For a lot of weddings food is one of the most important parts of the wedding reception. It’s not something you want messed up! That’s why you should have a list of questions to ask a wedding caterer when you meet with them. Just like hiring anyone else in life, this is an interview! The job? Feeding the guests on one of the most important days of your life.
I’ll never forget being a little kid and waking up the morning after my cousin’s wedding to find my dad sick in the bathroom. He told all of us he ate some bad chicken… Which in this case happened to be red wine.
But imagine having all your guests complaining about actual food poisoning on social media the next morning, not hangovers! That’s why hiring a professional caterer is important.
Before you meet with your caterer
Do some research about pricing in your area and try and set a budget per person or for the entire wedding based on that. You don’t want to cheap out when it comes to food, but you can choose chicken over lobster to save on costs.
You should also have a list written down of things to ask your caterer with space to record the answers. It can be a bit overwhelming the first time you discuss your wedding’s food needs and trust me, you won’t remember all the details.
Questions to ask a potential wedding caterer
What sort of experience do you have?
This is the question I ask every service based professional I interview. Why? Time in an industry and quality of service aren’t synonymous, nor is all experience the same. If your caterer hasn’t had a lot of experience with weddings you might not get the same level (or style) of service as a more seasoned professional.
Then again, giving a newbie a chance can also help your wallet. If you trust that their skills are there you might be able to negotiate a better deal in exchange for some recommendations.
What’s the facility like that you prepare food in?
I know a bride who put a request for caterers on Facebook hoping to get someone local. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of people advertising their services who don’t have a professional kitchen at their disposal. Besides any health and safety concerns, you need a lot of equipment (and potentially staff) to feed a crowd!
If you can tour the kitchen it’s even better. Look for cleanliness and signs of proper hygiene. Some people do make full on commercial kitchens in their homes, or have professional home based operations. Again, trust your instincts on this one.
What’s included in the cost?
Of course you know you’ll be talking about pricing. But one of the most overlooked aspects of a price is what’s actually included and what you’ll be paying extra for (or missing out on). A caterer that seems more expensive might provide clean up services or servers, for example.
A major thing to question is the inclusion of a midnight supper. It’s customary (and in some places mandatory) to serve a late-evening meal to your wedding guests. Usually it’s meats, cheese, sandwiches, or similar finger foods. Some brides and grooms elect to DIY and others purchase from a grocery store, but the simplest solution is to have your caterer include it.
What are their staff like?
There’s so many different things to consider when it comes to your caterer’s staff. Do they have a dedicated chef that will be preparing your dinner? Do they arrive in professional attire, or set up your buffet in jeans and a t-shirt?
If the staff members will have any interaction with guests you’re going to want to make sure they have a professional and formal appearance.
Can they provide any additional waiter services
Speaking of staff, what else can they do for you? Depending on how formal your wedding is, you’re going to want to make sure your caterer does all the serving for your guests. Or at least be aware if they don’t.
Some other services you can request are French Service, where waiters carry trays around with appetizers, desserts, or drinks while your guests mingle.
Do you have speciality diet options?
If you or your guests have food allergies, sensitivities, or special dietary needs you want to make sure they’re taken care of. If you’re serving a seated, full service meal then it’s easy to put these options on the invitation. Otherwise, make sure you buffet has plenty of options.
Common specialty diets are: Food allergies, vegetarian or vegan, gluten-free, and low-carb or diabetic.
How will the food get to your guests?
It all depends on the venue, the caterer, and the style of food you’ll be serving. Some places have full kitchens your caterer can use, others have to bring it to your location. Are there fees associated with that? Is the distance within their delivery range?
Once it’s at your venue how will the guests be served? Does the caterer provide all serving and clean up, or do you need to make arrangements?
Will they supply any beverages?
Often this is a question for your bar, not the caterer, but some do offer beverage services. Confirm the details of this like whether it’s just with the meal or all night champagne. Also check how you’ll be charged and see if they can offer some kind of bill estimate.
It’s not uncommon for caterers to at least supply and serve a wine of your choice with dinner (at your expense). They might also serve water, soda, or juice at your request.
Can you do a food tasting
If you’re happy with your caterer but want to make sure the food is just right, most caterers offer a tasting. Now, how this works varies from caterer to caterer which is why you have to ask the question.
Some only allow a tasting after you’ve entered in a contract and paid your deposit. Usually those are complimentary, but not always. Some (with or without a contract) offer tastings at a cost. Finally, others will offer free tastings to anyone seriously considering their services.
If your caterer also owns a restaurant you might be able to discuss with them what might be similar to your wedding food options on the menu. Then go out for dinner to taste on your own!
Will they make the cake?
Some caterers also offer bakery services, while others don’t. If yours does, talk about options and potential cost savings of bundling the catering and cake together.
If you already have a baker in mind, let the caterer know! But like with anything it’s good to have options. See about other desserts that can be provided for those who don’t care for wedding cake.
Other important questions to ask a wedding caterer
- A total cost estimate including any extras
- Their availability for your date
- How much the deposit is and when it needs to be paid
- When the balance needs to be paid
- What is your involvement through the process
- A list of all food options
- Are there options for kids
- Can they cater the rehearsal dinner or gift opening?
Hopefully you find the perfect wedding caterer match to make your wedding truly special.