Before you embark on your tasting tour in search of the best caterer, there are five questions every couple should ask prior to booking.
1. Does the caterer have a license?
In order for a caterer to obtain a license, they must meet local health department standards and they must carry liability insurance. You’ll also want to ask about a liquor liability insurance (this helps protect you in case an over-indulged guest gets hurt). Finally, you’ll want to make sure the caterer has a liquor license if you’re going to serve alcoholic bevies.
2. Can they provide you with references?
This is a question you’re going to want to ask most of the vendors you meet. If vendors can provide sound references, odds are they’re someone you can rely on. When you chat with previous clients, ask if there’s anything they would have done differently. Try to ask for references that hosted weddings similar in size and budget to yours as well.
3. Do you provide a waitstaff, what is your dress code and is there a fee for additional waiters?
Okay, so this is actually kind of three questions rolled into one. Many caterers prefer to use their own waitstaff even if there is a team available through your venue because their own team knows the ins and outs of their operation. If you’re hosting a more formal affair, you’ll want to make sure that the waitstaff dresses in accordance with the formality (translation: no black jeans in lieu of black pants). You’ll want about three waiters for every six tables for a sit-down meal, so check to see if the price includes enough staff to comfortably serve your entire party. There’s nothing worse than when half your reception is done with dinner and the other half hasn’t even started.
4. Are you a full service caterer?
Essentially you’re asking what else they do in addition to food preparation. Some caterers assist with table settings, some setup, and cleanup. You’ll want to know what services they offer and what you need to hire out. You may also want to ask about dishes and what additional products they have available. Whatever they don’t have, you’ll likely need to rent, so be prepared to factor that in to your budget.
5. What’s your timing with tastings?
It’s hard to book a caterer without actually tasting their food, so you’ll want to inquire about when they typically offer you a preview. Some caterers will do small gatherings for potential clients and then you can see for yourself, but others require a deposit before spending the money on preparing a full tasting for the clients. Don’t sign on the dotted line until your comfortable with the quality of food you expect to get.
And once you select your caterer, follow these tips from local pros on how to plan your menu.