Wedding Caterer Ideas

How to choose a wedding caterer?

Your wedding reception is a major part of your wedding. It’s the “social” part of the day, and your guests will be looking forward to the food, alcohol, and dancing. That is why choosing the right wedding caterer is so important. There are two things your guests will remember: the quality of the food and the service. You want both to be impeccable at a catering price that fits your budget.

A good and experienced wedding caterer can ensure that everyone has the best possible time at your wedding reception. And you want to get the most for your money. When you find a wedding caterer with whom you “click,” the event is bound to be a huge success.

When hiring your wedding caterer, channel your inner Trump and negotiate yourself the best possible deal. Remember that you are doing the hiring and you are the boss.

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What to consider in choosing a caterer for your wedding?

Your wedding day is bound to be one of the happiest days of your life, and with high-quality wedding catering, it can also be one of the yummiest. We all know that one of the highlights of any event is the food, and that is no less true at a wedding. Guests will undoubtedly be there to celebrate the union of the happy couple, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t thank them for coming with delicious food. So how do you choose the best caterer for your wedding? We’ve compiled a list of four tips to help you find your dream caterer.

Here are a few tips to help you with choosing a wedding caterer that’s perfect for you.

THE CATERER’S EXPERIENCE COUNTS

A caterer that specializes in elegant, black-tie affairs may not be best suited for a casual, outdoor barbecue. Experience with the type of event you are planning is essential​, so avoid the mistake of automatically hiring a caterer that you have used previously for a different kind of event. Instead, talk to them about your needs and also seek proposals from other caterers with demonstrated experience in the type of event you are planning. A good caterer that wants to keep you as a client will tell you if they cannot deliver the kind of menu you are seeking. 

We have compiled an exclusive list of Melbourne Wedding Caterers to help you choose your perfect catering option. 

FLEXIBILITY

Caterers typically have standard menu options from which to choose. Look for menus that are current and reflect the latest trends in food and beverage. Discuss other menu options that may be available; flexibility is important as you search for a caterer that will deliver according to your needs and expectations.

DETERMINE YOUR BUDGET

Before you can begin your search in earnest, you’ll need to determine your budget. Do some preliminary research to see what the typical cost of a wedding caterer is in your area and set your budget from there. When interviewing wedding caterers, be sure to ask what is included in their fee—are table linens, menu design and service provided, for instance. If you’re on a tight budget, tell the caterer your limitations to determine if they can create a package that is right for you.

ASK ABOUT THE PRICE PER HEAD

Most caterers want to know how many people will be attending your wedding and will give you an approximate price per head based on your dish selections. For example, if you offer chicken and fish, you might have a lower cost per head than if you choose steak and shrimp. Ask your caterer about the price per head and how it varies depending on what kind of food you want to be served.

DECIDE ON A STYLE

Most caterers offer three different serving styles — a full-service meal, a buffet, and food stations. Inquire about each and find out what the cost per head is for each. If you had your heart set on a full-service meal, but it’s way out of the budget, food stations might be a unique alternative.

Depending on your budget, you may gravitate toward one dining style over another. After all, when it comes to weddings, there are quite a few to choose from, including butler passed hors d’ oeuvres and cocktail hour, plated sit-down dinners, tasting menus, and buffets, among others. If you know your budget and the style you’re after, this will also make narrowing down potential caterers quite a bit quicker.

Check out our post on Can I cater my own wedding? to get more idea about your wedding.

ASK HOW FAR IN ADVANCE THEY NEED YOU TO BOOK

Caterers are busy, and their schedules fill up quickly. To ensure that your chosen caterer will be available for your wedding, ask the caterers you interview how early they need you to book. There may be a couple of caterers that are simply out of the running because they’re already booked on your wedding date.

START SEARCHING EARLY TO ENSURE AVAILABILITY

Once you’ve set your budget, and know more or less what style and type of catering package you’re looking for, start searching. Caterers are often booked many months—even years—in advance, so locking in a caterer for your date and time should be a high priority.

ASK YOUR VENUE FOR SUGGESTIONS

When choosing a wedding caterer, a great option to get going is to ask your venue for catering suggestions, as most venues will have a list of preferred vendors. However, if none of the caterers on the list strikes your fancy, you may want to ask your venue if they have certain requirements that caterers on their premises must meet.

Many venues will want to review and approve of the caterer, often requiring proof of certain certificates or licenses before they will allow a caterer to work on their property. 

Check Out Wedding Packages / Offers

After identifying how much you are willing to shell out for your wedding needs, you can now begin your lookout for the perfect catering service.

There are wedding packages out there that offer a lot more aside from food service. Basic packages may include a photo, video, event styling and other amenities such as pair of doves, registration table, and red carpet. More comprehensive or premium wedding packages include the use of more elegant fixtures and amenities such as tiffany and crystal chairs, flower arrangement, sounds and lights system.

When selecting a caterer, keep in mind that you are hiring them for food, beverage, and service. This includes the service you receive as their client as well as the service your guests will receive at the event. While you have no control over the wait staff at a restaurant, you do have control over what type of staff serves the food at the event you are planning. Inquire as to the number of servers, their experience in working an event similar to yours, and the number of staff in supervisory roles.

