What to Look for in a Wedding Caterer-Part II

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In "What to Look for in a Wedding Caterer-Part 1",it was pointed out that good wedding caterers should be attentive, responsive, professional, volunteer information without being asked and aflexible. In "What to Look for in a Wedding Caterer-Part 2", you'll get a crash course in catering contracts, menus and what makes your wedding caterer really tick.

Understanding Your Wedding Caterer: An Insider Tip

Wedding caterers are driven by food cost. Food cost is the percentage of profit that the caterer can expect to make after all ingredients are purchased for preparation. The higher the food cost, the more expensive the menu will be for you.

Preset catering packages are determined according to food cost. The more diverse the ingredients and the more options for the guests, the more expensive the menu. Let's take the following package for 100 guests as an example:

  • Salad: Arugula Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette
  • Appetizer: Penne Pasta with a La Vodka Sauce
  • Entrée: Chicken Marsala
  • Dessert: Chocolate Mousse

Let's say that you wanted to add shrimp cocktail as an appetizer option and prime rib as another entrée choice. Now, your wedding caterer has to purchase enough shrimp and prime rib to cover the possibility that everyone will choose these options. Your wedding caterer also has to consider that possibility that everyone will want pasta and chicken instead. The cost for these additional ingredients will factor into your menu cprice.

If you have a basic understanding of food cost, you can then understand what motivates your caterer. Remember, your wedding caterer may be perfectly willing to give in to your every demand, but be prepared to have a price tag attached to your wish list.

The Catering Contract: Read it Before You Sign It

If you have any doubts whatsoever about your wedding caterer, express them before you sign the contract. If you need clarification around points discussed, expectation or terms of service, you need to hammer out these issues before putting pen to paper.

Your contract with your wedding caterer should detail the following:

  • Date of service.
  • Set time: For example, if guests are expected to arrive at 7:00pm for the cocktail hour, the bar and buffet should be set at 6:30pm. If your champagne toast is going to take place at 9pm, champagne glasses should be set on the table and waiters should be out on the floor pouring champagne at 8:30pm. Each element of the event will have its own set time, but the general rule of thumb is be ready for service 15-30 minutes prior to the real start time. It goes without saying that the caterer should be ready for service, but it doesn't hurt to have these extra details spelled out.
  • Start time: Your wedding caterer should specify when service begins for the event.
  • Specific catering package that you have chosen with all components listed including cocktail menu, appetizers, entrees, dessert, bar service and any other additions that you have discussed.
  • Applicable labor charges, tax, rental and service fees.
  • Guaranteed guest count: This is the amount of people that you are guaranteeing to pay for, even in the event of no-shows.
  • Special requests: If your wedding caterer has guaranteed a specific brand of champagne or specific color linen for your tables, this information should be noted in the contract.

Be sure to review each aspect of your catering contract carefully with your wedding caterer. If you don't see something on your contract that's supposed to be there, be sure to ask your caterer about it. Never accept verbal assurances, no matter how much you trust your caterer. Having a written agreement can protect both parties in the long run.

Related Links

What to Look for in a Wedding Caterer-Part II