Friday, November 18, 2011
Interview Questions for your Wedding Caterer
When you start out to look for a caterer, you should have an idea of the amount of wedding guests you will want to invite, you also need your targeted wedding date, and what your budget is for catering and what your budget is for other wedding categories, such as your wedding cake, reception facility, and rental services. You also should have an idea of what types of food you would like to serve at your wedding, but if you have no idea, many caterers can offer suggestions.
When you start out looking for caterers, before you meet with them in person, be sure they are available for the date of your wedding, can service the amount of guests you plan to have, and no higher than 25% of your budget, negotiations or adjustments or transferring money from another category can bring the price in line. Before signing a contract you should find 3 or 4 caterers to interview. Make sure the caterer is one that will be approved by your reception facility.
You can find caterers through wedding related websites, through upscale restaurants and hotels, asking around to family members and friends, through other wedding vendors, through yellow pages, and some are elsewhere in this blog. Upscale caterers can also be found through "The International Caterers Association" www.internationalcaterers.org and through "The National Association of Catering Executives" www.nace.net .
When you set up an interview meeting it's always wise to bring a friend, either a wedding planner, your maid of honor, your mother or father, a sister or brother, or a bridesmaid or a best friend. Your caterer costs will be determined by a number of factors; the number of wedding guests (you might include wedding vendors in addition), the number of courses, the food choices you will offer, the cost of ingredients, are their any rental needs that will add to the costs, the way the food is served (seated, buffet, or tray passed), the caterer's level of expertise and the amount of staff the caterer uses.
When choosing entrees for your wedding, being the wedding is an extra special occasion, the foods and presentation of foods should be foods that your wedding guests would rarely experience in their home. At most weddings, wedding couples provide three (if a big wedding four) entrees. The entrees being provided should be from different parts of the menu, for example, beef, pork, poultry, seafood, special type of pasta, international style of food. Also the meats and seafood should be prepared differently such as baked, grilled, fried, barbecued or casseroled. You don't want the foods to be similar to one another in order to accommodate a large range of tastes people have, increasing the chances of your guests enjoying their meal.
It is also important at weddings to have a delectable meal presentation of food on the plate, the meal besides tasting good, also must be eye appealing. Also with the meal, if it's in your budget it's a good idea to offer vegetables, and a starch and offer rolls or breads, soups and salads, fruit cups and sherbets. But if the budget is tight, the important thing is the entree and you can cut down on the extras.
The same situation goes with hors d'oeuvres served during cocktail hour. The hors d'oeuvres or appetizers should be food that are rarely ones served and eaten in your home. You should serve enough variety of foods so that your wedding guests will find a few that they like. For a wedding, you should try to avoid serving a messy hors d'oeuvre, ones that don't splatter a sauce, dressing, or grease on one's nice wedding dress, gown, or tuxedo. If the wedding is not so upscale, such as a beach or an outdoor wedding, this rule can be relaxed. Also make sure hors d'oeuvres are served with the proper small dishes, fancy napkins, cocktail forks, silverware teaspoon, or decorated toothpick.
When meeting with the caterer, find out what their specials and specialties are, and working within your budget, listen to the entrees they recommend, let them know your budget limitations and see if they can help you find a way to reduce costs. Ask for 3 referrals and when you talk to people that have tasted their food ask about what food they really liked prepared by the caterer, how was their service, how were they groomed and dressed, how was their communication skills and how they liked the presentation of food on their plate.
If you can, see the caterer in action, how they are organized, what is their process of serving food at a wedding or other event, try to get pictures of foods they have prepared, if it's food off of a website, is it one they made and prepared or is it just a picture from a photo shop. Also ask if they have a food presentation and/or a taste testing and if there is a taste testing, ask who can you bring along and what dates they have it, (usually it's on a day that is slower for the business) make a fun day out of the food tasting with a couple of close family or friends. Don't forget to pick up a price listing of entrees and hors d'oeuvres for you and your family to review before making your final decision.
Interview Questions for your Wedding Caterer
1-Get the caterer's business card, and if they have one a brochure also, also ask for the name of the catering company, the company's address, phone number, and website information.
