Planning, Catering & Design 200+ Weddings Since 2014

News & Advice

Questions to Ask Your Caterer

If you’ve chosen a venue that requires you to hire an independent caterer, the caterer you choose will be the second most important vendor you hire. This vendor is critical because food and beverage costs are generally one of your largest wedding expenses.

Here are a few tips to keep in the back of your mind when you meet with a potential caterer:

Tip 1

Caterers often price their menus in a “per-person” price for an event. However, this per person price doesn’t include all of the catering costs. Be sure to ask what the tax and gratuity (sometimes referred to as service charge) will be and add this to the per-person price quote.

Tip 2

Caterers will often also assist with your rentals, linens and other décor items. Working with one vendor for all of these wedding details can relieve a lot of event coordinating headaches the day of your wedding. But remember, this rental convenience usually comes with a bit of an up-charge. Therefore, if you are on a tight budget, be sure to price compare with multiple rental/décor vendors before you make your final rental decisions.

Now that you’re primed with a few insider tips, I suggest you discuss the following questions with each caterer you are considering to hire:

Event Essentials

  • Are you available on my event date?
  • How many weddings do you cater per year? How long have you been in business? Can you provide a list of recent event references?
  • Have you ever done an event at my event location?
  • Are you licensed by the state of Arizona? Are you licensed to serve alcohol?
  • Will I need any permits for my event? If I do, will you assist me in obtaining them?
  • Do you provide a banquet captain or on-site coordinator to assist with meal service and orchestrate the event?
  • What is your typical guest to server ratio?
  • Are you able to assist with event rentals (tables, chairs, linens) and other event décor (lighting, floral, theme events, etc.)?

Food & Event Design

  • Do you have any menu recommendations considering my budget, guest count and event style? Do you have any signature menu items you are known for?
  • Are you able to create a custom menu for our event?
  • Do you offer event packages? If so, what is included in each package?
  • How and when are your food ingredients obtained? Do you use fresh produce, meat, fish, etc.? Can you source food from local farms, organic and/or sustainably farmed ingredients?
  • Are you able to accommodate dietary restrictions such as vegetarian, gluten-free, vegan, paleo, kosher, nut-free etc.?
  • Do you prepare the food on-site or is the meal prepared in your kitchen and transported to the event?
  • What is the standard décor for appetizer stations, buffet tables, dessert and beverage displays?
  • Do you offer possible décor/menu upgrades such as ice sculptures, chef action stations, specialty displays, etc.?
  • What is your staff’s attire (uniform) for the event? Can the attire be adjusted to match my event theme?
  • What types of linens, glassware, china and flatware do you provide? Note: Low-budget caterers often only offer disposable dinnerware and don’t purchase full length linens. Be sure to clarify this detail if these elements are important to you.
  • Do you offer a tasting? If so, is there a charge?

Wedding Cake & Dessert

  • Do you create wedding cakes? If so, what is the price per person?
  • Can you provide photos of recent wedding cakes you have designed?
  • If we use an outside cake designer, do you charge a cake-cutting fee?
  • If we decide not to have a wedding cake, can we have a dessert display instead?

Bar Service & Beverages

  • Can you serve alcohol and provide a bar and bartender service?
  • How do you charge for alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages? Per drink or do you offer packages? Which is typically more cost-effective?
  • Are we able to provide our own beer, wine, champagne and/or liquor? If so, do you charge a corkage fee?
  • What brands of alcohol are your well/top shelf? What is the price difference?
  • Do you offer specialty cocktails?
  • Will you offer a signature event cocktail? If so, what is this up-charge?
  • Is a champagne toast included in our menu price?
  • Will your staff provide wine service throughout dinner?
  • How long will the alcohol be served?
  • Is coffee and tea service included in our menu prices or is this an additional charge?

Pricing & Policies

  • How is your pricing structure broken down? In other words, how are the prices for the food, beverage, cake, rentals, tax and gratuity calculated? Note: In Arizona gratuity/service charge usually ranges between 18-24% and is added to the final catering cost before the tax is calculated.
  • What is the price difference between an appetizer display station and passed hors d’oeuvres?
  • What is the price difference between a plated meal and a buffet? If we serve a buffet, is there an extra charge for buffet actions stations (e.g. Carving station, omelet station, crème brûlée station, etc.)
  • How much do you charge for a children’s meal?
  • How much do you charge for a vendor meal?
  • How much time do you require to set-up and break down the event? Are there additional labor costs associated with this?
  • If my event runs longer than anticipated, what are your overtime fees?
  • When do you require your final guest count?
  • What is your payment policy? What forms of payment do you accept?
  • How much of a deposit is required to reserve my date? When is my final payment due?
  • Are there any fees we should be aware of that are not listed in the proposal?
  • If we wish to make menu changes and other event updates after we sign our catering contract, will you provide us with an updated event estimate and a updated contract for our records?
  • What is your refund or cancellation policy?

Whew! I know this was a lot to digest.

But I know you can do this. Just remember to take your time and be as thorough as possible with your questions.

Contact us if you would like more guidance to help you choose the best caterer and menu for your event.

Southwestern Weddings

2501 S Village Drive, Cottonwood, AZ 86326



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