Toothpicks Anyone? Restaurant “Caterer” Vs Professional Wedding Caterer

With all eyes on our economy and many of today’s couples cutting their wedding budgets drastically you may be looking to cut your catering budget by considering other catering options such as a restaurant to provide the catering for your wedding day. Even though the restaurant “per person prices” may sound tantalizing and excitingly low there is definitely a whole lot to consider when using a restaurant to cater your event off restaurant property.

A few major things to consider… Is the restaurant caterer…

o Knowledgeable and experienced with your room set-up and room capacities?
o Responsible for the set-up and tear-down of the tables and chairs , clean up of rental facility and all event equipment needed (china, stemware, flatware, chargers, serving utensils, chaffing dishes, coffee and hot water carafes, water pitchers, ice, salt & pepper shakers, beverage napkins, toothpicks… the list goes on and on)?
o Providing the appropriate number of staffing (cooks, servers, bartenders, banquet captains, food runners) to manage your size of group for all facets of your wedding (cocktail hour, dinner, cake-cut, food prep, bar service, etc.)
o Staffing professional in appearance, demeanor and attire?
o Experienced at catering weddings with a large number of guests in attendance?
o Able to provide you with a solid contract for all that will be required for your food and beverage needs, equipment rentals, specific list of their responsibilities and staffing required on your wedding day?
o Prepared and able to work within the limitations of your rental venue kitchen facilities?
o Able to provide the proper license(s) and obtain the necessary permits to serve food and alcohol within the specific county/jurisdiction where you will be holding your wedding reception? Food & Beverage Workwear 

In the past, at the request of our clients, we have used local area restaurants (which were their absolute favorites) to cater their wedding. The food may be great, however the catering service and follow through may be a very different and unhappy story.

On two occasions, the day of the wedding while setting up, we had experienced a few a challenging moments working alongside restaurant caterers: we were asked if we had serving utensils and a large platter for a dish they provided, also had been asked if we had toothpicks and plastic cups?

As wedding planners, we are definitely prepared on site with an “emergency kit” for the wedding day; however, our “emergency kit” doesn’t contain these types of “catering” items. These items were definitely the responsibility of the caterer.

Lastly, another restaurant caterer we used was informed during our numerous planning meetings and in the contract what was required of them. Part of the services we requested was the set-up and tear-down all of the tables and chairs for the reception. The day of the wedding, this did not happen. The restaurant caterers actually showed up late and when they arrived their only and main focus and concern was prepping and setting up the food and wine bar. With no further time to delay, our amazing staff had to jump into action and set-up the reception venue promptly to keep everything on schedule. At the end of the reception this very same restaurant caterer rushed off without notifying to us they were leaving and had left all of the food behind in the chaffing dishes and did not place any of the remaining food for our client into containers as we had previously requested and agreed upon.

Without a doubt, professional and experienced wedding caterers are prepared beyond belief. Some caterers even travel to the reception venue with trailers containing fully operational cooking kitchens, if there is no kitchen available at the reception venue. They are able to set-up, tear-down and clean up at light speed – really. They are very efficient at what they do and can rearrange an event space in less than one hour – if this is all the time that is allowed in between wedding functions. Professional wedding caterers also know how much rental equipment is needed to execute your event perfectly to even remembering the smallest catering detail such as toothpicks.


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