People usually don’t think about catering when they’re still searching for the wedding reception venue. While it makes sense to focus on how to choose a venue first, you need to factor in the reception catering as food is one of the major attractions.
All eyes are on the couple as they share the most important moment of their union with family and friends. As the wedding organizer, you can’t ruin that moment by failing to cover the bases when it comes to catering.
While reception catering companies are versatile enough to make any situation work, you can’t just sit back and do nothing. There are quite a few details that must be ironed out to guarantee the success of the event. Let’s start with the questions you should be asking:
1 – Do you allow a different reception catering service?
Some reception venues have their catering crew, while others bring an exclusive partnership with a catering company. These venues don’t allow you to use your preferred catering service. The only time that you can choose your caterer is when you pay the venue an additional fee. Ask the management about their policy and negotiate the extra fee (if there’s any). The last thing you want to see is your caterer prevented from entering the venue while carrying your food.
2 – Is there a place for the caterer to set up?
Most caterers require ample space to set up and stage everything. The size of that space depends on the number of guests and the corresponding menu. Don’t forget to ask the venue management about this space because the catering company may need a staging area for prepping and displaying food. If there isn’t enough space to hold hot and cold food, the caterer is forced to bring stuff like a warming oven or even a large fridge, which is quite inconvenient.
3 – Is water and power readily available for use?
Space isn’t the only requirement for any catering service to succeed. Talk to your prospective venue about the availability of water and power. Some items on the menu must be kept in specific temperatures until they’re served. Choose a venue that has a nearby power supply. If there’s none, you’ll have to coordinate with your catering company about the use of generators, which is inconvenient, to be honest.
The catering service must have a decent water source for the entirety of the event. There’s a handful of uses for water, i.e., hand washing, temperature-controlled storage, and washing the dishes and glassware. You must factor in the availability of water and power when choosing a reception venue.
4 – Is there a place to dispose of catering materials?
Some reception venues have stringent policies on waste disposal. You may come across a venue that doesn’t allow the use of their dumpsters and bins after the party is over. Instead, they require the catering company to pack the trash and bring it with them. If you forget to ask this question, you will end up with another inconvenient compromise. When the caterer is forced to bring the disposable catering materials, you might get charged for the unexpected costs in logistics.
5 – Do you provide chairs and tables for catering?
It’s a big plus if you find a reception venue that provides the chairs, tables, and other indispensables for a wedding any similar event. But not all venues hand out those things for free. You should ask the management if they charge extra for those tables or if they have anything to offer at all. Some venues are bare, which means you don’t get the amenities for your event. You have no choice but to rent the equipment. If you’re lucky enough, your caterer might provide the tables for you.
6 – Do you offer liquor inside the venue?
Some venues offer a bar where you can purchase liquor even if you don’t avail of their in-house catering option. It’s a welcome addition, but the management may not tell you about it upfront. So, it’s best to ask them and then inform your caterer about it. The problem with an in-house bar is that it usually comes with a high markup of the price. Talk to your caterer about it – there’s a chance that they’ll incorporate alcoholic beverages in the menu.
If possible, visit at least three potential reception venues and take the caterer with you. Nothing beats a physical visit to the place to weigh on the pros and cons. A representative of the catering service should be there so that they’ll have a preview on what to expect, i.e., amount of space to work with, available amenities. It’s not a necessity, but it certainly will help achieve a seamless preparation of the venue before the guests arrive.