Catering 101: Asking All the Right Questions Before Booking

Free Image by Salah Jalal from Pixabay

New York event planners wrangle all kinds of vendors to bring services, products, and more to each event. But one of the most important partners you’ll talk to is the caterer. And to make sure you’re identifying the best-fit catering company for the job, these are the questions you should be asking.

Have you catered an event like this before?

No matter how experienced a caterer is and no matter how long they’ve been in business, if they don’t have direct experience with your precise event type, keep looking. For example, a prominent wedding caterer might not be the best provider for a trade show or product launch event. And vice versa, a particular caterer who’s only worked large-scale corporate events might not be the best for a small social celebration you’re planning. Look to book the catering team that has the know-how and expertise in servicing your event.

Have you catered an event at this particular NYC venue before?

Another experience-related question to ask is about your chosen event venue. Because there are so many different spaces in New York City, each with its own unique in-house services, requirements, and setup, you’ll want to verify with your catering partner any previous experience at the venue you’ve selected. It’s a good idea to work with a catering professional who is already familiar with events in your space. They can anticipate challenges and be better prepared for your event. 

Can you tell me more about your event-day staff?

Yes, catering partners are all about the food. But don’t forget to also ask about the service component. Is there a waitstaff? Will your caterer have teams available to help set up and tear down food stations? And does your caterer have a contingency plan for workforce gaps should some workers not be available on the day of your event? Asking this question will help you better understand how prepared the caterer is to deliver the customer service element, along with their amazing fare.

What services are included in this partnership?

Speaking of setup and tear down, are those services included in your partnership? Be sure to ask in case you’re talking with a caterer who only prepares meals and doesn’t provide additional services for other aspects of your event’s meal. Check, too, if there are additional fees associated with additional equipment, coffee stations, or clean-up efforts. You’ll want to know what you can and can’t expect from your catering partner before you book them, not the night of your event.

Can you share testimonials and references from past clients?

This is somewhat obvious as a question to ask. But where many event planners fall short is the follow-up on those responses given. When a caterer offers a few past event clients for whom they’ve prepared meal services, make sure you’re calling them. Follow up by connecting with those past event clients and find out first-hand just how impressed they were with the caterer. 

What have you prepared for me to try today?

This is a big one. And hopefully, before you even planned the meeting with a potential caterer, you discussed sampling some of the dishes. But ideally, you’ll want to conduct your own taste test to ensure each menu selection is as delectable as you need it to be. And you can also get an idea of how the food should look, and be presented, at meal time.

Before you book the caterer, make sure you’re asking all the right questions so you can eliminate any risk of surprise issues on the day of your event. And don’t forget; The Event Planner Expo 2023 is coming in October. It’s your chance to meet and learn from the best event pros in the industry!


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