Prior to starting my event planning business I worked as sale associate/event planner at a large full service catering company servicing the DC market. We regularly received inquiries from engaged couples looking for quotes and proposal for wedding catering. Often times the request was just to get pricing. The couple would ask “How much would it cost for catering for 150 guests?” Always wanting to provide an accurate quote and win the business, I needed additional information. I needed the venue, the date, the start and end time of the event, the style of service (plated, buffet or stations), desired food items ( lobster and filet or barbeque and mac and cheese) full bar or wine and beer only, tables and chairs, etc. The answers provided influence the cost of catering services.
Without the basic information I was unable to provide a reasonable and reliable quote to hopefully win the business. The next step was a discovery phone call with the client. While the client could provide some information, I found they had not given much thought to the many important components. Often times they were still guessing at their guest count or had no idea what they wanted to serve or the rental equipment needed. When asked about budget the client was either reluctant to give an answer because they had not thought about how much catering might cost. Or they would throw out a number that was not possible based on their vision and needs. A good sales associate can pose the right questions to get detailed information and provide the couple with a proposal that meets their needs and desires as well as provide some education about catering costs. Sometimes this is not the case and the sales associate answering the phone is just an order taker or does not take the time to ask the “right” questions or providing education. That’s when garbage in, results in garbage out!
Knowing that they needed more than one quote in order to make comparisons the couple would inquire with several catering companies and based on how the caterer responded to their request for information, or never asked for additional details the couple received several wildly different proposals. Some quoted filet and crab cakes, others quoted fried chicken and mashed potatoes, some offered a buffet and some a plated dinner, other included alcohol and others indicated it was TBD, some include a cake and others a mini dessert station, and so on so forth. The couple is now so confused they don’t know what to do.
I recommend before inquiring with catering companies you create an RFP – Request For Proposal – that can be sent to eachcatering company along with a request for a formal proposal/quote.
The RFP should contain the following information:
Your Name, Address, phone and email
Date and location of your wedding
Start time and End Time – ( This information is important when calculating staffing costs)
Number of Adult Guests
Number of Kids under 12 ( you may need kiddie meals which are less expensive then adult meals)
Total Estimated Food and Beverage Budget
Total Estimated Budget for Rental Equipment
What do you want to serve your guests? What do YOU want to eat? What are your favorite restaurants and what do you order when you go to those restaurants? Do you want the menu to reflect fresh seasonal ingredients? Are you vegetarian? Do you have a lot of guests who are vegetarian, vegan? Are there cultural foods you would like to include? Would you like to include food items that represent the city or region where you grew up or currently reside or reflect the theme of your wedding? Is there anything you absolutely have to have on your wedding day menu? Ideally the menu should reflect your personality and the theme or vibe of your wedding. This is a detail that makes a wedding memorable to your guests.
Food Dislikes: Do you hate mushrooms or cilantro? Mention this so you don’t get a proposal with lots of items you would never eat.
Dietary Concerns: Do you need to accommodate dietary issues of family members or guests?
Beverages: Let the cater know what type of beverage service you would like such as Full Liquor Bar, Beer and Wine only or Beer and Wine with specialty cocktails..
Do you plan to provide the alcohol and only need mixers and ice from the caterer?
Will you do a champagne toast or offer champagne at the bar? The caterer will need to bring champagne flutes for this service.
Let them know if you want to serve coffee and tea or a pre-ceremony welcome beverage.
If your venue includes table and chairs for ceremony and reception include a list of the inventory provided by the venue. Does the venue have built in bars?
Is there anything special you would like such as chivari chairs or farm tables or a dance floor or riser. Be as accurate as you can be with this information. Ask them to quote everything you need as you can always remove or replace these items.
You can see that a lot goes into providing an accurate quote and creating a menu that will please you and match your budget and vision. Providing consistent and accurate information will allow the caterer to prepare a complete and accurate quote that can easily be compared with other quotes. You can also see which caterers really listened to your requests. This could be a deal breaker. The bottom line is your ability to make a decision and take the next step is now so much easier.