10 Questions to Ask a Caterer Before Hiring Them

SOHO TACO Gourmet Taco Catering - Dove Canyon Courtyard - Wedding Catering - Making Hand-Pressed Tortillas in the Courtyard
Gourmet taco cart catering for a beautiful wedding at Dove Canyon Courtyard.

It doesn’t matter if you’re planning your wedding day or a fundraising gala: people always remember the food at any special occasion.

Finding the right caterer for your event is tricky. You need to find someone available on your date, offering the food you want, and within your budget.

Cut through the noise by asking the same questions to each of your potential caterers. Their responses will help you narrow down the best options to choose who you want to hire.

Keep reading for handy advice and a checklist of questions to ask a caterer for your shortlist of options!

How to Build Your Catering Shortlist

Before you contact lots of caterers with your queries, save yourself some time by creating a shortlist of ideal companies. Research now will save you a lot of time wading through your questionnaire responses later!

There are several ways to find potential caterers:

  • Ask friends for recommendations
  • Find out if your venue has preferred suppliers
  • Use online review sites to find highly-rated local caterers
  • Ask your favorite restaurant if they cater events

The best way to make sure your shortlist is full of great potentials is to research what other people have said about the company. Third-party review sites like Trustpilot help you to find real reviews from previous customers – so you’re not relying on website-only testimonials.

10 Essential Questions to Ask a Caterer

When you’ve put together a shortlist of half a dozen or so potential catering companies, confirm they’re available on your event date.

Next, send them these questions. When you’ve received all of the responses, cross-check the answers to find which catering company suits your needs the best.

1. Have You Catered a Similar Event Before?

caterer with experience is a trusted pair of hands. They’ll know how to handle last-minute changes, or even how to interact with the customers or friends attending your event.

SOHO TACO Gourmet Taco Catering - OCEA - Health Fair 2018 - Orange County - Santa Ana
Strategically placed under two large tents, our team of 20+ members was ready, willing & able to provide excellent service for lunch for 2,000+ employees of OCEA in 2018.

If a caterer hasn’t handled a 2000-person gala before, they may not be equipped to offer the best service. However, if they are willing to take on the contract despite no experience, ask how they plan to tackle the organizational requirements of your event.

2. Have You Worked at the Venue Before?

A caterer coming into a strange new venue could come up against unforeseen challenges. Logistical issues of moving food from kitchen to event room, for example, may not be clear until the day of the event.

A company that has already served at your chosen venue before will know the ins and outs of the kitchen, the facilities, and how to make the most of the area.

Alternatively, if your event is outdoors, your caterer may have options such as a food truck that they can park at the venue. A company familiar with your venue will be able to suggest such options to make your event more memorable!

3. What’s Included in Your Quote?

A caterer has a lot of extra potential fees that may not be included in the original agreement. Make sure the quotes you compare all include the same items, including:

  • Taxes
  • Staff
  • Cake cutting
  • Alcohol
  • Table service
  • Gratuities
  • Serving ware
  • Furniture (if required)
  • Clear away

And any other specifics important for your unique event. Matching quotes like this gives you a clear picture of the best value for your money.

SOHO TACO Gourmet Taco Catering - Fullerton Arboretum Wedding - Carne Asada, Queso & Guacamole
Catering with a rich selection of salsas and condiments is always a good thing!

4. Where Do You Source Your Food?

More and more diners are ethically aware and want to know their food is responsibly sourced. If this is important to your event guests, ask your caterer to demonstrate where their ingredients come from.

This will also affect what your caterer can serve depending on the time of year. Using local ingredients to reduce food miles and support community businesses means seasonal food is likely to be on the menu!

5. How Long Will It Take to Serve?

Find out how long it’ll take to serve your anticipated number of guests. Add time on for the enjoyment of the food and this gives you a rough idea of how much time you’ll need to allocate at your event for the meal.

Comparing quotes between companies will also help you to determine who will operate the fastest service, a key element of a successful event with a high volume of guests present.

6. How Do You Handle Allergy Requirements?

Find out the standard process for each potential caterer for handling possible allergens in their service.

SOHO TACO Gourmet Taco Catering - Newport Sea Base - Newport Beach - Carne Asada Pollo Asado & Spicy Potato
Carne Asada Pollo Asado & Spicy Potato tacos on fresh, hand-pressed tortillas.

Some caterers may not be able to guarantee a meal is fully allergen-free due to the preparation process. Find out now if your chosen caterer can handle specific allergy requirements to make sure they’ll give every guest a delicious experience.

7. How Far in Advance Do You Require Confirmation?

Some caterers require you to lock in final meal numbers far in advance of your event. This may suit some events where the final number of guests is definite, such as a sold-out ticketed event.

However, other events like weddings need more flexibility in adding last-minute meals to the final numbers. If this is likely to happen to your event, make sure your caterer will be able and willing to handle such changes.

8. What Do You Do with Leftovers?

Unlike drinks services, where you can buy alcohol on a use-or-return agreement, food can’t be reused.

SOHO TACO Gourmet Taco Catering - Dove Canyon Courtyard - Wedding Catering - View of Courtyard From The Cart
Gourmet taco cart catering for a beautiful wedding at Dove Canyon Courtyard.

You’ll have paid for the full service of food, so find out what happens to anything that’s left over. You may wish to donate it to a shelter, for example, or find out if your caterer will wrap portions for you to take home.

9. What Is Your Cancelation Policy?

Life happens: sometimes your event needs to be canceled at short notice. Caterers understand that unforeseeable circumstances might mean your event is pulled – however, they’ve got bills to pay, too.

Find out what the cancellation policy is for your potential caterer, including whether the refund amounts diminish the closer to the event that you cancel. For example, if you cancel far in advance, some caterers will provide a full refund but only if they can fill your booked date with another job.

10. How Flexible Are Your Menu Options with My Budget?

Many caterers will be willing to adapt their standard menu packages to suit your budget. If you think the current packages don’t quite suit your event, ask if you can customize the menu!

SOHO TACO Gourmet Taco Catering - Del Mar Surf Station - Wedding Engagement Party - Adding Salsa to Albondigas Appetizers
Adding Salsa to Albondigas Appetizers.

Even if you’re on a tight per-head budget, find out if your caterer can tweak the packages on offer. For example, they might not serve alcohol as part of the package so you can offer a cash bar to reduce your bill and let guests choose their own alcohol.

Ask Us to Cater Your Event

If this list of questions to ask a caterer seems a little long and arduous, there’s always one clear solution…

Ask Soho Taco to cater your event! Our experience in a wide range of event types and high-volume service means we’re able to cater for most events. We can even bring our food truck to your festival to give your guests delicious gourmet tacos wherever your event is based.

Contact us today to ask us these questions above – and any more you might have! Find out how we can bring tasty tacos to brighten up your event.

Like this article?

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on Linkdin
Share on Pinterest
Shopping Cart