Questions to Ask Your Caterer

Trusting a caterer is the most effective way to prepare and serve meals to groups of people. Before hiring a caterer, you need to ensure they're the right company for the event you're planning. The best way to narrow your caterer search is by asking questions that will tell you more about the company's service, experience, menu, costs and other key factors.

What Services Should a Ceterer Provide?

Most caterers offer the same or similar services and offerings, which include some kind of meal and drink option.

However, what they include in their fees varies. For example, tableware like plates, glassware, flatware and tablecloths is something most caterers offer. While some automatically include these items in the price of their services, others provide them for an extra you can add to your meal service.

An important question to ask a caterer is what they provide in their fees so you get a transparent view of cost and function. Once you know exactly what a caterer provides, you can ask additional questions to help you determine if they're the right vendor for your event.

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How to Choose a Caterer

Selecting a caterer for any event is a big decision. One of the things your guests will remember most is the food, so you should vet potential caterers thoroughly. Here are some general questions you should ask regardless of the event you're planning:

  • Is my date available? Naturally, the first thing you should ask is whether a caterer has availability for your scheduled date. Depending on how far in advance you're booking a caterer, they may already have other events scheduled on your chosen day.
  • What are the menu options? Some caterers have set menu options they don't stray from, while others are more willing to work with you to create a unique menu for your event. Also, remember that some catering companies specialize in certain types of food. For example, one may only offer barbeque options, while another offers Italian cuisine and another does a little bit of everything.
  • Do you have experience catering a similar event? Just because a caterer is available on the day of your event doesn't mean they have experience catering an event like yours. Asking if a catering company has experience catering a similar event can indicate whether they have the necessary capabilities.
  • How much time is needed for setup and break-down? If your caterer offers setup and cleanup services, getting an estimate of the time needed will help you plan and stick to a timeline. Understanding these time needs helps prevent misunderstandings and frustration.

You may use a caterer for various types of events, ranging from corporate events to weddings. While you'll likely ask many of the same questions regardless of the event type, you may also need to ask event-specific questions.

Corporate Catering Questions

If you're planning a corporate event, consider asking questions like:

  • Are there different presentation options? Depending on the event, you may want different options for how the food is presented, plated and displayed. In this case, you want to find a caterer that offers diverse plating options or presentation levels. If you're looking for a certain appearance or equipment, ensure the caterer can provide it.
  • Do you offer themed menus? Themed menus like a taco bar can add an element of fun to your corporate event. If you're looking for something unique, be sure to ask your caterer about it.
  • Can you accommodate dietary restrictions? Some of your employees or co-workers may have specific dietary restrictions, requiring certain accommodations. It's important to ensure your caterer can make the necessary accommodations to ensure everyone has meal options at your event.
  • What happens to the leftovers? When catering to large groups of people, you're likely to have leftovers. Ask your potential caterer what happens to the leftovers if there are any. You may be able to take them home or even take them into the office the next day.

Wedding Catering Checklist

If you're planning a wedding, here are a few questions you may ask:

  • Have you catered at my venue before? Your caterer needs to know if there's a kitchen at your venue for them to use, what space is available, where electric connections are, how many tables you have and more. If a caterer is familiar with your venue, they may already know information like this. If not, you'll need to arrange for the caterer to scope it out so they know what they're walking into. Asking this question helps your wedding day go smoother and ensures everyone is on the same page.
  • How many weddings do you cater per year? As with any other vendor, you'd likely prefer someone with industry experience. Asking how many weddings a company caters to per year can give you an idea of their experience level. An experienced caterer can make sound recommendations, is more likely to deliver on their promises and can calmly handle any hiccups.
  • Do you have a license to serve alcohol? If you plan to serve alcohol at your wedding, you may have your caterer manage the bar service. If so, be sure to ask your caterer if they have a liquor license. Some venues require liquor licenses and certified bartenders. Asking about these elements ensures you and your guests are being served alcohol legally.
  • Do you make wedding cakes? Certain caterers may also handle desserts and wedding cakes. Ordering your wedding cake through your caterer can save you time, and potentially, money. This route can also be less hassle because you'll be dealing with one less vendor. Discuss what cake or dessert options your caterer may be able to provide.

Cater Your Next Event With Station 4

Whether you're planning an intimate wedding or corporate lunch, choose the catering experts at Station 4 Restaurant and Lounge. We create our dishes with flavorful, fresh ingredients that are sure to please your guests.

We'll work with you to customize a menu with the dishes you want. We offer various brunch, lunch and dinner options, making everything fresh each day to ensure you're getting high-quality catered food.

Learn more about our professional catering services and contact us online or call 202-488-0987 to discuss your options!