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Casual or formal, sit down or buffet—food is a big part of any event budget. Although it may seem like the most fun vendor to hire (especially for a wedding, tastings, yay!), hiring a caterer can actually be very stressful.
Not only are there a lot of industry terms to decipher (wait, what does plated mean again and what's a charger? What does full service cover?), but each event catering company has their own way of breaking down the bill so it can be hard to compare quotes.
You could ask "have you worked at our venue before" but then what? You want to ask a question that will engage the caterer and give you a sense of the company's professionalism. If they have never worked at your venue (or if the venue is your own home), you can ask them what qualities they like best in a venue.
You may also want to ask them what are the pluses and minuses of each option. Although buffets are generally less expensive, depending on the type of food you serve they may not always be significantly less expensive.
If your caterer is only interested in a formal sit down meal and you're planning an informal country style bar-b-q, you'll want to look elsewhere. Are you looking to have a cocktail hour and passed hors d’oeuvres? You’ll want to clarify those additional food costs too.
Typically, for a sit down dinner you'll have one or two waiters per table, which means either a one to five or one to eight ratio for staff to guests. You would need fewer waiters for a buffet. But, if the caterer recommends a one to three ratio, they may be a little pricer than you had in mind. If they recommend a one to twelve ratio, service might not be that great.
With a reputable catering company, you can trust their recommendations, as they know their services and capabilities best, to ensure you’ll have a memorable event.
This is one of the things that makes it difficult to compare catering bids. One company's price might include food, drink, and place settings. Another, just food and still another food and drink only. Before making a decision based on price, make sure you understand what that price includes.
Do you absolutely LOVE the person you've been working with? Are they so on top of things with so many great ideas and easy fixes? Wouldn't it be a shame if he or she is not the on-site manager for the event? You definitely want to outline who the catering staff will be attending your event.
These questions will help you get at some of the more common budget pitfalls with caterers, and also assess if the caterer is a good fit for you and your event. It's important to remember that some venues only allow their own catering service. This is almost always the case with hotels.
If you’re interested in a venue like this, it's important to speak to the catering manager and do a tasting before deciding on the venue. Other venues have an approved list of caterers from which you must choose. Before deciding on your venue, make sure that at least one of the caterers on the list is both within your budget and to your liking.
If you’re hosting the event at a neutral location, or even your own home, you can hire caterers on The Bash.