While every aspect and the finer details put together serve to make your event distinctive and special, the decision of which caterers to use is significant. If the food tastes good and there is plenty of it for everyone your guests are sure to go away feeling satisfied. Sometimes, people tend to overlook the importance of getting this right. If the food does not taste good or you choose a caterer who is not knowledgeable about the amount of food to prepare, your guests will remember this fact, no matter how elegant and special the rest of your event was. The food and drink will also most likely be the largest portion of your budget.

Before you contact any potential caterers you will need to have confirmed – the date of your event at least a rough estimate of the number of guests and more importantly your budget in order for the caterer to supply you with suitable ideas and realistic quotations.

TYPE OF MEAL

The cost of your caterer will differ with the type of meal you provide at the wedding. Sit down vs. buffet style are your two main choices and each have good and bad aspects. Sit down dinners are great because you can just relax as the wait staff serves the food and cleans up the plates while continuously refilling beverages on the tables

Buffet meals on the other hand are more flexible with portions because people eat as much as they need and require less wait staff to serve food, which saves you money. Also you have the option for more types of food because people can choose the sides they want and take a little of everything. This keeps the stress off of what you picked to go along with each main course. Buffets tend to work out cheaper than a sit down meal, which works well if you are on a tight budget. Just make sure your venue has the room for the set up and people walking around to get to and from the buffet.

IN-HOUSE CATERING

Many venues will insist that you use their in-house catering services as part of your package deal and have a list of “preferred suppliers”. By doing so can actually reduce your costs as it can be more expensive sometimes to hire the hall separately. Also it’s reassuring to know that the caterers have worked at the venue before and are successful in meeting the standards of the venue. But that doesn’t mean you have to go with a preferred vendor. If none of the caterers on their list feel right, ask your venue if they have requirements for other caterers. Many venues will want approval of the caterer, and may also require proof of various certificates or licenses that they need to perform their services on the property. You’ll want to know what these are before you speak to any potential caterers.

BUDGET

Another important aspect of choosing a caterer is the cost. You will be more than likely to have a rough estimate on what you will be willing to pay. Decide on your budget and take your figure to any prospective caterers and let them create a menu with you. The price can vary depending on how many people you are serving, whether you want a sit-down or buffet-style dinner, the type of cuisine (you may have a particular theme), how many selections you are going to provide your guests, the time of day etc.

PAY ATTENTION

How the food tastes and is presented is without doubt key to any catering company, but pay attention to other things like their communication, which will give you an indication to how they treat their clients. If a company is slow to get back to you, gets details like your names, date of event, or the number of guests wrong in their proposal then consider crossing them off your list. Attention to detail will be a key factor on your big day, and if they can’t impress you now, then it’s not very hopeful that they will WOW you then.

REFERENCES

If there is a company website, check this out. Look for any reviews on the internet. View photos of previous events so that you can see what the caterer is capable of in terms of presentation. Good food presentation is equally important as the quality and taste of the food.

SELECTION PROCESS

You should make a list of at least 2-4 caterers you are interested in, call each one and ask them if they are available on your chosen date? Get a rough estimate from each caterer based on the number of guests you have, these factors will eliminate any out of your budget saving you time. Compare and contrast the cost and menu options. When you have a list of two or three qualified caterers, it is time to go for a more in-depth meeting.

FOOD TASTING

Most catering companies will give you the opportunity to taste the cuisine before exchanging a contract. If this is not mentioned, then it is important that you request a “food tasting” to give you an idea of what to expect and question the caterer of any concerns you may have during your sampling. For example, the food may be too spicy, dry, or oily in which case you will need to raise and discuss this to avoid any disappointment on the day of your event.

Many venues will let you sample their suggested wedding menus either for free, or at a reduced price, once you have confirmed your booking with them. If the caterer insists on being hired before a tasting, and you really love their menu, include a clause in the contract that allows you to dissolve the agreement if the tasting doesn’t meet your standards — and schedule that tasting early! Just keep in mind you may lose your deposit.

You should take along your fiancé or a friend/family member so that you have trusted and valuable second opinion.

OTHER THINGS TO CONSIDER

If your venue doesn’t provide tables, chairs, linens, or dinnerware, find out if the caterers do. Most do, or contact a rental company that does. While this may be an extra fee, coordinating these essential rentals through one company will be a lot easier than balancing two or three companies to set your tables.

Popular caterers tend to get booked up months in advance, therefore it is important to give yourself enough time to do your “homework” and get estimates and compare catering services so that you have time to consider all your options.

You will also need to check and find out if the caterer is insured, licensed and has the necessary health permits.

Nowadays, there are a lot of different catering companies available, which means you need to spend more time and be selective. Below we have made a list of some of the questions you may want to consider and tips to help narrow down your search when choosing the right caterer for your event.

Questions to ask when speaking to any potential caterers:

If you do not already know, ask the caterer how long they have been in the business?

Have they catered for this size event before?

What packages do they offer and what is included?

Will the food be cooked onsite?

If it is prepared elsewhere how will it be stored? (You want to ensure it is handled carefully so that it tastes good by the time you and your guests eat)

Are the menus flexible?

Is there a vegetarian alternative?

Can they accommodate special dietary requirements?

What options do you they have available to cater for children?

How soon can you have a menu tasting?

What kind of kitchen facilities will they need?

Are they able to work creatively within your budget?

Do they provide the necessary plates/cutlery/staff

When is the final guest count due?

Can they accommodate unexpected guests? What is the additional charge?

Will they supply the cake stand and knife

Will they set up the table/chair

Discuss table layout, seating arrangements and the position of the cake table.

Will they clean up after the event?

STAFF & RESOURCE

How many other bookings do they have for the same day?

Are the staff, included in the price?

What is the ratio of staff to guests?

What will the staff wear?

Can they place name cards for seating arrangements?

Will there be a contact on the day to oversee the event?

DRINKS

What brands of beverages will be served?

Do they have the correct glassware for the beverages you will be serving?

Are soft drinks included in the price?

Can you supply your own alcohol?

Is there a corkage fee?

Until what time the bar will be open?

Will they supply extra bar stock like ice, fresh lemons/limes, etc and

BOOKING & PAYMENT

How much deposit is required to secure the date and when is this due?

What is the cancellation policy?

Is there a service charge included or are gratuities optional?

Is there a charge for breakage?

How soon after the event is the balance due?

Is VAT included in the final price?

CONTRACT

Costs are usually quoted per ‘head’ (guest). Always ask for quotes and confirmation of everything in writing. Be sure everything the caterer agrees to is clearly stated in the contract so that there is clear clarification as to what is included and what is not. This should highlight the more obvious details – date, time and number of guests as well as a breakdown of charges for food, drinks, corkage, staff, delivery, travel expenses, equipment hire, service charges, etc. Read through everything carefully several times to ensure that no services are duplicated or not included, as this will impact your total event cost.

At Clicknplan we can put you intouch with experienced and professional caterers who are able to accommodate your needs and willing to work with you to make your day very special – and tasty.

Bon Appetit!