What is your style of cuisine?
Food is a very important aspect of your reception, and a large part of your wedding reception budget will be spent on the catering. Before you select a caterer you want to be sure their style of catering is aligned with your culinary preferences. Think about your favorite restaurants and use that as inspiration for selecting a caterer. Do you prefer classic Italian, American bistro or farm to table cuisine, your reception is a reflection of your personality and the food you select to serve should exemplify that.
Can the caterer arrange for a tasting of the specific foods you're interested in prior to hiring them?
Ask the caterer if they provide intimate group tastings experiences or private tastings. Is there a fee for the tasting, can it be provided before the contract is written, does the chef select what will be sampled or are you able to ask for specific items? Keep in mind the purpose of the tasting is to feel confident in the culinary expertise of the catering firm you select and that it's not practical to try every item that will be served.
How involved is the caterer in a typical reception?
Does he/she work as a wedding coordinator or banquet manager, assisting with the on-site ceremony, coordinating with the band and photographer, cueing the couple when to cut the cake, etc. Be sure to have a clear understanding of the role the catering manager will perform. If the caterer does not assist with these items, you'll need to hire a day-of coordinator to assist you.
Who provides or coordinates for rental equipment?
Does your caterer provide china, table linens, glassware and flatware or will they coordinate those items for you? Are there additional fees for those items or are they included in your per person catering price? What about tables, chairs and a dance floor? Be sure you have a clear idea of what is included in your catering price and that you are comparing caterers point by point as to what is included.
What is the caterer's average price range?
Are costs itemized depending on the foods you choose, and what is included (linens, tax, and gratuity)? Does the caterer guarantee pricing once the contract is written or are they able to raise prices? Most catering firms will provide a substitution clause to protect them from significant market fluctuations for an item. Be sure you understand their pricing policies before you book.
Who is the main contact?
Will the same person you work with when planning also oversee meal service on the day of the wedding? Smaller catering firms will generally have one person that books, plans and executes events. Larger firms are able to hire specialists. You will work with an experienced planner and then have a well-trained event manager that will oversee all the details of your Albany wedding day. Be sure there is a good process in place for the transition from planner to operations manager and that all of your details are provided to you in writing for review and approval.
Where will the food be prepared?
Are there on-site facilities, or does the caterer need to provide ovens, refrigeration, hand washing stations etc. If the caterer needs to provide these items are there additional fees? In some cases the venue will charge a kitchen usage fee. Be sure to know if this is included in your catering cost or an additional fee that will be added to your final invoice.
Does the caterer provide wait staff?
How many would they recommend for the size of your event? What is the staff uniform? What is the training process for the wait staff, are they steady employees of the catering firm or people that work with them on occasion? Being a professional server is a discipline and a catering firm should have a training process in place to be sure the staff attending to your guests are proficient and courteous.
Does the caterer provide all necessary licensing and insurance?
You should be sure that your caterer has a health department license and is able to provide state mandated liquor licensing.
Can you speak to previous clients?
Ask to reach out to two or three previous clients that recently hosted events with your preferred caterer. Ask them if there were anything they would have done differently. Wedding boards such as Wedding Wire are terrific referral sites.