Choosing the food for your wedding reception isn’t a decision that can be rushed. There are many questions to ask, but the first thing to consider is what type of food you want.
Niel Ruggiero of Ruggiero’s Italian-Style Catering said even if your biggest concern is how much you’ll be spending, it’s important to know what you want before you start your search.
Ruggiero said choosing the caterer is like shopping for a piece of furniture. You can go out and buy something right away, or you can do your homework and find exactly you want. Once you know what you’re looking for, you can start comparing prices.
He suggests that you write down what you want before contacting caterers. The caterer can give you the price for your desired food choices and then you can make substitutions or omissions as needed to meet your budget.
Ruggiero recommends that you plan ahead and put down a deposit to secure your date with the caterer. “You have to think about how important this day is to you. That’s how you should gauge how far in advance you set a date with your caterer. In this economy, you have to plan ahead so that you get your money’s worth. The quality of the food and presentation fails if you don’t plan ahead.”
Ruggiero, who has been in the business for six years, said another important thing to do when choosing the food for your reception is to schedule a tasting to ensure you’ll like the food. If something doesn’t meet your satisfaction, you’ll have time to make changes.
Ralph Skelton of Ralph’s Catering said it’s also important to ask a potential caterer about the full extent of the caterer’s services. Are linens, dinnerware and glassware included? Are beverage services provided or do you need to go through another vendor? If beverage services are provided, does that include alcoholic beverages?
It’s also important to tell your caterer about themes or color schemes you hope to incorporate during the reception. Some caterers supply decorations and accessories to enhance table settings. That can save you money down the road.
Another lingering question when choosing a caterer: what becomes of leftovers? Skelton said for his business, leftovers are packaged for the clients as long as they furnish proper refrigeration. Otherwise, if food is left out and spoils, caterers can be liable if anyone gets ill. That’s why it’s imperative to make sure your caterer is licensed and carries insurance.
Once you’ve selected your caterer, it’s essential to continue the dialogue with the caterer to ensure that everything’s on schedule.
Gerry Hinkle of Sticky Chicken and Ribs said it makes things easier for all involved if there’s one contact person. If several people are talking to the caterer, things can get mixed up or left out.
Hinkle also recommends that if you go with a caterer, let the caterer handle all the food and preparations. “I’ve had people tell me just to bring the meat and they’ll take care of the salads and appetizers, but then something happens and they forget a serving fork, or someone didn’t pick up the cake plates. It’s easier if I can handle all of that. That way nothing is forgotten. We think ahead. The dinner might be for 100 people, but we’ll bring 150 cups just to be sure.”
Hinkle said if you have a special request, you need to address it early on in the planning process. If you want to serve your guests a special family dish, for example, you should ask the caterer – at the outset – if the caterer is willing to prepare it. “You can give us a recipe and we’ll make it for you. Not all caterers do that. However, we’ll have you in at least once to taste it to make sure we get it right.”
For more information about catering services, call Niel Ruggiero at 925-323-0522; Ralph Skelton at 925-625-2307; or Gerry Hinkle at 925-240-2153.