Choosing a Caterer for Your Next Event- What to Look For

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Looking for a caterer? If you have an event or special celebration coming up that requires using a caterer, make sure you get answers to all the in’s and out’s of using their services. When you use a caterer, you not only want outstanding food, you also want exemplary service and the essentials, like tableware, equipment, and all the other details that ensure your event is one you want to remember with satisfaction.

Here are some of the most important items to include in your catering checklist:

What’s on the Menu

You only get one chance when serving guests a special meal. Ask the caterer if they have a tasting menu to help you decide on choices. Check on serving sizes and portions. Find out how they accommodate special requests such as vegetarian, kosher, vegan, or non-dairy dishes. Ask if they have a signature dish or, if you are looking for a special dish, make sure if they can and have prepared it before. Better yet, ask for a sample. Also ask how the food is presented at the event, including the layout if the food is not brought to the tables. They should be willing to show you pictures of previous events that indicate layouts.

Get it in writing/What’s extra?

You should receive a written contract outlining all the details for the caterer’s services.  Make sure every item is spelled out, including details like tableware (do they provide tablecloths: are they linen; do they provide dishes: are they china or plastic), cost per serving, beverages, etc.

Not every caterer supplies everything you need for an event. Do they provide a complete wait staff for serving? If so, how many servers are provided? Do they provide a bartender or do you? Do they provide centerpieces, or do you need to arrange those through a florist? Make sure set up and cleanup is explained as well as how leftovers and cancellations are handled. Ask who will be present at the event from the catering company and get a contact name and phone number to contact in case of any problems.

Satisfied clients

Nothing speaks louder than references from prior satisfied customers. A caterer should be willing and offer to share references with you. Check out their Facebook page and online reviews to see how customers rate them. Look at Yelp, Angie’s List, and other review sites to make sure you are reading authentic reviews and not just the best ones posted on a company’s website. If they are not consistently receiving four or five-star reviews, consider that a red flag.


You can begin evaluating a caterer’s customer service through your first contact. Do they respond quickly to a phone or email request? Do they ask questions about your event and any special requests? If they only list what they can do and neglect to ask what you need or would like to make your event special, they may offer a cookie-cutter, rather than individualized approach to their clients. You are their customer; they should be making sure your needs are met.


All reputable caterers should have liability insurance. Ask to make sure the caterer you select carries insurance.