Questions to Ask Your Caterer

Shopping for a good caterer can be troublesome if you do not ask the right questions. As you may know, not all caterers are the same so it is not wise to just shop by price. But before you go shopping all willy nilly you need some information before hand.

Before You Shop for A Caterer

  • First thing you should know is whether the facility you are going to use for your reception allows third party catering. Usually they will tell you upfront, but ask anyway. Either way you will need to inquire about the price and I am sorry to say that most facilities that don’t allow outside caterers are notoriously “less cheap”.
  • Know your real budget. This may seem obvious, but you should allow for unexpected expenses, which many brides don’t. The result is not pretty.
  • Get an estimate of how may quests you expect. It is good to overestimate a little bit, because there are always the people who show up regardless of invitation
  • What reception hall are you going to use? What are their rules regarding what caterers can and can not do?

What to Ask the Caterer

Once you do get the above information, your next step is to get to looking. Once you set your sights on a few, you need a pen, paper and a few good questions:

  • Are you licensed? Do not assume that because they are advertised everywhere, that they are a legitimate establishment. A license may not seem important to you, but most local governments require the caterer to have certain health standards.
  • Can we sample your menu? Set up an appointment to taste test the caterer’s quality of food preparation.
  • Do you use chafing dishes? Most caterers do, but be sure to ask. If you want to keep the hot food hot, this may be a necessity.
  • How much of a deposit do you require? If you have to change the wedding date or time, this may pose a problem. You may get none of your deposit back it you can’t use the same caterer. What is your cancellation policy.
  • Do you have pics? Usually they will show you pictures as soon as you sit down. Look at how the food is laid out. Was it just thrown together or was it laid out carefully and creatively?
  • Can I see a contract? If they don’t use one,start running! This is not good. You need something in black and white to be more secure that they will live up to their end of the bargain. And read over the contract at home before you sign anything. Do it at home!
  • How do you charge for clean up? This may or may not be included in the overall price. Your family may be left to do the clean up if you are not careful
  • Do you prepare the food on site or at a different location? If they prepare or warm the food on site, then you need to make sure that the reception hall can accommodate them. Does the reception hall have warmers, a refrigerator or a stove? Does the reception hall charge extra for you to use them?
  • Can you give me at least two references? You want to know that they can come up with a least two brides that are satisfied with their work. It is even better to ask for three.
  • When can we make our final change to the reception menu? Do not think that you are going to pick some items then be done with it. There is always a chance someone will come along and give you that “good idea”.
  • Are your price quotes final? Be aware that sometimes prices may be subject to change according to the season. Ask them if the price quotes are placed in writing.
  • How many servers do you use per the amount of guests? This is very important for the smooth flow of the reception. Long lines and frustrated and hungry guests do not make a nice party. One server per 20 to 25 guests is acceptable. You may need a little more if it is a seated reception.

While these questions may not guarantee that you get Wolfgang Puck, it can help you to narrow down your choices to someone that is more likely to give you a wonderful reception experience.

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Filed under: Receptions — vicky at 10:26 am on Friday, January 12, 2007