John Maher: Hi, I’m John Maher. I’m here today with Curt Fougere, a fourth generation Woodman, and Kristi Swett, a fifth generation Woodman, and today, we’re talking about questions you should ask when hiring a caterer. Welcome, Kurt and Kristi.
Kristi Swett: Hi, John.
Curt Fougere: How are you doing?
Before You Call a Caterer
John: Good. Curt, what info should you know before you call a caterer to book an event?
Curt: There’s a few things that are very important when you’re starting the process of getting in touch with a caterer.
One of things that you want to know obviously would be date and time event, whether it’s going to be on a weekend or during the week, during the afternoon, at night. That way you can figure out whether or not you need lights or possibly weather changes, things like that.
Your budget is a huge thing, on how money you are willing to spend, it really determines what type of food that you’re going to present to your guests. Another thing that’s really important is the number of people that you’re having.
A lot of caterers have different price variations on the number of people ‑‑ if you go over a certain number of people, they adjust prices on the cost of them.
John: It might be $100 a person if I only have 15 people in a small party, but if I have 200 people then it might be less than that, I can get a little break or something.
John: Anything else?
Curt: Another thing is, where are you going to have the event? It’s always good to know your location. That way you can start planning how the people are going to get there, whether they can get there easily, on time, traffic, those type things all play into it.
John: Does the distance from where the caterer is make a difference in terms of price if you have to travel a long way to where the event is?
Curt: Usually, the caterers do have a gas charge, there may be a travel charge that’s involved if you’re driving long distances.
Most of the times, you’re fairly local, like within an hour and there’s usually not an extra charge on that. But once the caterers start traveling long distances, then there’s usually extra charges.
Questions You Should Ask the Caterer
John: Right. Kristi, what are some questions that you should ask the caterer when you first call them to book a catering event?
Kristi: Yeah, it’s really important, every company is structured differently, it’s a really good idea to know “what’s the booking process, and what do I need to do?” Some things like that, a great question is “when is my final guest count due?”
For us, it’s usually about two weeks to 10 days prior. We look for your minimum numbers, and then, your numbers can always increase up until the day before the event, which is really something that is unheard-of in catering.
We just have such a large volume that we’re able to be that flexible with our guest count. Another thing to think about would be the payment schedule, is payment due in full up front, do they do portions of payment? And if there’s anything accrued after the fact, is it something you can pay for after the event has past?
John: Is it generally like, I have to pay a third up front, and then, a third a couple of weeks before the event and then another third after the event is over or something like that?
Kristi: Yeah, that’s determined based on guest count, for us anyway. We, first, upfront ask for a $750 to $1,500 deposit depending on your guest count and how many people you’re guaranteeing.
For wedding and larger events that we have to pay a vendor sooner, we do ask for like a six month out payment, a three month out payment, and then, the final payment two weeks prior.
Timeline of an Event
John: What is the timeline like for an event? Is that something that I should know in terms of when everything is going to happen?
Kristi: Yeah, I guess in the initial phone call that’s not super important and it’s something that we can adjust.
But if you do know that you’re going to hire extra staff and you want them there in the very beginning, you know your guests might be arriving at two, they need to get there to set the tables and chairs for you and drop the linens, but then, you’re not looking to have dinner service until four or five, we would send different crews.
We would send a first crew out, and then, cooks would come — it does help us price out your event more accurately, the more information you know about your timeline.
John: Should I ask about cancellation policies? I’m thinking in the summertime, if all of a sudden there’s a big rain storm, or in the winter if there’s a snowstorm, for whatever reason.
I know when you book like a wedding you’re either on or you’re not, but for other events, you might think, “Well, can I put it off for week if it rains?” Or do you have any policies like that?
Kristi: Yeah, I would say again that’s company specific. Our cancellation policy is quite generous I think.
We allow you to postpone or cancel up until seven AM, the day of your event. That just handles food and our cost though, if we did rent a tent or had any kind of third party vendors coming in for you, there might be charges accrued with them.
John: Definitely something to check in with your caterer if you’re not sure.
John: That’s all great information. Kristi and Curt, thank you very much for speaking with me.
Kristi: Thank you, John.
Curt: Thank you.
John: For more information about catering, you can visit the Woodman’s website at woodmans.com, or call 978‑768‑2559.