Choosing your wedding caterers can be challenging, confusing and frustrating. There are a lot of factors to consider and you need to be sure you’re selecting the right people for the job. Here’s some advice to help make this difficult decision a bit easier for you.
Do your research
There are a lot of companies out there who can offer wedding and event catering. Some are external caterers who specialise in catering at different venues and challenging locations. Others might be restaurants that offer external catering for special occasions, but might not necessarily be as experienced. You need to make sure that you select a company with relevant experience for your particular event. There’s no point in asking your favourite local restaurant to cater your ‘marquee in the middle of a field’ wedding if they’ve never done it before! Image sourced here.
Also, don’t just jump in head first and pick someone based on the cheapest price per head, you really need to assess how much they engage with you. If you receive generic email responses, encounter delays with inquiries or feel as though they don’t really care, maybe look somewhere else. Once you’ve decided on a few possible companies, organise some face to face consultations to discuss your special day.
*Top Tip* If you’re dealing with a company and you feel as though you’re being ignored, or they simply aren’t listening to your requests, walk away. Your money is better spent elsewhere.
Do ask questions
When you sit down for a consultation with your potential caterers, you’ll have a million and one things you want to ask them. But be sure you make a list, and cover all the important points. It’s easy to get swept away discussing delicious menus but forget about the boring, yet important logistics.
Consider your venue first – whereabouts are you getting married, and how will this affect the caterers? Take our venue for example, caterers have a long old walk from the ground floor kitchens, along the corridor and up a flight of stairs before they get to our function rooms. They can use one of the function rooms as a plating up area but this of course affects how things run on the day. You need to make sure your caterers really understand where they’ll be preparing, plating and serving food as this will have an impact of the type of menu they should design for your event. They might also need to hire in cooking/refrigeration equipment which will have a cost implication for you.
*Top Tip* If your caterers have a long way to walk from the kitchens to serve at the table, consider dishes with cold components – maybe some home cured meats, Quiche and a seasonal salad?
The success of your day can often be in the hands of your caterers, so make sure you feel happy about their level of expertise. How many staff will they be bringing for your event? Do they have a Front of House Manager to coordinate the day? If you’re not having a Toastmaster, can they offer this service instead? It is also worth organising a meeting with the caterers and the venue to make sure all bases are covered in terms of jobs on the day.
*Top Tip* Consider the nature of external catering companies – do they use regular staff, or do they outsource and use temping agencies? Restaurant teams might be less experienced with logistics, but work as a staffing unit on a daily basis.
Do explain your theme and vision
You’ve spent months agonising over your wedding theme and ensuring it looks perfect on the day. But will your caterers and staff fit the part too? Do they have a strict uniform policy that they will enforce? It might sound shallow but you don’t want scruffy staff ruining your grand plans. Also, if you have specific era theme, see if they can incorporate some authentic dishes into your menu, rather than a generic roast dinner! Organise a tasting session to make sure the food suits your vision. Image sourced here. Check out my previous post on era inspired food for some inspiration too!
*Top Tip* A nice touch might be asking all the waiting staff to wear a splash of your wedding colour theme. Would they be able to wear a coloured tie or shirt? See how accommodating your caterers can be. Image sourced here.
Do the maths
This is probably the most important tip on this whole page – make sure you know exactly how much you’re going to be billed for, before you sign on the dotted line. Good catering companies will draw up a contract and proposal of services offered. This is a document that you should thoroughly read through (don’t just skip through like you would normally when reading the small print!) and make sure you aren’t going to get ripped off. A wonderful wedding day can be ruined by a monumental, and unexpected, bill afterwards. Check the following things –
- Price per head for menus (What does this include?)
- Equipment List and Costs (Can you source cheaper elsewhere?)
- Staffing Costs (Is this reasonable?)
- Cancellations and Alterations (Is there a cut off point, what are the cost implications?)
- Damages (Are you liable for breakages? If so, how much will you be charged?)
- Payment Terms
*Top Tip* Check how much you’re being charged for table linen hire. I’ve known of caterers charging £10.00+ per tablecloth, which is disgusting! Venues may have them in stock already, and you could probably buy them for less money!!
Do check their paperwork
You need to make sure that your caterers are a legitimate business, ask to check their public liability insurance and food hygiene certificates – make sure these are in date. Also, if you can source a genuine reference, this would be strongly recommended. Try and speak to a previous client and double check the company delivered on their promises – don’t just believe the gushy quotes on their glitzy website.
Lots to think about – I’m a bit stuck! Can you help me?
If you’re puzzled or concerned, or just need a bit of friendly help from someone in the biz, please feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org for some impartial advice.
I’d love to hear your comments below too.