You’ve booked a venue, invited your guests, organised the beverages – ticked many of the important boxes when it comes to planning your next event. But for many the biggest question is – what will we eat!?
Finding a good caterer who provides great food and covers everything you need can be confusing. Many caterers are seemingly affordable on first glance however the more questions you ask, the more you realise that there are a lot of additional costs. Often you don’t realise everything you need until your event is well underway and you realise everything you need is not there!
Catering Catering owner, Merv Pratt has shared the questions he thinks you should be asking when sourcing food catering for your next event. His 10 questions will make even the novice event planner appear to be a pro
Do I have to stick to your listed menus?
Many food caterers will have pre-arranged menus – especially if you are looking for more budget conscious catering. These are generally carefully compiled to cater to a wide range of occasions and taste preferences. Some catering companies are very rigid with their menus and do not deviate. Others, including Catering Catering are happy to tailor menus to suit client needs. Be mindful that it can sometimes be difficult to tailor menus during peak times.
Can you cater to special dietary requirements?
Most caterers should be able to cater to specific requests. Perhaps a red flag if they cannot. Be sure to ask your guests to indicate if they have any special dietary requirements when they RSVP. Knowing this information before your event will ensure they are well catered for. Make sure you find out exactly what your caterer can and can’t provide. For example at Catering Catering we cater to vegans, vegetarians, coeliacs and common allergies. All of our meat is Halal (not pork and ham obviously). It’s always smart to ask how the company approaches special requirements, especially last minute.
What menu do you recommend?
You will likely have some ideas on what food you would like at your event but be sure to ask your caterer what they would recommend. Tap into their expertise and experience. They may have ideas you haven’t thought of. If you are on a tight budget, they can offer tips on menu options that may be more in line with what you are able to spend. Look for a caterer that is flexible. Getting married? Who says you have to choose from one or two specific wedding menus – why not be able to choose a gourmet BBQ menu for your beach wedding? Ask for recommendations and gauge the level of flexibility your caterer has in working with your requirements, venue etc.
When should we have speeches / our presentations?
Look for a food provider who is happy to work in with whatever you feel is best for your event. The last thing you want is a caterer who tells you that you must serve dinner before any formalities and start the food service at 5.30pm (maybe because they want to get home early). Sure you will get onto those speeches by 7 but your guests will be hungry again before the night is over. Your event, your rules – look for a company who will work in with your preferences.
How many staff will you provide?
We like to answer this with “As many as it takes”. The last thing you want is people left queueing for unreasonable periods of time, or sitting at a table waiting because your caterer is short staffed. Staffing levels depend on the menu being served, whether your guests are eating a sit down dinner, buffet style or finger food. It also depends on the venue. So ensure you chat to your catering company about staffing, and that you are both comfortable that the number they specify is sufficient.
How does your pricing work? Are there any additional fees?
Probably THE most important question to ask. Some caterers have a lot of additional charges and it can be difficult to work out what these are before you confirm your order. They will cost a menu very low but then charge for tables, table cloths, staff, overtime etc. When seeking quotes from different catering companies be sure to ask what is (and isn’t) included. Ask what, if any, are additional costs. At Catering Catering our philosophy is that clients always know exactly what they are up for and to ensure that there will never be any surprises. If there are any additional costs they are always discussed up front. A good tip is to ask “How much do I have to write my cheque out for?”
Do you provide glassware?
Different catering companies have different inclusions. If glasses are a requirement, make sure you ask how much this will cost as many caterers will provide glassware, but at a premium. We always recommend sourcing glassware from an external vendor. Alternatively for the budget conscious there is always the option to provide this yourself.
Can you provide bar staff?
If you need bar staff, ask your caterer whether they are included or can be included at an additional cost. Quite often it is easier to have your caterer provide bar staff – it’s one less thing for you to worry about AND they will likely already work with bar staff who have experience in the game.
Have you ever catered an event at my chosen venue, or one similar?
Employing a catering company who has experience at your venue can have its advantages. But don’t rule them out because they haven’t. It is always just good to know. If they have catered there before, it can be a plus. They know the space, they know the people etc. Your venue may be outside – at the beach, a park – again don’t be afraid to ask potential caterers if they have catered at these types of locations before.
How many other events will you be catering to on my chosen date?
Be wary of caterers who over book, more focused on profits than ensuring your event is a culinary success. It is not unusual for catering companies to have multiple events on in the one day, just make sure they aren’t over booked which may put your event in jeopardy. Having an up front conversation with your caterer will ensure you have a level of comfort that they can successfully deliver what you need.
Have other questions you have found valuable to ask when looking for a caterer? We’d love you to share them in the comments sections below. Just remember the only dumb question is the one you don’t ask. Be wary of a caterer who is not happy to answer your questions.