As planners, we are asked so many questions by our couples during planning, but sometimes we like to offer advice before it’s asked (or you even think to ask!). We assembled some of our top questions to ask your caterer during an initial catering meeting or tasting. These questions will keep the lines of communication clear and help to avoid any ‘I didn’t know that’ moments right before or during your wedding reception. This list is by no means exhaustive, but a good starting point.
Questions to ask at your intital visit (before you book):
Can you customize my menu? If there are important menu items you don’t see on their list of choices, inquire if they can be switched with another dish or ingredient, as well as customized for dietary needs (i.e. gluten free or vegan). If a catering company is also part of a restaurant they may be able to use items from their restaurant menu if they are a favorite of yours.
If we have a special family recipe, would you be able to duplicate it? If your grandma’s cherry pie is one of your favorite desserts, but your venue doesn’t allow outside food to be brought in, inquire if the chef could duplicate Grandma’s recipe. Suggest it prior to your tasting so you can sample.
Is a food tasting included or is there a fee? Likely a food tasting is included for the bride and groom, but the venue may charge an additional fee for anyone else joining you.
Do you remove your own trash? Make sure there is a plan for all of the trash after the wedding. If at a venue, this will be the responsibility of the catering staff. If you are hosting at a private estate, establish a plan with the catering company about trash responsibilities when the event concludes.
If linens are included, can I choose the color? Are they floor length or lap length? Ask the venue or catering manager if they include linens on their tables, as well as the color & type, and length. Some venues don’t provide linens, or if they do, they aren’t the color you prefer or don’t fall all the way to the floor (instead just your lap and expose the table legs).
Is kitchen equipment included in your quote? For example, if you are using an off-site catering company to host your wedding at a private estate, some catering companies include all of the kitchen equipment (warmers, ovens, etc) in their quote, while others don’t and require you to rent on their behalf. Asking ahead of time saves a lot of stress the day of the event.
If overtime hours end up being required, will you ask me or my planner for permission? If you choose to extend your reception past the originally quoted time the night of your wedding, this may require additional fees (to pay servers and bartenders). It’s good to know ahead of time so you don’t have any surprises on your final bill.
Is it your policy to allow a tip jar on the bar? Will you ask me before hand for permission? Another thing to discuss prior to the day of your wedding. If you prefer a tip jar not be on the bar, make sure the staff is aware of this ahead of time.
Questions to ask at your tasting:
Is this the serving size/portion that my guests will be served on the wedding day? A tasting is designed not only for you to taste what you and your guests will eat at your wedding, but to have a visual of how it is served. As each catering company handles their tastings differently, ask about the portion size guests will receive per plate (this applies to plated dinners, buffets, food stations and hors d’ouevres).
How do you ensure that our food is served at the right temperature? This is important to ask not only for food safety, but in the case that your food is being prepared at a food station instead outside of a kitchen (i.e. omlette station or sushi bar) or being stationed outdoors. A professional catering company will have experienced staff to know when food is prepared correctly and fully cooked regardless of where it is prepared.
What attire does your service staff wear? We find that most catering companies are dressed professionally or in uniforms on the day of the event, but depending on the level of formality at your wedding, you may request the service staff be dressed to match that (i.e. black tie). This can go the same for vendors, such as your band- if you are having a country themed rehearsal dinner, suggest that the band members dress in similar attire vs. black tie.
How many servers do you provide for my guest list size? This is important to ask when hosting a plated dinner. We expect your guests to be served when the meal is hot and for guests to not have to wait for their food, as well as have their plates cleared in a timely manner when the next course is being served or the meal is finished. You should expect 1 server to cover 1-2 tables, not your entire reception.
There can be additional questions specific to your wedding or event, so keep a list and don’t be afraid to ask your catering manager or planner before the big day! Did we miss something? Email us at [email protected] or comment below!