Top 10 Things to Know When Choosing a Caterer
Congratulations! You are embarking on the great adventure of planning your wedding. With so many details and options available this process can quickly become intimidating. The last thing you need to worry about is whether or not your guests will enjoy the food. That’s where we come in! When choosing your caterer, here are our top 10 tips to help navigate you through the process.
- The more information you can give your caterer, the better! This includes your menu ideas, service style, budget guidelines, your day-of expectations, etc. Please don’t be shy! We can best meet your needs when we first know what they are. The more information we have up front, the smoother the event execution will go and the more you are guaranteed to be thrilled with your day!
- Determining what you want in the beginning will save you both time and money. Typically, the more hours and more people involved in the planning process, the more your bottom line will increase. In this industry, time really is money! Check your caterer’s timelines for final head count and menu choice due dates. Most likely, last minute changes may be impossible or end up costing you more.
- Compare apples to apples. When reviewing various catering quotes, don’t just look at the bottom line, check to see what all is being included in the quote. Some caterers may only quote food and beverages, while others may quote food, beverage, planning, service and rentals. What fees are involved? Is delivery included? Is the quote itemized or are you being charged an all-inclusive price? One method is not necessarily better than another; they just all lead to different grand totals. Make sure you understand where price tags are coming from in order to fairly judge your quotes.
- Be willing to think outside the box! Sometimes an easy alternative can provide a significant price break or allow for your planning, and event, to run more smoothly. For example, Susie Bride loves shrimp and grits and can’t imagine her wedding without them. Who can blame her? They are delicious! But… shrimp and grits as a main dish pushes her over budget. Shrimp and grits as a shooter during cocktail hour, however, is completely budget friendly! Decide what items are non-negotiable for you, but be open to flexing on other details.
- Does your venue have a list of preferred caterers? If so, make good use of them! They are recommended for a reason. Typically, venues have a process caterers must go through in order to be put on their list and this means the venue already knows and trusts the quality of work the catering company provides. An extra bonus? It is always easier to use a company that is comfortable with the workspace, and not learning the venue for the very first time.
- Trust the experts! As service industry specialists, catering companies live and breathe events. With a wide repertoire, learning is just a natural part of the process. Let your caterer educate you and trust that they have your best interest in mind.
- Ask your caterer what they recommend. By all means, first request menu items that you love and have dreamed about! But, also be willing to explore the ideas and suggestions of your caterer. They know what food they do best, they have experienced food that presents well for all service styles (buffet, plated, etc.) and will be able to guide you towards the best experience.
- Plan seasonally. Food that is in season (like corn on the cob) will not only taste better, but in some situations, it may also cost less! If you’re not sure what seasonal alternatives may be open to you, ask your caterer! They will know when and where they can source the items you are looking for and will be able to help offer constructive menu advice.
- Service style plays a huge role. Staffing is most likely based on the style of service you have selected, and the number of staff required for the event will certainly impact your overall cost. Ask your caterer what their staffing standards are for plated vs. buffet, stations vs. passed hors d’oeuvres, etc. Additionally, staffing is also impacted by the set up and clean up needed. Again, ask questions! Bar service, china vs. disposables, pre-set tables, etc. will all play a role in your staffing.
- Be willing to pay for a good caterer. Good food or bad, this is something your guests will remember. As renowned chef, James Beard, once said, “Food is our common ground, a universal experience.” Or, in slightly different terms, “Kissing don’t last: cookery do!” (George Meredith). Give your guests a night to remember!