Catering Tips: 11 Questions to Ask a Potential Caterer
If you’re hosting an upcoming event or special occasion in your life, you’ve likely already realized just how many important decisions go into planning the ideal party. You’ll need a venue that matches your style and the mood of the event, decor, and lighting that complements both the venue and the occasion, and perhaps even music, a photographer, or videographer for those extra-special occasions. No matter what your event, however, one of the most important decisions you’ll make involves the food and drink you’ll serve.
Regardless of the time of day, you want to offer your guests the right provisions and ensure there is something for everyone. Because of this, it’s essential to have a selection of food and drink available. Hiring a caterer is the best possible way to ensure your guests have access to delicious fare and impeccable service when necessary. It also frees up your time, so you won’t have to spend your event fussing over the food table. However, choosing a caterer is not an easy decision.
How Do You Choose a Caterer? Start By Asking Questions
One of the most important avenues to determine if a caterer is right for you and your event is the interview. You don’t always need to schedule an in-person interview – phone or email can work just fine – but if the caterer has a brick and mortar location, a first-hand glance at their business is often handy. Be sure to ask these questions before making your final decision:
- What is your availability? There’s no sense in continuing the conversation if your event date is set in stone and the caterer is already booked on the date in question. However, rarely, caterers may find some wiggle room in the schedule or may suggest a time change or venue change if you’re willing to be flexible.
- Can you cater my event within my budget? This is another must-have conversation early in the interview. If you find your budget just can’t cover all the items on your must-have list, you may need to either make some compromises or find another caterer.
- What is your specialty? Most likely, if you’ve done your research and perused the caterer’s website, social media, and reviews, you have a general idea regarding the caterer’s niche. Still, this question is a great way of determining whether the caterer’s best dishes align with the vision you have for your event. If the caterer typically prepares authentic Italian fare and formal plated dinners, he or she may not be an ideal choice for your pastry luncheon.
- Can you handle my special requests? If you have special considerations such as allergies, gluten sensitivities, vegetarian guests, child guests, and more, you’ll want to ensure your caterer can handle these important requests. In addition, if you have a particular dish you’d like served that is not on the caterer’s menu, now is the time to ask if they can accommodate your wishes.
- Do you offer tastings? If you’re in the midst of choosing the ideal menu for your event, the ability to see and taste the caterer’s offerings is key, especially if you haven’t previously attended an event the company has catered. Some caterers offer complimentary tastings, while some include a small fee in the final quoted price.
- How many events do you cater to per month? Per year? While caterers working out of a brick and mortar store may have been in the catering business for a number of years, some cater so infrequently that it can be difficult to get a good read on experience level from years in the business alone. Find out how many and the frequency of the events the caterer has handled, and you’ll have a good idea regarding their expertise.
- Have you catered an event at my venue? Venues often have their own idiosyncrasies involving their requirements for outside caterers, and it helps if your caterer has experience with those particular to your venue. In addition, essential knowledge regarding the kitchen facilities, power supply, work surfaces, and any other venue-specific information is always useful to avoid surprises on the day of your event.
- What is the typical timeline you follow? Based on your event type, it is important to determine when the caterer will need to arrive, how long service will last, and how long clean-up will take. Of course, this will depend on the type of food you’re serving, your guest count, and a few other factors, but the caterer should be able to supply you with an approximation of how a service typically proceeds.
- Can I make changes to the guest count, menu, and timing? While your event is in the planning stages, you may not have answers to some of the most important questions your caterer will have for you regarding these issues. However, making changes too late in the process can result in additional expenses or may not be possible at all after a given cut-off date. Be sure to ask your caterer about his or her cutoff date.
What do your fees include? Even if you’ve determined your budget allows for the particular food and drink you’ve chosen, you’ll need to ask your caterer what else is included in his or her quoted price. Anything else identified may be available for an extra charge or may need to be supplied by you or your venue. Commonly, fees may include:
- Service fees
- Service staff
- Drink service (for poured water or beverages)
- Tables and chairs
- Dish and silverware rental
- Serving dishes
- Trash cans and disposal services
- What is your cancellation policy? In the event that some unforeseen circumstances arise and you are no longer able to host your event, or your caterer is somehow unable to fulfill their responsibilities, you’ll want to make sure you’re protected. When you’re drawing up your contract, including the cancellation procedure and associated penalties for both sides.
Taking the time to find the right caterer is an essential part of planning your ideal event and knowing the right questions to ask can save you time and stress once the big day arrives. While there are no specific right or wrong answers to any of these questions, it is important that you and your caterer agree to the answers before signing a contract.
For unique, professional catering of your breakfast, lunch, wedding event or corporate gathering in the Charlotte area, Sunflour Baking Company is your number one choice. Call any location by phone or view our catering ordering form for more information.