Questions to Ask a Wedding Caterer
Organizing the meal for your wedding reception is no small task. It’s likely that catering will take up a significant portion of your wedding reception budget, so you need a caterer that has everything they need to provide you with a delicious meal for everyone to enjoy and service that goes just as smoothly as planned.
To help you get just that, we’ve come up with a list of 15 questions to ask so that you can be sure you’ve chosen the right caterer.
1. Do they have all state required licenses and insurance?
Ensuring that your caterer is properly licensed tells you that they have safe food practices and allow regular inspections to be carried out on their facilities. If they will also be serving alcohol at your reception, you’ll want them to be insured to reduce or eliminate any liability that might fall on you if your guests injure themselves or damage property due to alcohol consumption. The last thing you want is to be solely responsible for a guest who was served too many drinks!
2. How many weddings have you catered so far?
Although they probably won’t have an exact number for you, the answer should help you get an idea of how much experience they have in the wedding industry. There’s nothing wrong with giving a caterer who’s new to weddings a chance, but finding out too late that they don’t have experience with larger events could lead to unexpected problems… or disasters.
3. What food do you serve?
Although this one is pretty obvious and a question they’ll be ready to answer, we bring it up to remind you of all the different parts of a meal that some caterers will provide. If you’re planning on a cocktail hour, you’ll want to make sure that they can provide appetizers and drinks before the main meal. Some caterers will also provide dessert, which could be a great way for you to take care of the wedding cake and reception dinner at the same time.
4. Do you serve alcohol, and for how long?
There will likely be a time limit on dinner staff and bartenders. If you want to ensure that the bar is staffed from and until a certain time, find out what your caterers policy is on that and if your time requirements will require any extra fees paid.
5. How do you charge for your meals and service?
Most Cedar Rapids caterers, and wedding caterers from other areas, charge by the person for the food you choose and may have different food and/or pricing for children’s meals and other vendors you’ll need to feed. However, you’ll want to find out what other charges may come up (such as bottle fees, cake cutting fees, deposits, tax, gratuity and any food that may be charged by quantity rather than by person). If their package does not include beverages or tableware, you’ll need to make a plan to purchase and distribute those items yourself or factor in the extra cost if they offer it as an add on. You’ll also want clear expectations for when you’ll need to pay for everything.
6. Do you offer allergen free, gluten free, vegetarian or vegan options?
There may be guests on your list that have allergies you and your fiance don’t know about, so it’s good to have an answer to this question in case the need arises.
7. Will your staff serve the meal and provide cleanup?
This is an important detail that may be easy to forget. While every caterer will need to get the food to you in some way, you’ll want to know whether or not you’ll need to organize help for setup and serving, and if there will be help available for cleanup after the meal. While it is possible (and tempting) to rely on your guests to clean up their own dinner messes, don’t expect that to be the case unless you’ve given specific direction to do so.
8. How much staff will be present and how will they be dressed?
If you have a wedding dress code, you’ll want the catering staff to fit in. You’ll also need to make sure that there will be enough staff members to serve your group size in a reasonable amount of time. Nobody needs a table of hangry guests watching other guests eat without them!
9. Will we be taking home any leftovers?
Whether you go with a buffet or plated meal, you’re more than likely to have leftovers at the end of the meal. Some caterers will let you take this food with you, in which case you’ll need to determine ahead of time if you need to arrange for someone to pack that up or if it will be taken care of for you as part of the service you pay for.
10. Is there anything you need to know about the kitchen area at my venue?
If you find a seasoned wedding caterer, chances are that they have served reception food at your venue before. If they haven’t, you may need to get them a description or tour of the space they’ll need to use on the day of your wedding.
11. When do you need the final guest count?
This will usually come very close to your wedding date, but it’s definitely something to mark on the calendar so you don’t forget!
12. Do you do food and/or wedding cake tastings?
Food tastings are a great way to be confident in what you choose, and they’re fun to do! There may be an extra charge for one, so be sure to ask before you schedule.
13. Can you provide the rehearsal dinner as well?
If you don’t already have other plans for a rehearsal dinner, it may be a wise investment to include it in your catering package. Taking everyone involved in your day-before rehearsal to a restaurant can get pricey, so it’s worth talking with your caterer about packages that may include that food at a better price or a discount.
14. What is your cancellation policy?
Hopefully you never have to do anything with this information, but it’s good to have before signing any contract. Especially now, we all know how unexpected events can arise and completely throw our plans off their original course. Knowing what your options are if you need to change plans will help make the process less painful.
15. Who will we be working with on the day of our wedding?
Some catering companies have a large staff and can accommodate multiple events on the same day. Seeing unexpected people at your wedding can be confusing and throw a wrench in your timeline, so find out ahead of time if you’ll know the person in charge of your meal and who to expect if not.
We hope these questions help you as you plan for the once in a lifetime event! If you have any other questions or want to find out if Zest Catering could be the right caterer for you and view our menu, check out ZestCateringCo.com.