For many people, hiring a caterer for a wedding, special dinner, picnic or corporate event is not something they have much experience doing. We offer some questions to consider and discuss when meeting with your caterer to make sure you choose the right provider for your event.
- Are they available on your date? Will they be able to accommodate your event in their schedule? Are they familiar with your venue?
- What types of cuisine do they offer? Have they won any awards or accolades? Do they have a specialty? This should match your desired tastes. For example, if they specialize only in Mexican style dishes, then they may not be the right caterer for your Italian wedding.
- Is all their food made from scratch? Do they use only fresh ingredients? If buying locally is important to you, ask where they get their ingredients.
- How flexible are the menu options? Can you customize menus to include favorite items or special recipes? Often a caterer has pre-made menus for different types of events. Ask if they will allow substitutions of certain items at your request. Do they offer menu options for children attending the event?
- How do they handle special dietary needs of guests? Many people have food allergies and intolerances. You’ll want to be sure the caterer knows about these and will have alternatives available for those guests.
- Do they supply or arrange rentals such as linens, china, tables, and chairs? Who will be expecting payment for these items? Caterers don’t always keep such items on hand and make arrangements with rental companies to provide them. You should know who will be billing you for these and when payment is expected.
- What are the minimum and maximum guests they can serve? When does a guest count need to be finalized? You will also want to know when the last day is to update the guest count.
- Can they provide the alcohol and bartender? What type of bar packages are available?
- What services are included in the price? Will the catering staff set tables and arrange service areas? Does the price include hors d’oeuvres or champagne service or cake cutting? Are there additional fees for these services?
- How long should the program allow for set-up and meal service? It is important that all the vendors are on the same schedule to be sure everything runs smoothly.
- Will there be a service staff? How do the employees on site dress? How many will be on site? Will there be a point of contact for any unexpected issues that might arise? Even with all the best planning, unexpected situations can arise and it is preferable to know who will take charge and solve problems.
- Are there any extra charges for delivery, service, gratuity or taxes? When are deposits and final payments expected? The last thing you want to worry about that day is taking care of the bill. Knowing ahead of time will allow you to be prepared and have checks or payment arrangements ready made.
- After the event, who handles clean up of the food and venue? What is the leftover policy? Will you be able to take remaining food home, do they donate it locally?
- Find out if your caterer has all the appropriate licenses and insurance for your area. This is for your protection in case of an accident or injury.
Take the time to talk to your caterer about their policies and your needs. You will be sure you are hiring the right caterer for your special event or corporate meeting.