Choosing the caterer for your wedding or event is one of the biggest items on the To Do List. Your caterer plays a huge role in your event, from potentially helping with set-up, to setting the tone with types of food and levels of service.
Often times your venue will provide you with a list of “Preferred Vendors.” These are vendors that have extensive experience running events at that particular location. Check with your venue to make sure you are not limited to using those “preferred vendors.”
Before you meet with potential caterers, make sure you have carefully thought through your budget--and come with a clear idea of how much you can allot towards catering. You should also have a pretty solid handle on your guest list, so you know how many people you’re going to need to feed. Once you’ve established these fundamental pieces you’re ready to interview some potential caterers. It can be a little overwhelming, with lots of things to think about, so we compiled a list of questions to prepare you for making an informed decision.
Questions for Your Caterer
1. If the catering company is not on the list of preferred vendors: Have you ever catered a wedding or event at this particular venue?
2. Do you have liability insurance?
3. Are you licensed to serve alcohol or will we be responsible for obtaining a temporary ABC license? Who will stock the bar?
4. What is the dress code for servers and bartenders?
5. Is there a cake cutting fee? How much will it cost to rent a cake knife?
6. What are your payment and cancellation policies?
7. Do service fees cover clean-up after the event?
8. Will there be a catering manager with whom I can determine the timeline for the evening?
9. What is the ratio of servers to guests?
10. What types of place settings are available? Does the caterer handle set-up of place settings including name-cards, favors, and centerpieces?
11. Will gratuity be included in the total bill?
12. What are your average per person costs for plated dinner vs. buffet for a wedding of our size?
13. Can you accommodate special dietary needs?
14. When is the final headcount due?
Once you have determined the style of catering that works best for your event (heavy hors d'oeuvres vs. full meal, seated dinner vs. buffet, cocktail hour, etc.) you can talk through the details such as where the caterer will stage the food, how transitions between services (i.e. from cocktail hour to dinner service) will occur and where the bar will be set up.
Sometimes the caterer will provide the best rental price for items such as linens, flatware, plates, and glasses, but it’s always smart to get a quote from a rental business. Are you also renting a tent or a photo-booth? See if they will give you a discount for ordering multiple items. It never hurts to ask!
Once you’ve chosen your caterer, you’re one step closer to your big day! Happy planning!!