10 Questions to Ask When Hiring a Caterer
What services are included and not included?
Each caterer will include different things - items that may be different from caterer to caterer are staffing levels (more on this later), linens, dinnerware, flatware, and drinkware. Some include take home boxes of leftover food. Asking this questions will help highlight unknowns that may not be mentioned otherwise.
What is your staff to guest ratio?
Here are the rations you should generally look for:
§ Buffet: One server to 18 to 25 guests
§ Family-style: One server to 15 to 20 guests
§ Plated: One server to 12 to 15 guests
Have you catered at my venue before, and are you okay with their kitchen space?
Just like every caterer is different, every venue is different. If your caterer needs a refrigerator/freezer to keep something cool you may need to confirm your venue has that. Most venues simply have a room with electrical access and some have full kitchens. Ensure your caterer is familiar with the venue and has what they need.
Do you have china or handle renting it?
Not all caterers provide the china for your event. Be sure to ask and if they do not, ask if they have any requirements. If you're considering disposable china you may need to know if a dish is particularly heavy or tends to seep through disposable china.
Do you clean, sweep, mop, handle busing, trash, etc.?
Someone will need to complete these items and it's no fun to have to clean up after your vendors. Ensure they will be cleaning up their area and plan to bus after dinner.
Do you cut and serve cake?
If your dessert requires cutting, ensure you have someone designated to do this task on your day. Most caterers will do this. If they do cut and serve, be sure to ask if it is an additional charge.
Are you able to accommodate special dietary restrictions?
This is very important, be sure to understand what dietary restrictions they can accommodate. This will be important on your RSVPs as well. If you allow someone to mark they are vegan but do not have vegan options this can be problematic on the day of. And everyone should get to eat!
When do we need to submit our final headcount?
Every caterer will be different on this, you'll need to know to ensure you receive all of your RSVPs in time to report this number.
Can you provide kid’s meals?
It's good to ask if kid's meals are an option. If you're have bone in chicken, that can be hard to feed a child. It can often be helpful and cost effective to have kid meal options.
How do you handle leftovers?
As I mentioned above, you will want to know if they provide left overs to you, if they pack them up, or if they donate them to local food banks. It's incredibly important to consider the sustainability of a caterer and this question helps understand that.
Photography by Lindsay Miller Photography