10 Questions to Ask Your Caterer, and One to Ask Yourself

Finding a good catering company is one thing, finding the right catering services provider for your wedding or special event is another!  Choosing the perfect one is not as easy as picking up the phone and placing an order like you would if you were ordering a pizza.

Yes, there are many things to consider when finding the right caterer. Here are 10 questions to ask a caterer before you sign on the dotted line of any contract:

  1. Are you licensed?   A food service license is valid for restaurants, hotels, banquet halls, and clubs. If the food service will be at an off-site wedding venue or your home, the caterer is required by Health Department regulations to have a separate, off-premise catering license.   Caterers with these licenses have the equipment and training to safely transport and serve food outside of their kitchens.
  2. Do you have liability insurance and workman’s compensation insurance?   You should look for companies with at least $1-$2 million in liability insurance for your protection.  Worker’s compensation insurance protects you in case one of the service staff is injured while working your event.
  3. How long have you been in business?   A minimum of three to five years should give you some confidence that they are in business for the long run, and won’t be gone by the time your big event comes around.
  4. Do you allow for changes to menus or the ability design your own menu?  Your wedding day is one of the most important days of your life, and you should be able to choose foods that you and your guests will enjoy.   A good caterer will be able to suggest foods that will fulfill your wishes, yet be practical to produce them in the facilities available at your reception site.
  5. Can I visit your kitchen?   If a caterer says no – don’t walk away, run! A professional caterer will proudly show you their kitchen and introduce you to their culinary staff.   Seeing the kitchen will tell you a great deal about the level of professionalism of a caterer.
  6. Do you offer a free (or low cost) tasting? Most caterers are eager to have you taste their most popular items and will prepare a sampling for you when you meet.  You probably don’t want to serve your guests food you haven’t even tasted.
  7. Do you arrange for rental of china, linens, tables and chairs, and tents if needed?   This is one area you may want to delegate to a caterer. You really don’t want to spend the day after your wedding rinsing glassware and returning rental items.  An experienced caterer can arrange for delivery and set up of any and all rental items you may need, and may have already negotiated lower prices.
  8. What is your deposit schedule? Is it non-refundable? What is your cancellation policy?  You never know when life is going to throw you a curveball. It’s best to be prepared and know how much it may cost to make changes or cancel.
  9. Do you have references from previous clients and other event vendors with whom you have worked?  Be sure to actually CALL references. Considerable insight can be discovered by taking the time to chat with them about how their events were, what went right, and what may have gone wrong.
  10. Do you have photos of previous events and food presentations that you have done?  Have you been published in any magazines or media (articles, featured events, etc)?  Make sure the pictures match your vision of an event, and even pay attention to the uniforms that staff wears during an event.  It is all about the details!

Maybe the single most important question is one you ask yourself: Do I really like this caterer and do I feel confident that they will do an exceptional job for me on my wedding day?  When you find the right caterer, the answer will be a resounding YES!

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