A wedding catering package that includes more than just food service would give you more time for other matters concerning your wedding.

ASK YOUR CATERER ABOUT ADDITIONAL OPTIONS

Many caterers can provide more than just food for your wedding. Ask if they can provide the linens, tables, flatware, china, or if they offer bar services. A caterer that can take care of these things along with your food would free up some of your time to focus on other things.

ASK ABOUT THE LIQUOR COST

If you plan to have liquor at your wedding, ask your caterer. There are several different alcohol options, including a full-service bar, a cash bar, beer and wine only, and more. You have the option to customize your bar service as much as you want, but you need to be aware of your options and how much each costs ahead of time.

ASK FOR REFERRALS FROM FRIENDS

Another great option to kick off your search is to ask friends, family members and coworkers who have hosted a catered event in your area for referrals. They can share their experiences of working with their caterer, as well as firsthand knowledge of how the food and service turned out at their events.

READ ONLINE REVIEWS

Finally, if you’re struggling to narrow down your selection, online reading reviews is an excellent way to get a feel for how a caterer has performed in the past. Most reputable caterers will be listed on professional wedding websites, like The Knot. You can also check out Facebook and Yelp with customer reviews that can help you gauge the level and quality of food and service.

TASTE THE FOOD BEFORE YOU SIGN A CONTRACT

Now that you’ve done your research and determined your shortlist for wedding caterers, the fun really begins. Now you get to eat! After all, you want to make sure their food lives up to the hype. A tasting also allows you to more fully discern whether the quality, style and presentation of their food meet your expectations. Additionally, a tasting prior to finalizing a contract gives you the opportunity to discuss how your ideas can be worked into their existing menus.

Not all wedding catering companies provide food tasting prior to having a signed contract. The question is, how can you sign a contract before you’ve tasted what they are offering? Pretty pictures aren’t enough.

If you love a particular catering company and their menu, all hope may not be lost. Wedding caterers frequently serve samples at bridal expos or hold regular dinners to entice prospective customers. Get your caterer’s event schedule and attend one or two of their events. It will be worth the cost of admission.

If the company doesn’t host events and you still love the menu, sign a contract BUT insist on a clause that allows you to cancel if the tasting doesn’t live up to your expectations. If the wedding caterer still doesn’t agree to your terms, it might be best to move on to the next candidate.

Another clause you should carefully negotiate is a cancellation clause. It’s not about you and your fiancé breaking up, it’s that life can throw you a curve and force you to postpone the initial date. Unless you get a guarantee of at least a 50 per cent refund if you cancel within 30 days of the wedding, perhaps you should consider not signing the contract. However, in such an event, you probably will forfeit your deposit.

SIGN THE CONTRACT

Once you’ve completed your tastings and picked your wedding caterer, the last step is to sign your contract. Before signing, you should see a finalized proposal that includes the total cost of the food and drink, which encompasses the menu, catering staff, linens and any additional fees. When you’re happy with the proposal, draw up the final contract, sign and let the caterer take it from there!

Protect Yourself

Contracts should protect both parties in an agreement. Make sure the contract with your caterer is designed to protect you from non-performance. Consider having an attorney review the contract – the attorney fee for this will be far less than what you will lose if the caterer fails to deliver.

Cancellation Policy

When planning an event, cancellation of that very same event may not enter your mind. However, unexpected things do arise, and it is best to determine ahead of time how a cancellation will be handled. Your catering contract should include cancellation procedures, and penalties should make your caterer bail at the last minute. Similarly, if your client unexpectedly cancels the event and you are then forced to cancel the caterer, clearly outline the financial penalties for cancellation and incorporate that into the contract with your client.

The Art of the Deal

After gathering all the information from the frontrunners to becoming your wedding caterer, narrow your selection further to two. This way, you will be more confident to negotiate since you know that you have a backup.

Negotiate like a boss. Once you have all the information you need, narrow your selection to the final two. Why? Because you’re a boss, and if you don’t like a particular deal, you want to be able to walk away with a smile. You will be able to negotiate more confidently when you know you have another option in the background.

So how do you negotiate? Be sure to ask for freebies and extras. Normally, wedding caterers give quotations with high prices simply because they can. That is why you have to be sure what they can provide as complementary that is not in the package list. This way, you will be able to get a good deal that is worth your money.

You can also ask for deals and quotations if you choose to pay in cash or instalment basis. Wedding caterers would always love to be paid in cash because it would be convenient on their end. So be sure to demand and negotiate.

Remember, no price is set in stone. Start with a low number, which the wedding caterer will raise, until you compromise on a final price. Never, ever, accept the initial price set by the caterer. If they want your business, they will be flexible as long as you remain reasonable.

A caterer can add so much to your dream wedding, and you want to make sure you hire the right person for the job. You will be glad you made an effort.

The trick here is to take your time and keep an open mind for proposals before you dive in. There are so many options and menus to choose from. If you follow these tips and tricks, you sure won’t get overwhelmed and confused with the process of choosing the best caterer for your wedding.

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