The Bride Link
Editorial Category: 
Date: 
Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Wedding Catering Service: Must Ask Questions

Welcome to The Bride Link podcast, your home for expert wedding planning advice. Today we're welcoming Destinee with Rothchild Catering, here to go over your “must ask questions” when booking a caterer. That way, you know before you call for an initial consult you don't miss a beat on all of the planning that you should do beforehand. 

Lindsay: So Hi Destinee, thanks for joining us today!

Destinee: Thank you for having me here! I'm so excited to be talking about catering today. You know at rock chalk catering, we're so passionate about food. It's great to share our advice. 

Lindsay: Yeah, and I really think that if we go over a few things there a little bit more educated before they do that initial phone call, they'll get more out of that initial phone call than they would if they just call you right off the bat knowing nothing. 

Destinee: Absolutely. Brides or couples, in general, are talking to so many wedding vendors during their planning process. If they can be prepared when they give us a call, they are going to get so much more out of that first phone call and hopefully save themselves some time. 

Lindsay: As a wedding vendor, I know that usually when I get contacted, one of the first questions they ask is “what's the price”? I know there's just so much that goes into catering, you can't just initially go back with the quote without asking quite a few questions. So first, I wanted to talk about the different types of catering. I know there's full service as well as drop-off and that really can impact the price a lot. So can you talk a little bit about what a different style of catering is going to do to your initial quote and what questions you need to be aware of that? 

Destinee: Absolutely! So we do full-service catering, which means that we have a staff that we can send to your wedding reception. They are going to be responsible for the setup, busing tables, making sure the food's maintained, and cleaning up afterward. We do get requests for drop-off service and that is something that we will provide. But we like to educate our clients and make sure that they have designated people responsible for the other duties that usually come along with full-service catering. So whenever someone calls and asks about the style of food service, I usually like to ask them a few questions, engage whether or not they do need a service staff or whether they can actually have just dropped off and been fine.

Lindsay: Couples trying to save the money sometimes elect for drop off catering but they don't realize how much work they're setting themselves up for sometimes.

Destinee: Yes. A lot of people think that they'll get the food delivered, people eat it and then that's the end of the situation. But nobody wants to work on their own wedding day! It’s very important somebody is designated to clean up those plates and scrape them off and put them away and make sure they're returned to where they came from. 

Lindsay: Our company probably does a hundred weddings a year and I always have people that say their guests are really great and are going to bust their own tables. They'll know to throw away their own plate and usually they don't. This is because it's not typical at a wedding, a lot of times the service level is a little bit higher. I've had one wedding out of all of the weddings we've ever done where all the guests did remove their plates. 

Destinee: Wow. That would be a sight to see for sure! Of course, some couples opt for doing disposable, that's a whole other ball game. But when you're talking about ceramic plates and stainless cutlery, linen napkins, all of that, those are items that are going to have to be returned. So there's a little bit more that goes into them. And most rental companies have policies about how those products need to come back to them. So you want to make sure they’re getting back in the right condition to avoid additional charges. 

Lindsay: So what are some common misconceptions just about catering and pricing in general? 

Destinee: A lot of clients assume that catering is like a restaurant and that catering should cost the same as a restaurant meal or maybe even less because you're ordering for high quantities of people. But catering is so different from a restaurant!  At a restaurant, they have set menus, they know what they're serving every day. They can look at the numbers and say, “We go through this amount of potatoes in a week”, and they're able to order food quantities from their suppliers at a discounted price because they know they're going to sell it. But for a caterer, our menus are different every day, every week, and for every client. We are not able to order quite as much at one time because we might not need those same ingredients for two or three weeks. We're not able to get that great bulk discount on our food products as much as a restaurant can. And we’re so much more involved as far as logistics go. We're traveling because we are mobile, so we're required to load all equipment, we're paying for that gas that's getting us to the venue, etc. So there's a lot more that goes into catering then a restaurant that operates the same each day. 

Lindsay: I do not envy your position because that sounds like one giant word math problem to me to figure out a catering quote! 

Destinee: Yeah, it is. It really is! 

Lindsay: Do you have a lot of people that are looking at different dietary restrictions when they're talking to you about a custom menu? 

Destinee: We do. I've noticed that people are starting to be inclusive with their menus. If they have a lot of guests that are gluten-free or vegan, vegetarian, they're taking that into consideration when planning their menu from the beginning. We also have clients that might have one or two vegetarian guests only. They ask if we can do a specific plate for vegetarian guests and our answer is always yes! We would be happy to! We want everybody to have delicious food and make sure that everybody is taken care of. So we get that question a lot. We're always happy to help and sometimes a menu will actually lend itself to being perfectly fine for that guest if they are looking for a vegetarian meal in one of their options on their menu is pasta with lame roasted vegetables. That in itself can be a sign or an entree, as long as you have enough to make a full meal out of it, then that's usually my recommendation. 

