When it comes to your wedding day, or any special occasion for that matter, food & beverage is one of the most important elements. As we at Pink Champagne Events say, guests only remember above and beyond or horribly wrong. Asking questions and being proactive is the easiest way to avoid the latter. The questions below are certainly not the only ones you should ask, but they will assist in jump starting a productive and informative conversation with any potential caterer. Catering friends: feel free to add your input at the bottom!!
1. Does the catering company provide bar service? If so, your interview process just got a lot better!! By combining food and bar-tending service together, it is one less vendor to be concerned about. In addition to liability insurance, it is also important to ensure they maintain a current liquor license and TIPS certified bartenders.
2. What is their average staff to guest ratio and does that change based on service style? When chatting with the sales representative, ask if staff costs will be broken down by line-item or grouped together. If staff is itemized, it makes it easier to determine appropriate tip amounts. (i.e. buffet, stations, plated, family style, cocktail reception, French etc...)
3. Do they have a pastry chef on staff, if so; are they able to provide wedding cakes? If they do have a pastry chef and are able to offer cake service, is it a requirement? Or can you hire a specialty baker? Along those same line do they have a cake-cutting fee for outside products? Or is that service complimentary?
4. On peak weekends it isn't uncommon for catering crews to work more than one wedding per day. However, it is important to ask if your sales representative is committed to another event the same day as your wedding. It doesn't necessarily have a negative impact, if so. It is simply good information for you to have and be aware of.
5. What is the experience level of the servers that will be at your wedding? As with with any other industry, long-term employment is a sign of a great company. But - don't discount a company because of new staff. They may be in a position of growth, which is GREAT!
6. What is their average price per person and what is included with that price? Again, there are varying inclusions among all companies. For instance, one caterer's price per person includes silverware, china, glassware, linens, etc. Whereas, another caterer may not include those items in their per person price. When comparing costs, it is important that it's apple-to-apples. Along those same lines, ask if they provide complimentary tastings or if they charge for them and place that amount towards your final invoice if you book with them?
7. Does the caterer offer a pre-set menu based on service style or can you create something custom? With hotels for example, you can choose a variety of dishes from pre-set menus. With an independent catering company, every offering can be customized to your specifications. Regardless of whether is is a pre-set or custom menu it is wise to confirm that they are able to design a similar cuisine for any guests with dietary restrictions. (i.e. vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, allergies, etc...)
8. Have they worked at your venue before? If so, they should be familiar with the proper load-in + load-out policies, as well as what is required of them for clean up at the end of the night. If they haven't worked at your venue, are they prepared to attend a final walk-through and familiarize themselves with the space and policies? Will you, as the client, incur an extra charge for anything they deem "unexpected?" (i.e. trash cans, trash removal, prep tables, portable ovens, pop-up tents, extra linen, etc...)
9. What is their deposit, refund, and cancellation policy? In our experience, EVERY vendor is different with regards to this. It's important to do your homework and be fully educated.
While we chose to highlight some of the more important questions you should ask a potential caterer, again, there are several more to think about.
Until next time,