5 Questions to Ask Your Wedding Caterer

Maine Lobster Dinner
Published January 26th, 2017

At French’s Point, we understand that our couples are seeking customized, meaningful, personal celebrations. For this reason, we encourage you to assemble your own dream team of wedding vendors to create the event that brings your wedding dream to life. Your wedding caterer is a key member of your wedding team. Food is a very memorable part of the wedding experience for you and your guests. The food and drink for your wedding reception will probably consume a large portion of your wedding budget, so you want to invest this money wisely. Remember, these costs compound with each guest you include in your celebration.

For couples new to planning an event like a wedding, catering costs can be a bit challenging to untangle because each caterer frames their pricing differently and includes different items in the standard pricing.

For couples new to planning an event like a wedding, catering costs can be a bit challenging to untangle because each caterer frames their pricing differently and includes different items in the standard pricing. Many include a cost of food in the “per-person” price of the food and will charge separately for staff/service, tax, gratuity, rentals and administrative fees, while for other caterers the “per-person” cost includes these additional fees. This makes it very difficult to really get a handle on the total costs and make an apples-to-apples comparison between providers.

The top 5 questions you should ask your wedding caterer.

1.  Do you have the necessary licenses required by the State and Town where we’re hosting our celebration?

It is important for you to know if your caterer has the proper permits to provide service at the venue hosting your event. You can also ask the venue for a list of the required licenses and permits. You can get this information at the city hall or town office where you’re getting married. Ask your caterer for a copy of the permits and licenses to keep with your wedding contract.

2.  Do you have full liability insurance and liquor liability insurance if you’re providing alcohol for my events?

As the host of the celebration, making sure that your caterer has sufficient liability coverage is crucial in limiting your own liability exposure. This is an even more significant issue if your caterer is providing alcohol and service for your events. Ask for a copy of their insurance policy for your file and be sure to check effective dates.

3.  What is your specialty and your preferred format of service style? What makes you special?

You want to be sure you are interviewing caterers that can provide your preferred style of service (buffet, sit-down dinner, etc.) effectively and that the quality of the food is in line with your vision as well. Not all caterers provide the same style of service or excel in the same areas of foodservice. Asking them upfront what their specialty is can be a very helpful tool in determining if your principals and vision align with theirs.

4.  Are you a full-service caterer?

At venues such as ours, a “Blank Canvas Venue” which allows you to choose your own catering partner, it is a key element of success to be certain that the caterer will not only provide excellent food but that they will provide the staffing and service to handle the set-up of the reception rentals as well as clean-up of the catering and foodservice rentals at your event. For instance, food trucks are a recent trend at weddings and they can be fun, but some food truck caterers don’t include set-up, bussing, or break-down of rentals in their services. The same is true of a more traditional caterer. Food is only part of the equation. Service, in my opinion, is equally or more important than the food itself in the overall experience the caterer is providing to you and your guests.

5.  What is the average price range for your service at my venue and does it include food, service, staff, rentals, tax, gratuity, travel and all other fees?

Catering companies all structure their costs differently. As we mentioned above, some caterers will lump related costs (food, beverage, service) together under a per-guest price. Other companies will give you a per-guest price for food and/or beverage and then a flat fee for service/staff and another flat fee for rentals. Almost always, these costs are pre-tax, which is 7% on food and bar products only (service, rentals, or other service charges are not subject to tax) and pre-gratuity, which is typically 15-22% in Maine on the food and beverage costs only (there should not be gratuity on service, rentals, travel fees or other service charges).

Another key element in your overall catering cost is rentals. Will your caterer need to rent service trays, tray jacks, water pitchers, salt and pepper shakers, coffee station supplies, plates, silverware, linens and glassware or other catering equipment to provide your chosen meal in your chosen setting? This can be a significant and key contributing cost for your event so do not overlook it!

To ensure you partner with the very best caterer for your wedding, I cannot stress enough the importance of gathering clear information from the caterers you are considering. You want to avoid surprises, so ask these key questions before hiring your wedding caterer so you know exactly what to expect on the wedding day.

By Jessika Brooks-Brewer, French’s Point Owner

Have more questions about this important topic or ready to book your tour? Contact us, we’re here to help!