Calling The Caterer

What You Need to Tell the Caterer

You may not yet know the answers to some of the following but that's ok. For example, perhaps you haven't decided what style of service or type of menu you're interested in but you are able to tell the caterer that the event will be mid-afternoon and that you are expecting 150 guests. Perhaps the caterer has worked in that venue several times before and knows that the venue only comfortably seats 100. Since it's a mid-afternoon event, the caterer might suggest that you consider a heavy hors d'oeuvre service instead of a buffet or seated meal.

The more information you can give the caterer, the more detailed proposal the caterer will be able to provide:

  1. The occasion
  2. The date and time of the event
  3. The location
  4. Approximate number of guests
  5. Style of service: Buffet, Seated, Hors d'oeuvre, etc.
  6. Special menu requests (ethnic inclusions, dietary restrictions, "favorites")
  7. Your own vision of your special event
  8. Your preferences for beverage service

What You Need to Ask the Caterer

Of course, you should expect to receive your ultimate proposal in black and white but there are some questions you should ask before you even get that far:
  1. Does the caterer have a health permit? By law, every caterer must have a health permit which means they work out of a government inspected kitchen. Ask for a copy. If they can't furnish you with one, call someone else.
  2. Does the caterer have a certificate of insurance they can furnish you? This is as important as a health permit as this covers general liability, liquor liability, auto, and worker's compensation.
  3. How long has the caterer been in business? Unfortunately, if you were to pick up a phone book from five years ago, you will see a plethora of catering services that were listed then but have since "disappeared". Catering is a tough business and one that depends greatly on consistent and reliable quality. With an experienced caterer, you are left to relax.
  4. What is their policy on tastings? If you have not had the opportunity to taste their food, you should inquire about doing so. Many caterers offer private or group tastings for those planning full service events. Group tastings are generally offered for free to qualified clients. For private tastings, some caterers charge a fee, some do so but it's refundable if you book their services, and some do not charge at all if you are already booked.
  5. What are their terms and conditions regarding count guarantees, deposits, and cancellation policies? These should be incorporated directly into the contract for your event but these are important questions to ask up front.