Catering is a complex business that involves coordinating food, rentals, staffing, and more. The key to being a successful caterer is having a system in place to make sure nothing falls through the cracks. Part of that system is asking your clients the right questions.
Asking your clients the right questions upfront will help you better understand their vision for the event, their expectations of you, and their budget. This will also help you avoid surprises later.
That’s why we’ve compiled a list of questions that every caterer should ask their clients before they start working on an event. By taking the time to ask these questions, you can be sure you’re on the same page with your client and that you’ll be able to deliver a catering experience that they’ll love.
62 Catering questions you should ask your clients before their event:
- What’s your vision for the event?
- What’s the occasion for the event?
- What’s the date and location of the event?
- What’s the expected number of guests?
- What’s the budget for the event?
- What are your “must-have items?”
- What types of food do you prefer?
- Where will the event be held?
- What type of atmosphere are you going for?
- What’s the dress code for the event?
- Have you already booked a venue for the event?
- If so, how big is the space, and what’s the capacity?
- Are there any dietary restrictions or allergies we need to be aware of?
- How formal or informal do you want the event to be?
- What’s the proposed timeline for the event?
- Do you have any special requests or ideas?
- Who’s responsible for providing tables, chairs, linens, and other rental items?
- Are there any rental items we need to provide (e.g. tables, chairs, linens)?
- Who’s responsible for set-up and clean-up?
- What type of service do you prefer – buffet, sit-down, family-style dining, etc.?
- How much interaction do you want your guests to have with the catering staff?
- What kind of atmosphere do you want to create with the food and decor?
- Do you have any preferred vendors or suppliers?
- Have you booked a caterer before?
- If so, who did you hire and why did you choose them?
- How did you hear about us?
- May we please have a list of references?
- When would be an ideal time to visit your facility/location?
- Do you have a specific decor or theme in mind for the event?
- What type of menu are you looking for?
- What type of service style are you looking for?
- Do you want an open bar or a cash bar?
- Will alcohol be served at the event?
- If so, what type of beverages would you like to be served?
- Do you need staffing services?
- If so, how many people do you need and what type of services will they be performing?
- When do you need the final headcount by?
- What’s your contingency plan in case of bad weather?
- Are there any other important deadlines we need to be aware of? (printed materials, decorations, etc.)
- Who’s your contact person for coordination on the day of the event?
- Do you have insurance in case something goes wrong?
- How should guests be seated (e.g. assigned seating, open seating)?
- What is your timeline for making decisions about catering?
- When do menu options need to be finalized?
- Have you hired any other vendors for the event (e.g., a photographer or band)?
- If so, may we contact them to coordinate scheduling and logistics?
- Do you have a preferred method of communication (email, phone call, text message)?
- When is the best time to reach you by phone or email?
- What payment method do you prefer (check, cash, credit card)?
- May we give you a quote for the event?
- When do you want to book us for the event?
- Would you like to schedule a consultation?
- Will there be an entertainment program at the event? If so, what kind?
- Do you need help with the entertainment?
- Do you need help with transportation?
- Do you need help with invitations?
- Do you need help with RSVPs?
- Do you need help with thank you notes?
- Will we have access to a loading dock or elevator?
- How many staff members will be able to assist with set up and break down?
- When will they be available?
- Is there anything else we should know about the event that would be helpful in planning?
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the main function of catering?
Caterers provide food for a variety of events, from weddings to business meetings. The main function of catering is to provide food for guests, but it also includes tasks such as set-up and clean-up after the event.
Catering companies have a team of chefs who create menus for events, and they also work with event planners to make sure the food meets guests’ needs. Catering services can be expensive, but they can also be a great way to impress guests at an event.
What are the two main types of catering?
There are two types of catering: on-premises and off-premises. On-premises catering is when the catering company sets up a temporary kitchen on-site, usually in a tent or other outdoor space. This type of catering is often used for large events, such as weddings or corporate parties, where guests eat their meals on-site.
With off-premises catering, the catering company brings the food to a location chosen by the client. This type of catering is often used for smaller events, such as birthday parties or graduations, where guests take their meals to a different location.
What are the common catering services?
Platting is the most formal and involves a waiter serving each course of the meal on its own plate. Gueridon’s service is similar, but the food is served on a rolling cart rather than on individual plates.
Full-silver service is less common but still used in some upscale restaurants; it includes dishes such as soup, salad, and dessert served in addition to the main course.
Buffet service is the most popular type of catering; diners can choose from a variety of dishes arranged on a table or buffet. And cafeteria service is self-explanatory – guests line up to get their food from a counter or buffet.
What are the three critical things to be aware of when hiring a caterer?
Price: It’s important to get quotes from different caterers and compare prices. Ask about hidden fees and make sure you know what’s included in the price.
Food Quality: The food is the most important part of the caterer’s service, so be sure to taste samples of the food offered and make sure you’re satisfied with it.
Timing: Make sure you give the caterer enough time to prepare everything. Also, find out how long it’ll take them to clean up after the event.
What is the weakness of catering?
One weakness is that the quality of the food may not be as high as when it’s prepared in your own kitchen or a professional kitchen. This is especially true if the catering company doesn’t have its own kitchen and instead uses a restaurant or another company’s kitchen.
Another weakness of catering is that it can be difficult to customize the meal for each individual guest. This can be a problem if guests have dietary restrictions or allergies.
To be a successful caterer, it’s important to ask the right questions. If you take the time to ask your clients these questions, you can be sure that you understand their needs and expectations for the event and can provide them with an excellent catering experience that they’ll love.
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