How to Tell If Your Caterer is a Professional Caterer
Catering is one of those professions that it is very easy to get into “unofficially” because there are plenty of extremely talented cooks. Many of these amazing people have been cooking for their families, houses of worship and community centers for years and their food is GOOD.
However, when planning a major event it may be best to hire a professional caterer because catering is much more than cooking and delivering great food (although, that is a central ingredient). There are liability concerns – what if someone gets sick? There are your site’s requirements. And most importantly there is the peace of mind that your event will executed expertly and on-time – what if you hire your neighbor to cook the food but her son gets sick the night before your party and she no longer has time to prepare your menu (it happens!)?
These are often overlooked questions that you should ask the prospective caterer in the initial interview. They will help you to determine whether the person is a professional caterer or not. If they cannot answer these questions to your satisfaction, we recommend that you move on.
Do you have insurance?
The caterer absolutely must have liability insurance. This insurance covers a myriad of events, the most common is someone getting sick from the food. In our area (DC), the standard is a one million dollar policy, but that amount may vary in your area. The caterer will generally have to provide a copy of the insurance certificate directly to the site. Most caterers, ourselves including, will not release the insurance certificate to the client.
Have you passed your latest health department evaluation or do you have any citations?
This question is probably best answered by checking with your local health department. Many health departments have the latest health inspection reports online. This is probably the least glamorous part of party planning, but it should be done.
What uniform does your service staff wear?
First of all, a professional caterer’s staff will have a uniform. Also, a professional caterer will be able to tailor their staff’s uniform to the type of event. Just make sure that the standard uniform is in line with the look of your event. In other words, no tuxedos at an outdoor picnic and no polos at a wedding (unless that’s what you want, of course!). If the standard uniform is not to your liking, inquire about the cost of changing the uniform. You do not want hire the caterer and later find out that if you want anything other than the standard, you must pay for it, which will then effect your budget.