2-Ask for the caterer's name and if their phone number is it's different from company phone number? is the caterer the main contact for the wedding?
3-Is the caterer available for our wedding date? if not can we able to change the date of the wedding? if not the interview is over?
4-How long has the caterer been in business?
5-How many weddings does the caterer work in a year? a month? a week? our wedding day?
6-Can the caterer handle the amount of wedding guests we plan to have at our wedding?
7-Might the caterer be providing services to other weddings or functions the day of our wedding?
8-How does the caterer like to communicate? phone? email? text messaging? other?
9-What types of foods does the caterer offer?
10-What is the caterers specialty dishes? signature dishes?
11-Does the caterer offer entrees in a number of price ranges?
12-Does the caterer provide a menu list and a sample menu that we can review?
13-How does the caterer determine their price for our wedding? based on price per person? based on price per plate? is it a fixed price?
14-What entrees does the caterer recommend for our price? identify three choices? (large weddings four)
15-Can the caterer be flexible working within our budget and offer suggestions to reduce the price if need be?
16-How involved is the caterer in the wedding reception? is the caterer involved more with preparation and outflow of food? is the caterer work more like a wedding coordinator or reception manager? adjust the food schedule? helping out with the wedding toast? helping with the cutting of the cake?, acting as emcee?
17-What does the caterer provide? tables? chairs? buffet tables? table linen? fine china and other plates and dishes? glasses? flatware? salt and pepper shakers? anything other?
18-Can we inspect any items that the caterer has available for the wedding?
19-Does the caterer rent any equipment? will we have to rent any equipment?
20-Does the caterer able to provide hors d'oeuvres or appetizers for the wedding? if so what hors d'oevres and appetizers does the caterer recommend? are servants available to offer hors d'oeuvres?
21-What foods that go along with the entree does the caterer recommend? what vegetables can the caterer include? what starch can the caterer include? can a salad be included? can a soup be included? can a fruit cup be included? can a sherbet be included? can bread and rolls be included? something other be included? do we have the option of not including extra food besides the entrees? (maybe just the vegetable)
22-Does the caterer include an option of a wedding cake? if there is an option to include a wedding cake, does the caterer bake and decorate the cake themselves? does someone on the outside bake and decorate the cake? can we bring our own wedding cake? are desserts an option? if so what desserts can be provided? can we bring our own desserts? can the caterer provide a groomsman cake?
23-Does the caterer provide coffee to the wedding? can the caterer provide coffee urns, or cups and saucers? does the caterer provide creams, sugars, fabric napkins and stirrers for the coffee? is there an option for a coffee bar? can we set up our own coffee bar?
24-What options are there to present the food? is sit down delivery available? is buffet available? is pass the tray around available?
25-When an entree is decided does the caterer provide a food presentation on the plate? can we see the presentation of the entree? are there photographs of prior food presentations provided?
26-Does the caterer offer a food tasting before we decide on what entrees to choose? when would the food tasting be available? who can we bring along on the food tasting? is there anything we have to pay or invited guests have to pay for the food tasting? are hors d'oeuvres sampling also done at the food tasting? how does the caterers food tasting session work?
27-Does the caterer carry a food license, liquor license, liability insurance?
28-Does or can the caterer provide bartenders? do we have a chance to interview them? can we bring our own bartenders? does the caterer handle condiments for the bar? can we purchase condiments (oranges, lemons, limes, marachino cherrys, olives, ice, salt, celery, etc.)
29-Does the caterer provide beverage glasses to serve alcohol? might we need to rent beverage glasses?
30-Does or can the caterer provide alcohol? if so, can we review the alcohol available? can the caterer provide wine and if so can review a wine list? is the wine list flexible? is there a corkage fee? can we provide our own alcohol and wine? can there be a specialty drink list for the wedding? does or can beer be
provided? kegs of beer, bottles, or cans? does or can the caterer provide champagne? can the caterer provide the toasting glasses and pour the champagne? what is the pricing for the drinks?
