Ballroom and Table Setup

10 Questions to Ask Before Choosing a Caterer

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Whether you’re throwing a hundred-person luncheon or a small intimate dinner party, the menu you choose for your next event is of the utmost importance. After all, the last thing you want to happen is your guest list badmouthing your soiree if you leave a bad taste in their mouth.

Rather than dealing with the stress of selecting a menu, shopping for ingredients, prep, cooking, and cleaning up, numerous event hosts opt to hire a caterer instead. However, just because you’re paying someone else to do all the work, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be part of the process. Before you pick up the phone or visit the website of that caterer you’ve had your eye on, check out these questions BizBash recommends asking to ensure they’re the right fit…

1. What’s your specialty fare?

This might seem like a no-brainer, but it should always be at the top of your list. If you’re hoping to serve a hearty Italian meal, but the catering company specializes in Thai food, you might want to look elsewhere.

2. How well do you accommodate allegories and dietary restrictions?

These days, many people have food allergies and dietary restrictions. These can range from kosher and vegan to gluten-free and vegetarian. If you know someone on the guest list needs a special meal, make sure the caterer can accommodate him or her. Meanwhile, for larger events it’s customary to offer a vegetarian alternative regardless. 

3. Where does your food come from?

With an increased focus on buying local foods, ask your caterer this important question. Even if you have no preference between Perdue chicken or local free-range hens, your guests might.

4. Are you properly licensed, including health permits and liability insurance?

This question isn’t nearly as fun as questions about the menu, but its one of the most important. A caterer without the proper health permits and insurance should probably be avoided.

5. What workspace do you require?

Once a caterer arrives on site, they will need the proper workspace to make final preparations to the menu. Generally if you have adequate water and electrical provisions in a well-ventilated space, they should be good to go. A site visit from the caterer well before the event date should clear up any questions.

6. Does your proposal include rentals?

If your caterer needs to rent any additional supplies, which can include everything from an event tent to a deep fryer, make sure the cost is included with the initial quote. If not, this could have a big impact on your bottom line.

7. Does your staff have a uniform?

You’ve carefully selected tablecloths, place settings, and centerpiece designs; so don’t forget to ask what the caterer’s staff will be wearing. Depending on your event, their uniform could clash with your party’s theme.   

8. What’s your tipping policy?

Avoid an awkward interaction and ask your caterer about their tipping policy upfront. While most staff will appreciate a little something on top, management might have different expectations.

9. Can you accommodate vendor meals, and is there an added cost?

With a large event, you’ll probably have a number of other vendors, such as a valet service, on site. See if your caterer will provide extra meals and at what cost.

10. What’s your leftovers policy?

Food disposal policies come in all forms. Some caterers will donate large portions of untouched items to non-profits, while others offer guests to-go bags.

With these valuable questions in your arsenal, your next event is bound to be a success.

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