Food and Cakes

Question on Caterer Shopping!

Hi All!

We're planning a wedding for next year and our biggest anxiety is the catering bill (of course for 150 people)!  I've found 3 or 4 places in MA online that SEEM to be around our price range however I want to find out how much it ACTUALLY comes out to (with service fees/travel/etc fees)!

Now my question is, do you schedule an appointment to go in and meet with each caterer or is this something I can e-mail each caterer--let them know what I want from their choices (food choice/station vs sit down, etc)? I've found great info on here on what to ask the caterers but wanted to find out more about the search process! Thank you!

Re: Question on Caterer Shopping!

  • I've had a lot of luck emailing. I've noticed a lot of websites have inquiry forms that ask for the date, number of guests, what kind of meal (dinner, brunch, etc.) and if not, I basically include that info in my inquiry. Usually what I do is ask what their PP price is- I can get a pretty good idea of whether or not I can afford them from that info! I also ask about beverage service and rentals (since my venue isn't all-inclusive.) Then I would narrow down from among the caterers and meet with a handful of them. Some want to meet at the venue and others will meet in their offices. 
    image Daisypath Anniversary tickers
  • I would start over email.  Ask to see the pricing breakdown (including gratuity, travel, dishes, etc.) and what is included in the per person cost.  Ask to see a sample contract.  Once you've narrowed it down, arrange tastings--be prepared to pay for tastings (the caterer we used for our day-before BBQ didn't charge for the tasting if we booked her).  The caterer should tell you how many things to pick or how they usually run their tastings.  

  • Your tips are really helpful-Thank you both so much!
  • Here's my experiences:

    Over half the caterers I contact through their online forms just never respond. I've contacted over a dozen now.

    The most common response, when I get one, is "I have more questions. Please call." I'm about professionally incapable of making personal calls [long hours, thin office walls]. I e-mail back with a bit of an explanation about my work situations and, "Can we handle this by e-mail, or shall my fiance (who doesn't know our extensive allergy concerns 100%) call?" Sometimes I get 0 response just to that. [I'm becoming tempted to tell them I'm physically incapable of speaking. If they can send me one e-mail, they can send me others.]

    Eventually there's an exchange of info. 2 have requested in-person meetings. After that, they prepare a contract with final pricing details. 1 has given me a pretty complete pricing break-down without an in-person meeting, but only a phone conversation. [They answered on the weekend.]

    Different caterers have different pricing systems. Some will include "rentals" in the per-person charge, so it's a fairly plain per-person cost. Others charge per glass, per napkin, etc. To compare, you have to add up all the charges and divide by your expected number of guests.

    2 caterers I contacted through their forms responded by telling me they just couldn't work with our budget. I appreciated their honesty.
  • We used an outside caterer for our wedding (the venue did not offer this).

    For us, the best thing to do was decide upon a menu we wanted.........most caterers can customize an existing dish on their menu to your particular requests. We knew what we wanted, rather than being swayed by what they offered.

    I arranged meetings on the phone with 6 different companies. After our meeting, we narrowed it down to two. We asked these two to prepare what we wanted for a taste test. We then picked the one most budget friendly and that had the most experience at our venue, and the best taste.

    My recommendation: You are in a VERY expensive area for weddings based on the gals that were on my August 2012 wedding board. Your local board is your best bet for caterers to consider within your budget. I'm sure they have recommendations.

    We found that in our geographic area, the best prices (vendors willing to negotiate) were gourmet stores that also did catering. They don't make all their profits on just catering, they have great food on hand already, and they have more options. Not sure if that is an option in the Boston area.

    Good luck.
  • For some reason, today was the day for caterers to get on the ball. One who hadn't responded to e-mails in 3 days, finally did. And my future husband managed to set up a meeting with another.

    So we've gone from having 2 in the running to having 4 again.

    /end vent
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