The catering business has its ups and downs, she said, “just like anything else.” The majority of her business is weddings and comes in the fall, from August to December. Things drop off in January because of the cold and again in the summer months. “Clients like to plan events for springtime and fall due to Mississippi’s harsh summers,” she said.

Corporate Christmas parties account for half of Element’s business during December.

“It’s mostly jewelry companies having new lines coming out to showcase their rings. That’s also engagement season.”

You can find licensed caterers by county on the Mississippi State Department of Health web site at msdh.ms.gov/msdhsite/_static/43,0,231,204.html.



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