A wedding is one of the best and most stressful things that could happen to you. There are several factors that go into a successful wedding all of which come with their own set of headaches. Finding the right caterer can be one of those headaches, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are five questions to ask yourself when deciding on a caterer.
How many guests.
Its important to get a head count in advance. You’d be surprised how many people low ball their turn out . Imagine Having 100 people and only enough food for 60. That’s scary. Not only would you have a room full of grumpy people but their less likely to show up at your next wedding. If applicable get your attendees to RSVP. Give them an incentive if necessary.
What type of wedding service are you looking for?
It pays to do a little research on the different styles of catering to familiarize yourself with the terminology. Here’s a guide for you:
Reception Service. Light foods are served displayed buffet-style on a table. Guests usually stand and serve themselves. They normally do not sit down to eat. These type of wedding are sometimes referred to as a “walk and talk.” Food is “finger food” and/or “fork food.” It is inappropriate to serve food that requires a knife or is difficult to eat while standing.
Butlered Hors d’ Oeuvres Service. Food is put on trays in the kitchen and passed by servers. Guests serve themselves, using cocktail napkins provided by the server. This is a typical style of service used for upscale receptions. This style of service is only appropriate for “finger food.”
Buffet Service. Foods are arranged on tables. Guests usually move along the buffet line and serve themselves. When their plates are filled, guests take them to a dining table to eat. Servers usually provide beverage service at tableside. A very elegant buffet would have servers carry guests’ plates to their tables for them.
Action Stations. Similar to a buffet. Chefs prepare and serve foods at the buffet (rather than in the kitchen). Foods that lend themselves well to action station service include wok stations, mashed potato bars, fajitas, pastas, grilled meats, omelets, crepes, sushi, flaming desserts and spinning salad bowls. These stations are sometimes called “performance stations” or “exhibition cooking.”
Cafeteria Service. Similar to a buffet. Guests stand in line, but do not help themselves. They are served by chefs and/or servers from behind the buffet line. This is a way to control portion sizes. Sometimes the inexpensive items, such as salads, will be self-service, and the expensive meat items will be served by an attendant.
Plated Buffet Service. Selection of pre-plated foods, such as entrees, sandwich plates and salad plates, set on a buffet table. They may also be placed on a roll-in (a i.e., rolling cart or table) and then moved into the function room at the designated time. Because of individual plates, trays are usually used. This is a particularly good idea for groups who want to continue “working” meals while they eat.
Plated (American) Service. Guests are seated. Foods are pre-portioned in the kitchen, arranged on plates and served by servers from the left. Beverages are served from the right. Used dishes and glasses are removed from the right. This is the most functional, common, economical, controllable and efficient type of service. However, if foods are plated too far in advance, they could run together, discolor, or otherwise lose culinary quality.
Family-style (English) Service. Guests are seated. Large serving platters and bowls are filled with foods in the kitchen and set on the dining tables by servers. Guests help themselves from a lazy Susan or they pass the foods to each other. Occasionally, a host would carve the meat.
Pre-set Service. Food that is already on the dining tables when guests are seated. Since pre-set foods will be on the tables for a few minutes before they are consumed, you must pre-set only those that will retain sanitary and culinary qualities at room temperatures. Most common are bread and butter, but often the appetizer will be pre-set as well. For lunches with a limited time frame, occasionally salad and dessert will be pre-set.
Hand Service. Guests are seated. There is one server for every two guests and all guests at a table are served at precisely the same time. Servers wear white gloves. Foods are pre-plated and the plates are fitted with dome covers. Each server carries two servings from the kitchen and stands behind the two guests assigned to him or her. At the direction of the captain or maitre d’ hotel, all servings are set in front of all guests, and their dome covers are removed, at precisely the same time. This procedure is may be followed for all courses. This is a very elegant style of service that is sometimes used for small gourmet -meal functions. This style is sometimes called “service in concert or synchronized service.”
The Wave. This is a ‘quick and dirty” method of serving where all servers start at one end of the function room and work straight across to the other end. Servers are not assigned workstations. In effect, all servers are on one team and the entire function room is the team’s work station. The wave is typically used in conjunction with plated and pre-set service styles. Large numbers of guests can be served very quickly, usually using less labor. It does not provide individualized service for attendees.
Service styles play an important role in the success of a catered wedding. Clients can choose those that may be less expensive (such as pre-set), or can splurge with French or Russian service. Furthermore, some service styles (such as action stations) are very entertaining and can contribute significantly to guest satisfaction.
For variety, you can mix service styles during a single meal function. For instance, you might begin with reception service for appetizers, move into the banquet room where the tables are pre-set with salads, rolls and butter, use French service for the soup course, use Russian service for the entree, and end the meal with a dessert buffet.
what is the time frame and location of the wedding.
The devils in the details. Know the specifics of your wedding to avoid any headaches. Plan your wedding down to the minute. This leaves a lot of room for improv.
Are there any food related allergies.
Don’t overlook this. Make sure you guests tell you their food allergies long in advance. There’s nothing worse than having to delay an wedding because of an allergic reaction. Some common food allergies are nuts, dairy, berries and seafood.
What style or type of food were you thinking of for your wedding?
Do you want a traditional American menu or do you want to keep it cultural? Upscale or finger food? If you can’t decide ask your potential guests. Maybe you could even have more than one option at your wedding.
Make sure to thoroughly answer these questions to yourself before making a decision. You may not know how to answer some of the questions and that’s fine. Cedar Creek walks you through the process to figure out exactly what it is you want your event to be like. Sign up for our FREE wedding food tasting dinner. Click here to sign up