Whether you are planning a wedding reception or a business gala, an amazing caterer can invigorate an event that’s off to a slow start, or send the guests home early and complaining.
Here are the best questions to ask before hiring a caterer:
“Believe it or not, this is huge,” says Jacquie Bols, owner of Jacquie’s Catering. “Most caterers will claim to have the best-tasting food with the freshest ingredients at the most competitive price, but how they relate to you and what you want, are very important.”
- Area of specialty
Even a caterer with a great reputation may not be the best fit for your event. Some caterers are more ’boutique’ and specialize in smaller intimate-type social events. Others specialize in serving large corporate clients.
“Be sure the caterer you choose has depth of experience with the type of event you are booking. You want a good fit for the type or style of your event,” adds Jacquie of Jacquie’s Catering.
- Familiarity with your venue
Having a caterer that is familiar with a venue’s rules can potentially save you lots of hassle on event day.
- Menu options
The best caterers will go beyond standardized menu options and be willing to create something different to match your theme or dietary needs.
- Willingness to provide tastings
“How will you know what the menu items you are considering will taste like unless you specifically try them,” asks Jacquie Bols?
“It is standard to ask for a sampling of what you are intending to order. Any caterer who takes the time to properly display a sample will be more likely to make that kind of effort on your event day.”
- Experience & references
The chef’s background and experience can be more important than the owner of the company who has awards on their shelf. Yelp, Wedding Wire and Angie’s List are great for reviews and ratings.
“But nothing is better than talking to past clients,” says Jacquie. “They are often more forthcoming in private conversations about any disappointments in regards to the food or overall experience.”
- The contract
Your caterer’s contract should include exactly what food, beverages and services s/he will be providing on the designated day/s. Selected menus, number of servings and/or people to be served, beverage/bar service details, and all pricing and additional services. Get detailed information on how cancellations are handled and make sure all spoken reassurances are included in your contract.
Stuff happens and plans change. Make sure you are covered in the event of a unforeseen change by you or the caterer.
Insurance coverage is “a given” for caterers. and you certainly don’t want to legally be on the hook for some oversight or accident that was the fault of your caterer.
The bottom line?
Jacquie of Jacquie’s Catering recommends, “Do as much research as possible. Ask questions about what’s important to you. And interview at least three caterers before you sign on the dotted line.”