Thursday, December 4, 2014

Planning: Catering Class

Planning Your Menu Needn’t Be A Daunting Process. Here’s Some Food For Thought!

As soon as you’ve settled on a location—often up to a year prior to the date—it’s time to book your caterer (or begin working with your site’s caterer). Plan your menu seven months beforehand and aim to hold your tasting roughly six weeks before the wedding.

Scott Corridan Design

It may seem like a no­-brainer, but pick someone who regularly prepares the type of food you want. If you find yourself making more than small changes to a caterer’s standard offerings, it may not be a good fit. Previous wedding experience is a necessity, and definitely make sure the caterer has handled events of a similar size.

Before deciding on specific foods for your wedding, figure out the general mood of your reception.

Formal or traditional affair: Plan on a light cocktail hour, then a seated dinner followed by dancing. A variation features courses intermingled with dancing.

Traditional with a little edge: Consider an extended cocktail hour followed by a light sit­down dinner and then elaborately stocked dessert stations.

Most relaxed: Opt for the increasingly popular supper, during which guests dance, mingle and take food from buffets, passed trays and action stations where chefs prepare food.

See if it’s possible to arrange a tasting before you put down a deposit. Not every caterer will do this, and may cost extra, but it’s definitely worth it. One other option: Ask to attend a corporate event or other function where you can sample the food in an atmosphere that will be similar to your wedding.

Scott Corridan Design

When you call previous clients of a potential caterer (that’s when, not if—this isn’t a step to skip!), don’t just inquire whether they were pleased and how the food tasted. Ask about the number of guests at their event, the type of venue and their menu style—if you are expecting 250 guests at a formal affair, someone else’s 40­-person beach party isn’t a good indicator of your potential satisfaction.

After your initial meeting, request an outline. This should specify:

- What the base price includes

- Per ­person cost

- Add-­on fees

- Menu options

- Style of service

- Presentation

Note: Check whether the quoted includes tax and service charges. (The latter is separate from a gratuity and can easily increase your total bill by 25­-to-­30 percent.)

Scott Corridan Design

Make sure you’re clear about exactly what the charges cover. Most caterers include food, beverages, staffing, tables, chairs and serving pieces in the base prices, with anything out of the ordinary (like specialty china, etc.). Think of all the possible items necessary for your reception and talk about who will provide them. If chairs, tables or other furniture needs to be rented, discuss whether you or the caterer are responsible for arranging that. Also, ask about what services—creation of the floorplan and timeline, room setup and table settings—come standard or are available for an extra cost.

Villa Aquamarine
Discuss who will be baking the wedding cake and if any cake­cutting fees will apply. Off­premises caterers generally outsource the cake, while on­site caterers usually make their own and charge a cutting fee if you bring one in from somewhere else.

Ritz-Carlton New Orleans

The general rule for menu tastings is six­-to­-eight weeks before your wedding, but your situation may call for holding it earlier (if you are having a destination wedding). Pay as much attention to presentation as you do to flavors. And speak up—if your caterer needs to make major menu changes much longer after the tasting, it’ll be hard not to worry about how the food wll turn out on the big day.

By Patricia Canole
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