How to Pick a Caterer
Updated: May 26
You just got engaged, congratulations! Now begins the nerve-wracking whirlwind of planning a wedding. Luckily there are companies that can help with every step of the process from flowers, to the venue, to food--the most important step to take in planning is to make sure you have companies by your side that will work with you to make your day everything you want it to be.
We receive many emails from newly engaged couples not knowing where to start when it comes to catering so we created a step by step process for contacting a caterer for your wedding and communicating with them what you want your day to be like. We have also included tips along the way of what to look for and questions to ask potential caterers to make sure you get the most out of meeting with them.
Weddings have a habit of ballooning beyond original plans and catering is no exception. A typical catered full-service wedding at Beehive Catering costs between $2000-4000 but there are many options above and below those numbers. When setting a budget you’ll want to figure out what your goal is--do you want a full meal for your guests or just a snack? If you have a set budget feel free to discuss what your caterer can provide within those numbers. It is not uncommon for a client to give us their budget and ask us to adjust the quote to fit within it.
Some caterers will specialize in certain foods while others are happy to custom make a variety of different dishes for you and your guests. You may know the exact menu you want for your reception but if you don’t know where to begin, start by exploring the feel you want for the event-- a casual meal served buffet style or a more formal plated dinner? Your caterer should have some options for you based on these criteria.
Once you have established a few options you will want to consider the variety you’re looking for. Caterers will be able to offer you higher discounts on your food based on bulk ordering so the less dishes you serve the lower cost the meal typically is. Don’t be afraid to ask for additional options but also keep in mind that when buying for a large group you will never be able to please everyone so keep your budget in mind to decide when it’s time to cut off the additions.
SELECTING A CATERER
Modern shopping and supply chains have taught us that there is always a discount out there for effectively the same product and when purchasing it is enough to simply look for the lowest price. However, in catering the lowest price will most often not provide the best tasting food or the highest quality service. The catch-22 of catering is you can only choose two priorities: cost, quality, and variety. We recommend checking out the reviews of different companies or asking for a tasting to confirm that you will get the menu you expect.
When finalizing your catering choice you will also want to make sure to check for additional unexpected catering fees. These fees can appear under various titles but include: travel, setup, tear down, service, rentals, disposables, staffing, etc. Sometimes these fees are included in the price of the food but not always. At Beehive Catering we add a single service fee for all staffed events which covers all equipment, setup, and staffing but other caterers will vary. A fee isn't a reason to immediately walk away but it's good to know up front what services it includes.
THE BIG DAY
You’ve made it! By following our recommendations and properly planning beforehand you have made the happiest day of your life as low stress as possible. Depending on the length of your guest list you may have a full venue. In order to make sure your guests don’t spend all their time waiting in line you should take into account the space your caterer needs. Most caterers will be happy to work in any space you allot for them but an easier flow will mean quicker service for your guests and more room to dance and mingle.
Serving food in a buffet is by far the most common method, as it feeds more people more quickly and is usually more budget friendly. In our experience the weddings that flow the best have a buffet line for every 100 guests they expect. A typical buffet at a wedding requires 12 to 18 feet of table space but can sometimes be squeezed into a smaller area. The most important thing to do to make sure setup is straightforward is to let your caterer know the space they will be working with so there are no surprises when the day arrives.
An option at the other end of the scale is to serve your guests a fully plated meal. This service style comes at a higher expense but allows your guests to remain at their tables and converse. When setting up for a plated meal take care to create pathways for the service staff to move between tables and between seats in order to place plates in front of your guests. It may be tempting to add in that extra table but if it prevents your caterer from being able to serve your guests it would be better to leave it off.
There are, of course, many other service options and hybrids that can be designed especially for your unique event. Notwithstanding, for any service style it is necessary to keep the pathways from the kitchen to the event space open and cleared. If you plan on using space in the venue kitchen let your caterer know so they can arrange additional space for themselves if needed.
There are limitless options in the world of catering so plan ahead of time and let the catering staff take away the stress of the day to let you relax and enjoy a day that is all about you! Make sure you ask the caterer to pack a couple meals to-go for newlyweds so that you get to eat the food you picked out and planned, even if you are busy talking and dancing with friends and family all night.
You have a lot ahead of you but with research, planning, and finding the options that are right for you, your wedding can be as unique as you are! At Beehive Catering we work hard to make the catering experience as smooth and simple as possible; so if you have any questions, want to set up a tasting, or see what we offer, send us an email or check out our website.