How Much Does Catering Cost? Why a Caterer Can't Give You a Simple Price

How Much Does Catering Cost? Why a Caterer Can't Give You a Simple Price 0

One of the first steps in planning your party is to select a caterer. Since the catering costs will account for a significant part of your budget, around 50%, the first question you may want to ask is “how much will this cost?” Questions like “How much is a buffet with chicken for 120 people?” are tempting to ask even before the caterer knows anything more about your party. However, when selecting the caterer that is right for you, I suggest taking a step back and having a conversation with the caterer before asking them for an estimated price.

Here’s why: It’s very difficult for any caterer to quote a price without knowing more about your vision for the party. The number of guests, menu, service style, time of the day and location are just a few of the factors that will affect the final price. These details will give the caterer a chance to estimate the total price based on what you actually want rather than providing you with the general price off their website.

Keep in mind that the final price should not be your determining factor when selecting a caterer. Of course, the price is important, but so is a caterer’s ability to execute your event. Asking for references and pictures of their past work and seeing the quality of their linens and silverware are good places to start. It will give you a clear idea of what the caterer is capable of and what it would be like to work with them.

There is much information to be shared with a caterer about your big day and many good questions that need to be asked in the interview stage.  Once you’ve asked questions and the caterer understands what you’re looking for and you have a sense of the caterer’s ability, then look at the cost.

Happy party planning!

Questions to Ask Your Caterer's References

Questions to Ask Your Caterer's References 0

When you’re interviewing a caterer, it’s probably obvious that you should ask for sample menus and a tasting. But what about references? When you’re dealing with a million other details, asking for and calling references may seem like a waste of time, time that you do not have. But consider this: you’ll save yourself time, heartache and maybe even money if you gather as much info as possible before you hire a caterer. This is also true if you’re thinking of hiring a venue that uses an exclusive caterer. Even though the venue is amazing, you may find out that the caterer is not. Better to find BEFORE you sign the contract. Right?

When talking to the caterer’s references, your goal is to find out what it was like to work with the caterer and how good (or bad) the party was. True, most references will say nice things about the caterer (and some are even coached to do so) so it’s important to determine if the person is a “real” reference, cut through the fluffy praise and get some real information from the reference. The key is to ask the right questions.

If you’re not sure what questions you should ask your caterer’s references, here are some categories of questions that will help you to get down to the nitty gritty.

First and foremost, ask details about their event to ensure the person is a “Real” reference

It’s important to make sure that the reference is who they say they are. You want to make sure that the person really is a past client of the caterer. Ask details that are hard to make up on the spot but are details that a real past client is likely to remember quickly (unless the party was a long time ago, in which case the reference is probably too old anyway).

For instance, ask:

  • Location of the event.
  • How they first found the caterer.
  • Their theme and colors.
  • The meal that they served the kids at their party.
  • Their florist.
  • The name of the wine that they served.

Ask a question that requires a negative answer

Positive feedback is great but it’s not always the most helpful when you’re trying to get a full and clear picture. Be sure to ask the references questions in which they cannot only sing the caterer’s praises.

For instance, ask:

  • What is one thing you would have improved about the caterer?
  • What was one challenge when working with the caterer?

Ask questions about the caterer’s working and communication style

Each caterer is going to have a particular working style. For instance, some caterers will remind you of deadlines whereas others will only contact you if you have missed a deadline. Some caterers are very rigid in the way they deal with their clients whereas others are open to accommodating their client (for instance, they’ll send you reminders if you ask them to, even if that is not their usual way of doing things).

For instance, ask:

  • How did the caterer generally communicate with you? Email? Phone? Mail? Text?
  • Which generally got the fastest response from the caterer: an email or a phone call?
  • Did the caterer send you reminders of upcoming deadlines?
  • Did the caterer offer his/her opinion on things or did you specifically have to ask for it?
  • Where deadlines rigid or was there flexibility?
  • Did your sales person attend your party?
  • After you signed the contract, did you continue to work with your sales person or was your account passed to another individual? If yes, who?

I hope this helps as you interview your caterer’s references! Questions? Leave them in the comments below.

Happy Planning.