The right caterer will play a big role in helping to make sure your wedding or big event is success worth savoring. Especially when you consider how much your caterer will contribute to the flow of the evening, the visual presentation, and of course the flavor and freshness of the food.
Thing is, finding the right caterer for your event isn’t always easy. Here, then, based on our many years of planning and catering distinctive weddings and events (and with the help of our friends a The Knot), is a series of questions you should ask your serious catering candidates:
1. Do you have a license? (This means the caterer has met local health department standards and carries liability insurance. Make sure they also have a liquor license if you’re going to serve alcohol.)
2. Do you have liquor liability insurance (if they’re providing alcohol)?
3. Can your caterer provide references from previous clients? (Get at least two references who had a similar number of guests and a similar menu style.)
4. Do you specialize in certain types of food, such as organic, locally sourced, ethnic or gluten-free, or services? Do you work with fresh, not frozen, food? (They should provide sample menus.)
5. Does the meal come full service? (This just means that the caterer, in addition to food preparation, will handle everything from the table settings to bar service and cleanup. What’s included depends on the catering company and the packages they offer.)
6. How many appetizer and entrée choices come with the package? When do I have to finalize my choices?
7. Will you make special meals for children and vendors, and what do you charge for each? Are you able to prepare vegetarian, kosher or halal meals for a few guests and is there an additional fee?
8. When will the tasting take place? Do you offer tastings before we’ve hired you?
9. Do you provide wedding cakes as well and, if so, can I see some past wedding cakes you’ve done? Is the cake included in the package?
10. Will you provide tables, chairs, plates, napkins, silverware, and salt and pepper shakers – and are they extra?
11. Will you provide wait staff? How many are included in the package and what’s the fee for additional waiters?
12. Do you also provide a bar, and what sorts of packages do you offer? How do you charge (by consumption or per person)?
13. Will you provide alcohol, or do we need to handle the bar separately? Can I provide my own alcohol and do you charge a fee for that?
14. How many bartenders are included in the package? What’s the fee to hire extra? (Aim to have four cocktail waiters for every 100 guests and two bartenders for every 75 to 100 guests.)
15. How do delivery, setup and breakdown work? What do you do and is there an additional fee?
16. How much time will you need to set up? When will you need access to the site?
17. Who will oversee the event on the wedding day or on the day of the event? Will the same person we worked with when planning also oversee meal service on the day? What will happen if he’s sick or otherwise unable to be there?
18. Are there extra charges, such as a security deposit, sales tax or service fees?
19. What, if any, are the expected gratuities?
20. When do you need a final head count?