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My first question is why have you signed the contract if you haven't tasted the food? What happens if you don't like it? As for paying to taste, I find it ridiculous. My fiance has been in the service industry as a Chef for 10+ years and never charged anyone for a tasting. True people don't work for free, but there is a thing called "the cost of doing business." All that being said we have not found a caterer yet that will do a tasting for free. The one we were considering agreed to take the cost of the tasting off our total if we signed a contract. We have yet to taste their food or sign their contract. We have instead decided to meet with a more local caterer who comes recommended from a very dear and trusted friend and see how that goes. We even had one caterer tell us he had never been asked to do a tasting because most people have already eaten at his restaurant and know what his food tastes like. We have neither been to his restaurant nor called him to schedule a meeting.
My venue has a $10,000 minimum cost, and we're only having 100-125 people... and we still have to pay for the tasting. But, we're planning on having that for a meal, so we're going to treat it like the four of us (me, FI, dad and mom) going out to dinner. We signed the contract before tasting the food, but have heard from two families (each with different taste) who have either had a reception or been to a reception there that the food is fantastic.