12 Questions You Need to Answer for Your Caterer



Whether you are hiring a caterer for small birthday party or a corporate event with several hundred guests, there are 12 questions you need to answer before that first meeting.

Answering these questions helps your caterer prepare thorough event pricing – and can begin to help define types of food and service best suited for your event.

You should go into your first meeting with answers to the following questions:

  1. What is your planned budget for the event?

Be realistic. Clients often come to the table with the idea that for $7 a person everyone can be fed, served beverages, have appetizers passed and all the flatware and paper goods be provided. Professional caterers must also factor in labor costs, fuel and transportation charges, wear and tear on equipment – plus the physical needs of your event.

  1. Where will the event be held?

Your location or a third party venue? The event’s location helps determine what power, heating or cooling needs the caterer must have, plus if there will be a need for additional tables or tents for outdoor venues.

  1. What kind of event are you planning?

Needs for a garden wedding reception versus a reception held indoors are vastly different. A sales awards banquet is much more formal than a company picnic.

  1. What is the date of your event?

Having a date pinned down alleviates just being “penciled in” on the caterer’s calendar. Catering companies are busier at some times of the year than others – you may be competing for a date!

  1. How many people will be eating?

One way to control costs is to know EXACTLY how many people will be eating. Caterers typically add a small percentage of over production to accommodate last minute guests – but you want to avoid having high waste or, worse, running out of food!

  1. What time will your visitors be arriving?

This key fact helps the caterer hit the timetable so hungry guests aren’t languishing or spending too much time at your bar! Caterers take this time and work backwards to build their entire production schedule.

  1. When will the meal be served?

Again, this data helps plan better so hot food is hot, cold food is cold –and servers or food station staff are on their marks.

  1. How long do you have for your guests to eat?

Part of your catering expense is cost of labor – driven by time on site. Help reduce your costs by defining the dining time – instead of leaving food service open for the entire event.

  1. What type of meal are you planning?

Served, stations, buffet, box lunch – the type of meal you want determines types of foods that can be served, heating and cooling needs and labor and presentation costs.

  1. What dietary restrictions and food allergies do your guests have?

More and more guests are faced with a variety of food allergies or dietary restrictions. Learning this information when arriving on site leaves no options for the caterer – they bring everything with them. By providing this information in advance, your guests’ special needs can be taken into account and usually accommodated!

  1. What kind of drinks do you want?

Water, soda, juice, spirits, coffee, tea – This is another cost factor that can be determined at an initial meeting. Consider the variety of guests you will be serving and what their preferences may be for beverages. Bar service may require special permitting or use of a specialized bar caterer.

  1. Are you going to want rental china, glassware, silverware or paper and plastic?

Hard goods have a cost beyond the rental fee – it takes more labor to move, set and wash china and flatware. And, disposable goods may be less hassle – but may not fit your event. For environmentally conscious clients, we also offer a line of disposable, single use bio-degradable or single-use goods made from sustainable materials.

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  1. In your article, you stated that the needs for a garden wedding reception versus a reception held indoors are vastly different and a sales awards banquet is much more formal than a company picnic. I can imagine that catering for a corporate event might be very different than for a regular family party. Do most catering companies offer different menu items depending on what type of event it is?

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