Five Questions to Ask Your Caterer

Occasionally, I will get messages wondering about our services. Not surprising since people want to get the most bang for their buck. Many times, the bride (or party-planner) isn’t sure what questions she (or he) should be asking so here are some ideas for you as you prepare for your next party.

  1. Do you have a food license?
    This is probably the most important question. There are a few reasons you should consider this (and why you should consider not have family members or friends prepare a meal for your wedding or party guests).

    First, you have your safety issues. If a business has a food license, then that means someone from the health department has been out, checked over the area where meals are being prepared, and deemed them worthy of cooking for others. When you rely on family and friends to cook your meal, no matter how wonderful a cook they are, there is no one checking on their food handling capabilities.

    Second, a business with a food license, takes the liability if something was to happen to the guests at your party. While we all hope this should never be an issue, do you really want to risk family members being blamed for food poisoning? Catering businesses need to prove that they have the capability to provide safe food, and know the proper temps for serving food.

  2. Do you have references?
    Another excellent question. References mean that a caterer has been doing this and has a track record of making people happy: providing a good menu, food that tastes good, and price that is affordable. A good caterer should be able to provide at least three recent (within 3-6 months), non-family references. Even better is when they have repeat business, but as a caterer, that can be slightly more difficult depending on how often a person plans a party.
  3. Do you require a deposit? What are my payment options?
    This is a double question, as money tends to be. Be sure you know, up front, what you are expected to pay before an event and when the final payment is due. It’s also a good idea to check on whether the deposit (and payments made) are refundable in case of a change of plans. Many caterers do require payment in full by the event. Other financial questions might be whether they accept credit cards and checks. I would be leery of a business that accepted cash only.
  4. Will I get a written quote? How long is the quote good for?
    Make sure a caterer is willing to give you a written quote prior to making any definite plans, but find out how long they will honor the price they have given you as well. You will want time to research your catering options and credibility of potential caterers. Nailing down a caterer a year in advance is great from the standpoint that you can mark that off your “to-do” list but it is also one of the most expensive (and remembered) parts of your wedding so you want to make sure you have made the right decision.
  5. Do you provide servers? Tableware? Do you charge mileage?
    Along with these questions should be whether there are additional fees. Also, make sure to read the quote/contract. If these things aren’t covered, ask the question. The last thing you want is to be surprised by additional fees on the day of your party.
  6. Choosing a caterer doesn’t have to be difficult. You just need to be prepared, do your research, and know what questions to ask.

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Day 7 – A Day at Sea

This was the day my kitchen geek side got to come out and play!

We started the morning taking a “backstage” tour of the ship: stepping into areas that most aren’t allowed, hearing stories about the Disney Cruise Line, learning about the themeing process that Disney incorporates into their cruises.

Our first stops were the adult-only restaurants on the ship: Palo and Remy.  These are the dressy restaurants, meaning dress pants and tie for men, and a dress for the women.  We did not eat in either of these.

Palo was beautiful. Palo on the Disney Dream An Italian decor setting and menu.  The chandelier was made to look like spaghetti and meatballs.  It had a very extravagant look and feel to the restaurant.

Palo's Chandelier

My favorite of the two was Remy’s though.  This was a French restaurant themed straight from Ratatouille!  Remy's Paris BackdropFrom the mice carvings in the chairs to the intricate artwork with the lights and the  Ratatouille in the chair design backdrop of Paris…Disney does themes right!

Next on our agenda was a media showcase with videos done by students from our class.  It was so cool to watch what they had accomplished and give me ideas for things I would like to do, learn, try with video in the future.  We discussed our likes and dislikes about each video, giving constructive feedback to each of the presenters.

Then my geekness showed!  We got to tour the kitchen for The Royal Palace!  So much silver!  So many fun-looking machines and equipment! Disney Cruise Kitchen Equipment I was in heaven.  The kitchen manager explained to us how they keep track of the meals served and what is available. Disney Cruise Food Pictures I especially liked how they had pictures of what each meal should look like to keep the wait staff from having to question what each dish was.  DSCF1858 Plus they just would go down the line and grab the meals they needed for their tickets so it was all very organized.  It.was.b-e-a-utiful. I want a kitchen like that!

The best part of that tour was the fact that I could finally get a chance to really understand what Mark was looking for when he talks about wanting a building that is big enough to handle more than one kitchen line.  I can see where are future needs to go and look forward to getting us to that point.

Organization is the key to success!

We made it!

Christmas is by far our busiest time of the year.  Surprising that a caterer would say that?  Why not summer when weddings are happening?

Weddings are a weekend event.  Even though we were booked consecutively every weekend for two months this summer, we still had a week to prep for each event, only occasionally having both a Friday and Saturday event.

Christmas time is different though.  Weddings.  Holiday parties.  Business and office parties.  And they aren’t just on the weekends.  Aside from having something every weekend, we had a two week stretch where we had eight parties, including two on the same day!

By no means am I complaining.  Goodness no.  Who wouldn’t want business to improve 45% over the previous year?  I’m thrilled!  This helps us solidify our future plans that we hope to see happen in 2015.

So what do we do to stay organized?

Keep our calendar current – there is nothing worse than not knowing when you have a party…or double-booking over an important family event!  I like either a google calendar (can imbed easily into a website) or cozi.com for a personal calendar.

Set group contacts in my phone – The best way to keep potential helpers informed is to send out a mass text giving them updates on events, dress, times, etc.  Then everyone gets the same information at the same time.

Email quotes to potential customers – The best part about email is that you have your own copy.  Plus, if you email it as a pdf file, there is no tampering to your original paperwork.

Last but not least…

Make a To-Do list every day – this covers people you need to contact, quotes you need to work on, bills to pay, blogs to write, etc…

Now this doesn’t mean I’m perfect at all these steps, but it sure does make a difference in your business when you keep your life organized.  Being a business owner can be stressful enough, why make it worse by not staying organized?