photo by Amber Jean
Your wedding caterer will probably be your largest expense, how do you qualify them? Making sure they are experienced, professional, and can handle an event of your magnitude is important. We’ve prepared this list to help you make sure you’re hiring the best caterer for your day.
How long has the caterer been in the off-premise large special event business?
How involved is the catering supervisor in the whole event? Will they manage the timeline and other vendors if there is no coordinator, keeping the event moving, adjusting the schedule or assisting the coordinator & working as a team player? Will they put out place cards, favors and handle details? Make sure the other vendors are on track? Some caterers are actual “event producers,” providing props, & décor that match your wedding style—in other words, complete event design, help you with set up, schematics, layout, linens, timeline. Do you include these services? The Fee?
Does the caterer have a health department approved kitchen & license? This means the business has met health department standards and has workman’s comp on the staff you will have that night and full liability insurance -- make sure this includes the coverage to serve alcohol if you're having a bar. Ask for copies of this coverage.
Are they also a restaurant? You want to make sure that the staff at your wedding, including the chef, are top notch and not the B list. Will your event be Saturday night’s priority? Are they sending take out or cooking on premise?
Are you a full time wedding caterer? What types of catering do you do? How many weddings have you done?
Have you catered a “green” wedding before? What are our green practices? Does your company compost? What percentage of waste do you send to the landfill? Do you use disposables?
How many qualified chefs/Supervisors/bartenders do you have? You want to know the plan if the “mom & pop” get sick that day. Who trains your wait, kitchen and bar staff? Are they specifically trained and experienced in large scale off premise catering?
How responsive and helpful has the caterer been to you so far? Does their proposal reflect the details you gave them?
Does the caterer arrange for the rentals, manage them and take full responsibility? Will I have a choice in the rentals or what company we use? A professional caterer’s job is to secure you the best prices with the company suited for your choices. They should oversee the coordination of ordering, cutting out waste, and on wedding day setting up rentals and linens to meet the detailed choices and needs of your wedding. Lots of other vendors will try to take this on - your florist or coordinator may be able to help with style options or colors but has never catered a wedding. Since the caterer is the one who will be using all of the rentals they should be taking full responsibility of them.
Who will be responsible for any breakage or loss costs after the event?
Are there any fees that won’t be included in the proposal that we should be aware of? Delivery? Late night pick up? The kitchen needs? Overtime? What if my needs change the day of the wedding, can that be handled?
What will it cost? A preliminary quote on ALL the needs to do your wedding at your location is key to budgeting.
Who is your Executive Chef? Who creates the menus to make sure they will be successful in an off premise catering environment ? How long has the chef been with you doing this kind of work specifically? Coming up with a lovely menu is easy - experience in successful execution in a field kitchen is essential on wedding day.
Will the food be made fresh on site? What do you make from scratch?
Tastings: Be aware that preparing a meal for a few people on your home court vs out of a tent kitchen for a few hundred is very different in the preparation, quantity, holding, and the transportation of the food.
What is the food transported in to keep it in the safe temperature zone and insure no one will get sick?
Who grows your tomatoes, and what local farmers do you use? Where do you get your seafood?
Is there a corkage fee for bringing in my own alcohol? Do you provide non-alcoholic beverages? Ice?
How do you make sure there’s no line at the bar, stations or buffet?
How long will dinner service really take?
How much is the deposit, and what if I cancel?
Are the details of the agreement spelled out or left to chance? With a large off premise event you need to know what all the costs will be, you need all the details.