12 Questions to Ask Your Event Caterer

You need the best event catering. Even if you’re having a boxed catered lunch or small breakfast catering, your event is just as important as big corporate event catering or formal wedding catering (and you deserve to know everything you’ll need to prepare for).

It’s important to know what your caterer will provide, what they won’t provide and the other important details that will affect your event.

Here is a list of 12 important questions to ask your potential event caterer:

1. How far will they travel to cater an event?

Before you get started talking with a caterer about your event catering needs, you need to know if they can deliver the food where you need it. If you don’t have a specific venue in mind yet, ask them the maximum catering delivery distance so you have an idea of where you need to look for venues.

2. Do they charge a catering delivery fee?

Most catering companies expect to bring the food to your event and already have that service built into the price. However, there may be some instances where that’s not the case. Especially if you’re looking for boxed catering meals and other catering pickup options (like take-and-bake), you could be expected to pick up the food for your event.

3. Is a service team included with the catering cost?

Some meal styles, like buffet catering, may require minimal work and not include a full service catering staff. You’ll need to know what kind of, if any, catering staff will be present for your event, what they’ll be responsible for and how long they’ll be there. Even if staff is included for your event, you may still be responsible for certain tasks.

4. Is clean up included in their catering service?

Some catering services have a limited time that they will actually be at your event, and may leave behind food in disposable containers that will need to be dealt with at the end of the event. If caterers near you don’t already include cleanup in their fee, it could be worth asking if that service is available for an additional fee.

5. Will anything need to be returned or picked up after the event?

If a catering company will only be attending the event for a short amount of time, they may leave behind warming equipment and other food service materials that will need to be returned to them within a certain time period. Especially if you purchase kegs through your caterer (the empty kegs will usually come with a hefty deposit that will only be refunded on their return). Keep in mind that some equipment may be large and require a bigger vehicle to transport.

6. Do they provide beverages?

Asking your potential catering company options if they can also provide beverages can be a huge time saver in your event planning process. If you’re planning to have alcoholic beverages at your event, be sure to also ask if they have the necessary licensing and insurance to serve alcohol at your event venue.

7. What is their deposit, refund and cancellation/reschedule policy?

You’re probably already expecting to put down a deposit when you book a caterer, but that deposit amount can vary among different catering services. You’ll be able to budget more effectively once you know if the deposit is a percentage of your expected total catering cost or a flat fee.

There may also be a fee or restrictions on canceling or rescheduling your event catering, so be sure to also ask about that. We all know how unexpected things can easily pop up and change our plans.

8. Do they have gluten free catering or allergen free catering options?

Even if you don’t have a gluten intolerance or food allergies, keep in mind that your guests might. Knowing if those options are available ahead of time could save you a lot of hassle closer to your event.

9. Are they associated with an event venue?

Some caterers work exclusively with certain event venues or are preferred by some venues and not others. Be sure to communicate with both your caterer and event venue to be sure your event will coordinate smoothly.

10. Do they provide plates and silverware?

Dinnerware is not always provided, but may be available for extra charge if it’s not already included. Ask your catering provider if plates, bowls, napkins, silverware and cups are provided, and if they will be disposable or reusable (as well as who is responsible for collecting them).

11. Do they provide containers for leftover food?

This one sometimes gets overlooked! If you’re planning on buffet catering, you’re more than likely going to end up with leftovers. You’ll want to find out who will be responsible for packaging those up and if your caterer will provide containers or if they’re available at an extra charge.

Some caterers may not send the leftovers home with you, so that’s something you may want to consider if you’re thinking of having meals for later. Alternatively, that may be preferable if your event caterer takes care of removing the food and you don’t have to worry about that part.

12. Will they need specific kitchen accommodations at the event venue?

This is something caterers will usually ask ahead of time or know from previous experiences with your venue, but it’s always good to cover your bases and be sure that something wasn’t forgotten in conversation. Things like refrigerators, large sinks, dishwashers, heating units and extra tables could be helpful or necessary.

Don’t worry if that seems like a never-ending list of questions and concerns! Good caterers will have a lot of those answers available to you before you even ask, either through their menu, website or introductory information given in the initial catering consultation or tasting.

If you’re looking for Cedar Rapids catering, Zest Catering Company (previously A Touch of Class Catering) is a local catering company that can cater events with as few as 12 people and as many as 1,400. As the new(ish) owners, we’ve been catering in Cedar Rapids since 2018 (A Touch of Class Catering from 2018-2022, now Zest Catering Co. from 2022 forward).

To check out our menu and more information about us, visit ZestCateringCo.com. For catering questions, get in touch with us through our online contact form or by calling (319) 261-0345. If you’re ready for a catering quote, you can request one online at ZestCateringCo.com/Get-a-Quote or by calling (319) 261-0345.

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