Lindsay: So if a guest happens to be concerned about dietary restrictions, just when they're at a wedding, what should that guest do? 

Destinee: They should certainly seek out someone on the catering staff and ask them because they are going to have the correct information. We try to make it a priority that while all of our menus are unique, we try to be consistent with how we create our sauces and prepare our vegetables. That way the server is educated on what is in that dish so that they can tell the customer. Sometimes we will put food signs if, but it's not always requested because people don't like the look sometimes of having the signage. So in that situation, you'd want to ask a staff member, otherwise, we'll put it on the sign, whether or not it's gluten-free or vegetarian. 

Lindsay: As a wedding planner, I always make the guests talk directly to the catering staff because I don't want to misremember something and give them the wrong information. For example, saying there are no peanuts in a dish when in fact they’re definitely peanuts in it. That’s why it's always important to ask the right person! So I feel like the catering staff is the expert on what's in the food. I just have the guests talk to one of the lead staff members. So that way we know that, that we're giving them all the correct information.

Destinee: We ask our clients to tell us in advance whether or not there is somebody with a food allergy or a restriction. Even if we're not creating a custom plate, even if there's enough on the menu for that guest to eat, it's important that we are aware of it. That way if someone asked, our staff knows what they're talking about. They can direct them to where there are gluten-free or dairy-free items. We want them aware that there is somebody in this room that needs to know the answer to this question and more importantly we are prepared to answer it. 

Lindsay: What do you see as some other trends that people are asking for? What other questions should couples have ready when speaking with a caterer?

Destinee: Food stations have kind of been an up and down path for a while in catering. I still think that they are a trend because I'm seeing a lot of people ask for dessert bars instead of just doing the big wedding cake. Everybody loves that cause they get to pick what they want! Maybe they are a chocolate person or maybe they'd prefer to have the fruity dessert. So, a lot of couples are opting for the token cake that they can take the picture cutting and then they might have some cookies in their own warmer or cheesecake bites, something that appeals to a variety of taste. 

Lindsay: As a wedding planner, I'm definitely pushing that just because not everybody likes cake. And if you have a dessert budget, why wouldn't you spread it out and do a few different types of treats so everybody gets something they like, but also you spend money on stuff that's actually going to get eaten.

Destinee: Right! And you can make such a pretty display out of it when you have all of those different desserts. They come in different containers and they have different shapes and all this stuff, it makes such a beautiful aesthetically pleasing display for your dessert table. And of course everybody loves it when things are pretty so that that is a big benefit as well.

Lindsay: So if I were to call you as a bride or groom and ask, “Are you available on my date?” What goes into answering that question? 

Destinee: It's funny you asked that because that is usually the first question that a client will ask me and it's difficult to answer it unless I have some information about the wedding. So knowing the guest count and the style of service would be the two most important points of information for me to start a quote. The style of service and the guest count usually dictate the number of resources we need or the number of servers, the number of equipment, shaping dishes, etc. So, when I look at the calendar and there are other events on that day, I need to know how many resources you need for me to tell you if we have them. When clients come to me prepared with those two specific pieces of information, I'm much better able to answer their questions. 

Lindsay: Again, that sounds like one big word math problem to me haha! I definitely don't envy that. I think that really when you're talking about day of logistics, there's so much that you guys need to know that people just need to be prepared to call you and have a full long conversation. Not just shoot off a few questions and expect a quote back in 10 or 15 minutes. 

Destinee: Absolutely, people are planning weddings so far in advance these days. I'm getting quotes right now for a year in advance plus. People seem to think that catering is one of the first things that they need to book. That's not necessarily the case because caterers can usually do more than one event per day. Other wedding vendors can't, such as a venue, sometimes a photographer or a DJ. So for catering, they can actually wait until they have a little bit more information figured out. That way they can come to the caterer and get an accurate quote by knowing what's there. So there's, there's a lot that goes into the day of logistics that somebody's a year and a half in advance might not know at that point. 

Lindsay:I think they will just six is just such a big topic that we should just do another podcast that covers all of it because there's so much that goes into it and so much that people don't think about, they can really, really mess up the day if it's not planned correctly. So I think we should go over that in another podcast. 

Destinee: That sounds like a great idea cause there's a lot. I’d love to come back too!

Lindsay: So for more expert wedding planning advice, you could always follow us at @thebridelink! If you want more information about Rothchild Catering Wedding Services or to have just a conversation about your wedding, you can reach out to them directly!

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