How to Cater a San Francisco Event

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[Image Credit: Bistro Boudin]

There are dozens of reasons people across the world flock to spend some well-deserved vacation time in the city of San Francisco. The breath-taking views, riding the Cable Cars, or shopping at the numerous boutiques at Union Square all rank high on the list for why people love to come to the ‘City by the Bay’.  With so many sights and activities to experience, most folks tend to forget you can get some of the best food in the nation in San Francisco. From the world-class Italian fare in the North Beach district to the hole-in-the-wall haunts dotted along the Richmond District’s Clement Street, San Francisco is a foodie’s dream destination.

For that reason, planning a party or event in San Francisco without highlighting its rich culinary history would be quite the faux pas. The catering aspect can make or break an event, so check out some of the following tips to ensure your party goes off without a hitch, while adding a uniquely San Francisco flavor to the event.

Choosing A Caterer 

Making sure you choose the right caterer is vital to the success of the event you are throwing. We suggest contacting at least two or three different companies in order to get a complete picture of your choices. According to Sharron Campbell, director of, what you will want to ask each company to see is their catering packet. The packet will have a breakdown of all of their menus and types of food and beverages available, as well as pricing, tax rates and service charges. Comparing and contrasting packets will give you great insight as to what each company can do for you and your event.

Quantity is Key 

Regardless of the type of party or what you are serving, you NEVER want to be caught running out of food and drinks for your guests. The best way to prevent this from happening is to get an accurate account of how many guests you will be having, as well as factoring in how long the event will last.

For example, when serving pre-meal appetizers plan on having 3-5 pieces per person. Try to choose lighter options in order not to spoil the upcoming meal. For an event without a set meal, guests are going to indulge in more appetizers so aiming for 10-15 pieces per person to be safe.

Plan Ahead and Save 

There are several ways you can go about saving on the catering costs for your event without sacrificing quality:

  • In-season foods will always be available at a lower price, so ask the chef how he/she can implement them into the menu
  • Ask the caterer if they will be working any other events on the same day or within a couple days of yours. Choosing food items that will be served at the other events will allow the caterer to order in bulk at a lower cost.
  • If you are going to be serving liquor, ask about purchasing from “dead stock”, in which the caterer will use left over stock from another event instead of ordering new stock.

Add a San Franicisco Twist

Giving your event a little “San Francisco” flare is a perfect way to tie everything together. The easiest way is to implement some of the iconic foods that originated in the city. For example, pair some fresh baked sourdough bread (an SF staple since the Gold Rush) with local cheeses during your appetizer course. Hosting a brunch event? Offer guests a chance to try Joe’s Special, a scrambled egg and spinach dish that has become a fixture in SF diners. When it comes to drinks, have the bartenders whip up some Irish Coffee’s or Mai Tai’s to cap off a true San Francisco culinary experience.