Planning an event can be stressful and the food is a huge part of the experience. So you want to make sure you have a caterer that is going to deliver top quality food and service so your event goes smoothly. There are many options for catering and it may take some time to find the right one so start early.

We have also put together a list of questions and things you should know before hiring a caterer. These questions are to get you started. Make sure you also ask questions that specifically related to your event.

Rule of thumb is to make sure ALL your questions are answered satisfactorily.

How should you choose a caterer?

  • Ask around (who knows someone they’ve had a great experience with and was professional).
  • Ask for references (caterers should be able to provide a list of references for you. If not, keep looking.)
  • Ask the caterer if they can provide what you need. List out your requirements. (If they cannot provide what you need, keep looking.)

Once you’ve decided on a caterer, there are other questions to consider before hiring. Below is a list (subset):

Are they available on your date?

This question is the most important. Expect that they may be booked already and have a list of alternative dates.

How long have they been in business?

Are they “full service”?

Full service catering means they provide everything. Caterers are great at renting the china, linen, tables, utensils, glassware, lighting, food, beverages (non-alcoholic and alcoholic), bartenders and wait staff. Some companies offer photography, video, DJs and more. However, keep in mind it may be hard for a company to do everything well.

What foods do they specialize in?

You may be looking for a specific ethnic food or you have special diets to think about. Whatever the case, make sure to ask.

Do they provide wait staff/bartenders?

If they do not provide this service, the best option is to hire staff and bartenders from an event staffing agency. Hiring volunteers could be more work for you than it’s worth.

What is the ratio of wait staff to guests?

The norm is 1 wait staff for every 16-20 people.

Are they a licensed and insured caterer?

A caterer needs Public Liability Insurance and a Health Permit at the minimum. Their bartenders should also be licensed.

Do they do taste tests? Is there a charge?

Any catering service worth hiring should do a taste test, if not, run the other way.

What is their refund policy in case of cancellation or postponing the event?

Do they charge for delivery? If there is a limit in a radius what are the charges?