Choosing a caterer for your wedding or event is one of the most important aspects of your day. After all it is generally the largest area of spend of your overall budget.
As do I, my clients understand that the wedding breakfast is an important part of your wedding day. It is something that your guests will remember and you’ll want to ensure they have a great experience and thoroughly enjoy the food. The key is to find the caterer who will create the perfect menu for your day, at the right price for you.
What type of catering will we need?
This will very much depend on your venue and type of reception you’re having. Many venues recommend caterers, or more often than not will insist that you use one of their preferred caterers. However, for those of you having a marquee in your grounds perhaps then the world if your oyster and you can really do your homework in finding the perfect caterer for you.
When speaking with caterers, they will need to know the date, time of reception, approximate number of guests, the level of hospitality you wish to provide and an approximate budget if this is known. With a marquee wedding, unless there is kitchen facilities on site then a ‘field kitchen’ is normally required whereby the caterer brings all the kitchen equipment in such as ovens, chillers and warming cupboards. This will of course increase the overall costs and something to be considered.
Be clear on your ideas – are you looking for a sit down meal? How many courses? Or are you looking to have a relaxed sharing platters brought to the table or a buffet style maybe?
Some helpful tips on choosing the ‘right’ caterer for you
A personal recommendation or your own experience of a caterer’s work is always the best guide. Most caterers offer a tasting and this is something I strongly advise doing. If the caterer is not prepared to do this, then in my opinion they should not be on your shortlist. It’s a good idea to taste their dishes, ensure they fully understand your needs and do they have some great creative ideas to bring to the table? I believe the food at your event is a key element so think outside the box – is there a special dish that has meaning to you both that you’d love to see your guests enjoying? Or have you considered a food station – a good quality caterer will be full of creative and tasty ideas!
Send several enquiries to different caterers and see what sort of a response you get and how long it takes to come back. If the caterers are slow when they are at the sales stage, ask yourself, how much slower will they be when they have your money (with no motivation to reply) and in the final countdown (mid-wedding season) you don’t want to be chasing people 15 times to answer your questions. Try to choose a responsive, customer-focussed caterer who has demonstrated from the outset that they have time for you. Are they offering ideas and showing a certain amount of passion and interest in what they do?
Flexibility is a huge thing. Unless you want to end up with a set menu, or having the restrictions of having to choose from their lists, make sure early on that they are really able to prepare dishes that you want. Lots of caterers say you can have ‘bespoke menus’ but the reality is often.. ‘any choice of starter from a list of 15, any choice of main from another list’ – not quite a ‘bespoke’ menu!
The Boring Bit…
Once you’ve decided on a caterer for your event, it’s time to confirm dates, times and details with a written contract. Include a breakdown of charges for food, drinks, corkage, staff, delivery, travel expenses, equipment hire, service charges, etc. Insurance is also important. Ensure it is clear and there are no hidden costs.
Having been in the industry for nearly a decade, I have worked with a number of caterers and the choices available now are immense with so many talented and creative chefs out there. With my clients, food is a priority and therefore I would expect to pay for it. If you choose well, you will get what you pay for.
Working with fabulous caterers
Back in the summer time, I had the pleasure of fully planning a marquee wedding in the grounds of my client’s property. On meeting with them at our initial consultation it was very clear that the catering on the day was a priority. From the outset, my clients explained that their favourite dish was steak and chips and they wanted this for their 180 guests…and to add, they wanted the beef to be from their own local butchers and the steak would be cooked to order for all the guests. This was a challenge in itself being a field kitchen so all equipment had to be brought in and a larger catering tent would be required. It was surprising at the sheer number of caterers almost laughed at me when I put my proposal together and I was met with many negative comments until I picked up the phone to a caterer I have worked with on many occasions – Four Gables.
Speaking with the owner, David Gillott it was clear he had passion and the desire to work with my clients as his response was quite simply ‘Yes, no problems we would love to do that’. We went to their tasting rooms over in Surrey and it was such a fun, enjoyable experience. David and the team took their time to understand my client’s needs and suggested some fantastic ideas and accommodated all their requirements. From our initial conversations to delivering on the day, Four Gables went above and beyond.
This is just an example of one of the fabulous caterers I work with. As an independent wedding and party planner, I am not tied to any suppliers and choose to work with only the best in the business who have a love, passion and desire to deliver above and beyond for my clients.
If you’d like a list of useful questions to ask your potential caterers then please do get in touch.
Image Credits – Barney Warner Photographer
Furniture and Tableware in images – Co-ordination Catering Hire
Flowers – Tiger to Lilies
Food – Four Gables
Venue – Balcombe Place