March 4, 2015

HOW TO READ A CATERING PROPOSAL

Upon securing your wedding date and venue, one of the first vendors you're likely to contact will be the caterer. Some venues have a single in-house caterer that you are required to use, and others may have a list of preferred caterers that you need to choose from. If you are offered a choice of caterers, we recommend starting with 2 catering proposals.

In requesting a catering proposal, it is best to provide some concrete information to the caterer besides your date, venue, and guest count. Be open in sharing your culinary delights with them. What are your favorite restaurants and cuisines? What are some favorite dishes that you enjoy? Any allergies or ingredients that you simply detest? What do you think your guests would savor? Are they adventurous eaters? What desserts are you drawn to regularly? Best cocktail that you've ever had? Secret family recipes you want to incorporate into your wedding menu?

Then, share a snapshot of your wedding vision with them on a more macro level. For example, if you are getting married at the Asian Art Museum, how do you plan to utilize the spaces there for ceremony, cocktail hour, and dinner + dancing? Will guests be shuttled in, or will they drive independently? What time do you want to start/end the event? Are you envisioning a sit-down, plated dinner or interactive food stations? 

The more information you are able to provide, the more accurate the catering proposal will be in reflecting the context of your wedding. Otherwise, you may be getting a more generic proposal, which makes it hard for you to see if the ideas and costs can actually be applicable to your event.

Although every caterer works differently, catering proposals typically include 6 parts:

1. Food-- this is the part that may be the most familiar to you, as it will be similar to reading a restaurant menu. To start out, many caterers will offer you a list of choices for hors d'oeurves, appetizers, entrees, and desserts. 

2. Beverages--there are several tiers to the type of liquor and wine a bar can have. Brands matter here, so the pricing will reflect the tier that you pick.

3. Labor/Staffing--this includes all the labor that will be required to execute your event seamlessly. Servers, kitchen staff, number of chefs, bartenders....trust your caterer to determine the right number of staff for your event. Different venues have different complexities, and without knowing the way an event runs on the backend, it's impossible for you to know the proper staffing that is required for a smooth event. Trust your caterer! 

4. Rentals--Most non-hotel venues do not store any equipment in-house, and thus will require your caterer to bring everything to the event. From kitchen equipment to tabletop items, everything will be rented and delivered on-site the day of your event, and because the caterer is usually the one to set everything up, it makes the most sense for them to manage the rental orders. There are a ton of choices for you to choose from in terms of rentals, from chairs to linens to chargers and everything in between, so the pricing will reflect the items that you choose. For example, a chiavari chair costs between $6-$9 each, and a ghost chair costs around $18 each to rent, so there is a significant difference there! Because such decisions are usually not made until later in the planning + design process, most caterers price their proposals out with basic, standard rental items. 

5. Production Fees--Some caterers will have a production fee on their proposal, equating to about 15-20% of the overall costs. This is to offset some of their internal production costs, such as trucking, permitting (at certain venues), etc. 

6. Taxes and Service Charges--Here in California, taxes are high and can account for about 10% of the overall proposal costs. Some caterers will automatically include a service charge as well, that is between 10-20%, which serves at the gratuity for their team. Others omit this, allowing you to decide if you would like to extend gratuity at the conclusion of your event. 

Many couples get sticker shocked when they receive catering proposals, because they expect that they can get a really nice meal for $100-$150 per person, just as you would at a fancy restaurant. However, they failed to take into account all the other costs that go into producing a wedding, which bumps the prices up quite a bit! Just remember this: there is a lot of labor involved on a wedding day, and nothing is as easy as it appears. If you've hired really professional, exceptional vendors, please trust them to staff appropriately to ensure you have a seamless event!

One of the best parts of the wedding planning process-- food tasting! 

The caterer plays a huge part at your wedding, so definitely take some time to do your due diligence before picking one that is the best fit for you. Some caterers will offer a pre-booking tasting for a fee, so if it is important for you to taste their food before you hire them, don't be shy to ask about that.


Cheers,

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