Caterers are gearing up for what some say is their busiest time of the year.
December is by far the busiest catering month of the year for The Dream, Hollidaysburg, which caters to several large holiday parties.
"We do between 90 and 95 percent of our catering business in December. It is critical for our catering business," said Calvin Russell, general manager.
(Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec)
Chris McDonnell, owner of Big Mouth Subs & Catering, gathers needed ingredients on Monday to complete a catering order.
(Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec)
Jake Bearer fills a order for subs at Big Mouth Subs & Catering, 2736 Plank Road Commons, Altoona.
Big Mouth Subs & Catering in Plank Road Commons does more than half of its annual catering business in November and December, said owner Chris McDonnell.
The figure is about 35 percent for Ann's T.D.R. and Catering, Hollidaysburg, said owner Debra Joniello.
December is very busy for Snappy Chef at The Casino at Lakemont Park, as the month makes up between 15 and 20 percent of the annual catering business, said General Manager Victoria Mirenda.
Snappy Chef caters to many holiday parties, but Mirenda said she has seen a trend where many companies - instead of spending a lot of money on a large party - give their employees bonuses.
"We have been advertising having catered lunches as a value to employees instead of having that big party on a Friday or Saturday night," Mirenda said.
Snappy Chef also hosts an annual event called OP - Office Party Extravaganza - where several businesses come together to enjoy a holiday party at The Casino at Lakemont Park.
"We have had it for close to 20 years. It is a fabulous night," Mirenda said of the event planned for Dec. 6.
December is not the busiest time of the year for Holland Bros. Meats and Catering, Duncansville, said President Rick Holland.
"We do a lot of graduations and outdoor weddings. June, July and August are our busiest months," Holland said. "We probably do about 20 percent of our catering in December. We do 80 percent from May to October. It slows down in November and then boom, we get slammed in December. We would like to be slammed all of the time."
Caterers said it is a good idea to book holiday events early.
"If you call today for a year from now, I would set it up for you. Too early is not too early," Russell said. "I will try to do anything they want as long as it doesn't jeopardize the quality of the menu."
"I advise my clients to book in September if they want a particular day," Joniello said. "The sky is the limit. It is up to you. Pick what you like. We do trays or provide a sit-down meal. You can pick what you want."
McDonnell said it is a good idea to do some planning before booking an event.
"Just don't look at the online menu, write down what you want, and we will custom make it," McDonnell said.
Caterers are prepared for those last minute party requests.
"I generally like to have 10 days' notice for a fully catered event, but if I have a week, I am good on those. We try to give the customer what they want," Holland said.
"Come Dec. 20, I will have offices calling us. That is what Snappy Chef is all about, delivering to the location of your choice within 24 to 48 hours," Mirenda said.
Mirenda also said it is wise to hire a caterer.
"It is a misnomer that it is cheaper for companies to do it themselves with the amount of money they have to spend and the stuff they have to pick up. It may be better to get a catering company to do it," Mirenda said. "Enjoy the season. Don't forget why you are putting on that party. Be a guest at your own party."
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.