31-If the caterer handles the bar, what type of bar arrangements should there be? open bar? open bar with tickets fot two drinks? open bar except while dinner is being served? wedding guests pay for their own drinks? (not recommended, is uncouth for a wedding unless you are totally broke)
32-How are tips handled for the bartenders and the wait staff? (Note tips should not be allowed for a wedding and signs should be placed around stating that "tipping is not allowed")
33-Does the caterer handle all table settings? can the caterer set the tables with charger plates or place settings, place cards, and wedding favors?
34-If our wedding has a wedding theme or color scheme can the caterer get their hands on tableware according to our needs? might we need to get supplies from a rental company? would the caterer order supplies? would we have to find supplies ourselves?
35-What staff is needed for the size of our wedding? how many wait staff can the caterer provide? how many bartenders, wait staff, and busboys the caterer would recommend? might we have to find additional wait staff?
36-Would the caterer handle clean-up or do we need to hire a clean-up crew? what cleanup can be done? food and dishes? dismantling the chairs and tables? removing gifts and decorations?
37-How long would it take for the caterer set up and dismantle the wedding reception?
38-Are there any other wedding vendors that the caterer provides? does the caterer have any wedding vendors they recommend? is there any restrictions on wedding vendors we might bring?
39-What options are there to serve food to our wedding caterers? (officiants, wedding planners, djs, wedding musicians, photographers, videographers) should wedding entrees be provided to them? special meals provided to them? or should family bring food in? can we provide two drinks to them?
40-Are there any special meals that can be made for children or young adults?
41-Can the caterer provide meals for wedding guests with dietary restrictions? any special meals for vegetarians? can they provide a snack for the bride and groom? can a special family recipe be included?
42-Where is food prepared for our wedding? at the reception? near the reception? at the caterer's place of business? if food is prepared elsewhere, how long before the wedding does the food arrive? are some foods prepared at the reception?
43-Is all the food the caterer prepares is all of it fresh? is some food frozen? what foods are frozen?
44-Can we see pictures of all the foods the caterer can prepare? can we see pictures of the foods that we have chosen for our wedding?
45-What happens to leftovers from the wedding? can leftovers be taken home with some of the wedding guests? can leftovers such as a cake be dropped off at a nursing home or soup kitchen?
46-What would be the final price for the catering? does the price include everything? is anything missing? are we sure there are no hidden costs?
47-In the pricing, are overheads included such as rental services? does the price include linens? does the price include bartenders or beverages? does the price include wait staff? does the price include other wedding vendors? does the price include vegetables or extras on the plate? does the price include hors d'oeuvres? does the price include taxes? does the price include gratuities? are there other things included that we are missing?
48-In order to reserve the caterer for our wedding date, how far in advance must we book the caterer?
49-How much of a deposit is needed to the caterer and what date would it be needed by?
50-When would the final balance be due to the caterer?
51-When would the menu with the caterer need to be finalized?
52-When would the caterer need a final headcount and meals need to be chosen by our wedding guests?
53-What is the caterers cancellation policy?
54-Can we see a sample contract?
55-Can we get a full breakdown of all costs itemized for our wedding? can we take the contract with us to review it? how much time do we have to make a decision?
56-What is the caterer's cancellation policy?
57-Can we get three referrals from the caterer, name and phone number?
58-Is there anything we have forgotten to cover?
Make sure you get your three interviews in before deciding on which caterer to go with. You have the upper hand until you book the caterer, make sure you review everything on the contract in detail before you sign, and have your companion that came along with you be your second pair of eyes, all that was talked about is in the contract. Don't let the caterer bully you, try to make the decision after your food tasting with them. Once you book a caterer, let the other caters know you have booked with another caterer, leave a positive message back with the other caterers, you never know, things may happen and don't burn your bridges. If there is something that the caterer needs to work on, though do let them know. Let the caterers cancel your slot so they can book another wedding, you don't want to be the cause for a wedding not to be booked.
Use the interview questions as a guide to create your own list of questions, add or take off questions as you deem necessary. Be thick skinned, be thorough, there is a lot to review, don't be too nice, you want the best for your wedding, do a good job and all your family will be proud of you.
See you on the other side!