Catering Company FAQs

  • Introduction

    Catering is a convenient service that brings restaurant-quality food and beverages to a variety of social gatherings. It's beneficial to weddings, workplace celebrations, and other events because it invites guests to relax and enjoy a festive meal. While there are many dedicated catering businesses that transport food and equipment to their clients, many restaurants also offer catering as part of their dining services.

    For those interested in a career in catering, the flexibility to take your business anywhere is one factor that may make the industry attractive. Like traditional restaurants, caterers often specialize in one type of cuisine, and they can vary widely in price and capacity. Whether you're looking to hire catering services for your next event or you want to learn more about the profession, take a look at these frequently asked questions below.
  • Can a catering company serve alcohol?

    Just like brick-and-mortar restaurants, catering companies need a liquor license to serve alcohol to patrons. If a caterer is serving alcoholic beverages, guests under the age of 21 are allowed on the premises, but they may not buy or consume alcohol.

  • Are catering tastings free?

    If you're having a large event catered and expecting to spend a lot of money, having a tasting beforehand is often a good idea. Tastings are handled differently by catering companies; some may charge while others won't. In general, most caterers charge a fee, usually around the cost of a meal at a restaurant.

  • When catering for a party, how do you calculate how much food is needed?

    Caterers usually help their clients calculate food by offering a recommended portion size per guest. Taking this into consideration, all you need to do is multiply this portion by the number of expected guests to determine the total amount of food needed.

  • When should you reserve catering services before an event?

    The amount of time in advance needed to schedule catering services depends on the number of people and type of event. For weddings with 50 people or more, six to 12 months in advance is recommended. For smaller gatherings, a month or two should suffice.

  • Do you tip the caterer?

    Some catering services include tips in the bill, so you don't have to worry about handling this aspect on the day of your event. If the tip is not included, a minimum of 15% of the total bill is recommended, while tipping 20% is not uncommon.

  • What is included with catering services?

    In addition to the food you order, catering services can include delivery, linens, silverware or plasticware, plates and cups, a small heat source to keep hot dishes warm, and staff. When planning your event, it's always a good idea to confirm which of these items are included and necessary.

  • How many different catering styles are there and what are they? 

    The three main styles of catering are buffet, plated, and family-style.

    • Buffet-style catering positions food on tables, and guests are encouraged to serve themselves.
    • Plated catering is usually for formal occasions where staff bring individual plates to each seated guest.
    • Family-style serves larger portions of food served placed on each table to be split between guests.

  • Do catering companies rent tables, chairs, tents, tablecloths?

    Most catering companies provide the necessary equipment to serve food, such as serving utensils and chafing dishes, though not all have furniture, such as chairs and tables, to seat large groups of people. If you also want to rent dining equipment, a larger catering company is likely a good option.

  • What is the best way to tell your caterer your event date has been changed or canceled?

    If your event date has changed or needs to be canceled, let the caterers know as soon as possible so they can make the necessary arrangements. A phone call is usually the best option so you can speak with someone directly to ensure that your cancellation is confirmed. If sending an email, be sure to get a written confirmation.

  • What are hidden fees that catering companies have?

    When budgeting your event, it's a good idea to be aware of some of the common fees catering companies may charge. The most common include:

    • Hiring waiters and other servers
    • Cake-cutting or uncorking fees
    • Garbage clean-up fees
    • Tableware and linen rentals
    • Tax and service charges

  • How do I start a catering business from home?

    After putting together a business plan and getting licensed, you need some basic equipment, such as plates, bowls, silverware, and garbage bins, to get started with your catering business. This should be enough for a simple operation, though if you want to serve more people, acquiring staff and a kitchen is a must.

  • How do I rent a kitchen for catering?

    Renting a kitchen is an important step for caterers looking to expand their business. Look for a space in your area that is at least 70 square feet, and contact the owner for details on rent. Once you've signed the lease, the next step is outfitting it with the right equipment.

  • How can I promote my catering business?

    There are many ways to promote a catering business, though the most cost-effective for small businesses is social media. Here you can target specific demographics based on age, interests, and location to reach out to the ideal audience for your services. A press release can be another good way to inform local media outlets of your new business, while a blog can allow new and establish customers to follow you over the long term.

  • What licenses are needed to start a catering business?

    There are several licenses required to run a catering business. In addition to a basic business license (BBL), you may also need a county or city license for food handling and a safety certification. A liquor license is not a necessity but common for caterers who plan on serving weddings and other large parties.

  • How much do caterers make per event?

    The amount your catering business makes per event depends entirely on how much you charge for your food minus the cost of expenses, such as staffing and materials. These are all details to be worked out in your business plan, but a good rule of thumb is to walk away with at least enough profit to cover the time you spent earning it. The average salary for a caterer is between $18,000 and $42,000 per year.

  • Where can I find catering leads?

    Getting leads for any business can be tough, but there's no better asset than word of mouth. The best way to get new customers is to make sure you always offer top-level service to the ones you already have, so they recommend you to friends and family in the future.

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