Whether it’s a 200 guest wedding or a 20 person birthday party, a great caterer makes all the difference. Guests are happy, you’re not stressed, and someone else takes home the dirty dishes. If you love the idea—but are unsure how to start—here’s your super quick, easy bake, guide to hiring a caterer. Section one covers the basics and section two covers wedding logistics. Get ready to have your life changed—one delicious meal at a time.
Christina and Allen Soboj of North Island Catering are caterers who use Thumbtack and they created a cheat sheet for your use in hiring the right company. The event trends they’re seeing in Chicago are larger events with more guests, fewer couples using full service banquet halls, and couples serving breakfast for dinner. Yum.
Whether your vision aligns with Chicago trends or not, these basic questions are on point for making a good selection.
- How long have you been in business?
- Can you provide references for other clients you’ve worked with?
- Would you be willing to work within my budget?
- Do you serve non-alcoholic and alcoholic drinks? If yes, are your bartenders fully licensed, insured and state certified to serve alcohol?
- Is the food prepared in your kitchens and is it all homemade?
- Can you assist us in menu planning if necessary?
- Are you willing to deliver the food and help set up if necessary?
- Do you provide portable warmers to keep food warm?
- Are plates, napkins, silverware, and serving utensils included in the price? If not what would the cost be?
- For upscale events, do you offer premium serving chafers, plates, silverware, tablecloths? If yes, what is the cost?
For weddings and larger affairs, you need to know everything will be perfect. We asked Kevin Irvin, of Little Lily’s Kitchen in Los Angeles, what he would instruct close friends to ask before they signed on with a company. Some are direct questions for the company and others are questions to ask yourself. We fleshed it out with layperson lingo.
7 Things To Ask The Caterer:
- Will my wedding receive individual attention? Don’t be bridezilla, but do confirm they won’t book multiple events on your big day.
- Will my planning process point person be at the event? Things go smoother when your main contact is on site.
- Are you insured in regards to the venue, worker’s comp, and alcohol service?
- Are you clear on how much food is needed per person, and which dishes are most popular in order to prep a little heavy on them?
- Will you be billing for gratuity or is it up to my discretion? Caterers work hard. If they rock—show your appreciation.
- What is your policy on tastings? As in, you want them. It’s hard work to plan a wedding—this should be a nice break in that work.
- If I’m not excited about every dish on the menu what are my options?
3 Things To Ask Yourself:
- Is the caterer working with my budget, or are they continually trying to upsell or raise the billing number? Work with someone you feel good about.
- Do I “click” with the caterer? This is a big day, no need to have relationships that stress you out—there are plenty of awesome catering companies to choose from.
- Do they understand the “feel” of my event? You don’t want servers in Hawaiian shirts at your black tie affair.
Whether it’s wedding cake or a holiday dinner party, you’re now certified to hire your next caterer.