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Before You Sign With A Caterer To Host Your Catered Event

Mar 28, 2008
Before you sign a decision or sign with a caterer to host your event, there are a number of simple basic questions that should be asked of the caterer. After all it's your special occasion -whether it is a wedding, social event or other planned catered and hosted events. In addition you are the one holding the bills and paying for the shot.

First what is the final food price? Caterers usually quote an estimated price based on food prices at that time. About ninety days before the wedding (or other event), they should give you the final price reflecting current food rates. Thus it is good practice, early on, to specifically and clearly ask for an estimate on how much the price will change between the estimated figure and the actual costs. For example , why be placed in a precarious position of being slid in a final bill of $ 30 a place setting, if the estimate was only $ 19 per head). Specifically ask about price and pricing guarantees.

Don't assume about the type of meal served being offered. Options and non standard additional types may be available on request if you ask and prepare in advance. Common arrangements are sitdown, buffet and stations. Again if you ask ahead of time, leaving time for planning and preparation logistics alternate forms such as "Russian" may well be available. The type of service referred to in the trade as "Russian" is where the food is brought out on large platters by specially trained serving staff. The waiters either serve each person from the platter or hold the platter while guests serve themselves. No matter to what degree of elegance or simplicity you ask for and desire, you had better ensure that your caterer can provide and ultimately deliver the product to your standards.

It is always best to have the caterer show their best wares. Are there several meal options? Every professional knows their real flair and merits. . You don't go to a steakhouse to be serviced pizza.. In the same means almost let the caterer choose the meal plan in this regard. The professional caterer will recognize and know their strong as well as weak points in terms of meal choices and presentations. As a corollary of this, if you choose to have a special type of cuisine, it may be best to choose a foods or hospitality shop that specializes in that specific area of food, beverage or entertainment.

It is wise to ask and consider if the catering service covered. If you are on counting on them to provide liquor and other alcoholic beverages such as beer and wine, do they have liability insurance to cover accidents that could possibly occur after the wedding as a result of impaired driving and the like? Legal liquor permits must be provided as well.

In terms of the quality of serving staff and coverage ask and insist on a given ratio of staff to your planned guests. You can ask within the industry and to friends, what a reasonable serving/ catering staff ratio to guest list should be. Next asked about the dress code that is enforced for catering and serving staff. Best to be professional in appearances/

Interestingly in our day and age guests are now not afraid to voice their concerns regarding specific requests for specific meals types for health or cultural reasons. Among those specifically requested both at banquets and on airline services are low cholesterol, vegetarian, gluten free and kosher meals types both for Jewish and Moslem guests.

Other staff members of your event must be served as well. Will meals be provided for your band, disc jockey, photographers and videoographers? Of course these professionals cannot do their jobs well if hungry.

For wedding it is wise to ask if you can have a one stop shopping / catering experience if the caterer can provide the wedding cake and / or the pastry tables. Again clarify costs.

Ask to view the tableware and linens for quality and colors before your event begins. Don't be afraid to ask and clarify if the caterer's fees include the extra gratuities for the staff. If you do not ask and clarify this point you may well be awarded with an extra invoice or invoiced costs down the line. Also ask about the costs of room attendants, bartenders, and others who may be covering your receptions. Wine corkage fees are one other consideration, which may arise later "out of the blue".

One last point that few think of when planning a catering event - is what happens if the event has to be canceled. No one ever plans such an eventuality or hopes for it. However in this day and age you never know what can occur - whether it is major summer storms or a major winter snowfall blizzard fresh from Canada. What are the caterer's refund policies - both in terms of the actual event, its costs and any deposits you have paid?

In the end in dealing with catering a major event - whether it be a wedding , reception , business meeting or other catered event it is always the best policy to have the contract in writing as opposed to a verbal unsigned contract.
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