Crafting the menu selection for your wedding is absolutely one of the most important – and fun! – decisions you need to make when it comes to the success of your fête. The food at your wedding often spells the difference between “that was good” and “that was spectacular!”. In general, selecting your caterer hinges on several key variables including cost, reputation, customer service and of course, personal preference.
To help make choosing a caterer in Toronto even easier, we teamed up with five of Toronto’s top caterers to create this helpful guide of tips, tricks and FAQ’s that are certain to help you through the process of selecting the perfect caterer for your wedding. Ready? Here we go!
Everything you need to know about Menu Tastings
The idea of a tasting sure sounds fun, but remember, you’re not there for a night on the town; you’re there to make some very important decisions that will impact one of the most important aspects of your wedding day. So what should you expect from a tasting? Our friends at Marigolds & Onions tell us:
“The tasting offers the couple an additional opportunity to meet the caterer and sample their selected wedding menu. At this time, the menu can be “tweaked” to ensure that the couple is fully satisfied. Feedback on the food being sampled is strongly encouraged: discuss everything from presentation to actual taste and flavours (i.e. seasoning, types of sauce, personal likes & dislikes etc.). If the couple is torn as to what to select, do not hesitate to ask for a sampling of more than one item, as caterers regard the tasting as a trial run to the big event. During the tasting, the caterer will often bring in rentals for viewing – from glassware to china to cutlery and linen.” In short, the tasting is your final chance to speak now or forever hold your peace.
Now what about the timelines and the costs associated with tastings? “There is no set rule as to how far in advance you have to book your tasting and every couple is different in terms of the pace in which they plan their wedding. Some couples choose to book a tasting prior to finalizing their caterer selection – they wish to meet and greet various caterers prior to making their final decision (be sure to inquire about any fees should you end up NOT booking with a caterer). Other couples will book their caterer based on their rapport with their event representative and the reputation of the catering company. In this case, the couple often comes in for a tasting to finalize their menu and to work on other details as the wedding approaches.”
Some Venues have a “preferred” list of caterers. What exactly does this mean?
As you search for your venue, you’ll begin to notice that many venues have a list of “preferred” caterers. On the surface, this simply means that the venue has done extensive work with these particular companies and has thus “pre-approved” them.
So why is this important? Imagine being a caterer and being told you have a wedding gig for 250 wedding guests. So far, so good, but here’s the catch: you’ve never seen the space, you don’t know the limitations of the space, you don’t how where to set up your food stations, bars, delivery, etc… You don’t even know where the kitchen is! No easy feat. This is where preferred caterers come in – they know the space inside and out, a major advantage to helping ensure the success of your special day.
Now here’s where things get interesting: some venues with preferred lists will still allow you to bring in your own caterer (additional charges often known as “landmark fees” may or may not apply), while for other spaces, “preferred” actually means “required”. General rule of thumb? Large spaces = required; smaller spaces = suggested. When in doubt, ask your caterer.
For example, June Mittler at Food Dudes tells us: “if a client wants to book our company to work at a venue that we have not worked at before, we always get in touch directly with that venue first to find out a little more about them to ensure a successful service before we get deep into the details and specifics. We typically find out the size, what rentals are provided by the venue, if they provide their own bar, bartenders, or staffing, etc. We also like to arrange a site visit by our event coordinator so that we get to know the layout of the kitchen, what equipment is available for our use, meet our point of contact face to face, and basically get a good feel of the venue so we can help our clients out and be as knowledgeable as possible with a space we are not as familiar with.”
Who is my On Site Catering Dream Team?
Flawless execution of your wedding day involves crystal clear communication between all of your event staff – all working in tandem from behind the scenes. Russell Day from Daniel et Daniel Catering & Events shares with us exactly what your caterer needs to provide:
Catering Coordinator: One of the most vitally important people – this is the person who has been the couple’s primary point of contact from the very beginning of the planning process. The couple can expect that the coordinator will have communicated all set up details to the staff and will be on site to troubleshoot so that all the little details are not left to the couple on their special day. The coordinator also looks after any changes and will execute the service with professionalism and a smile! Bonus tidbit: in the unlikely event that the coordinator cannot be available on the day of your wedding, reputable caterers always have a back up plan and will ensure that another representative is introduced to the couple well in advance and is thoroughly briefed ahead of time.
Head Chef: We select our chefs very carefully for our events. If there has been a tasting, our Chef will arrive armed with tasting pictures and full knowledge of plate presentation and all event details. Upon arrival, our chefs will sort through all of the equipment required and will be briefed by the coordinator on any details that may have changed so as to ensure total event success.
Head Waiter: The first server on any event is a head waiter. They will look after ensuring that the service runs smoothly, efficiently and that the service staff is friendly and accommodating.
Delivery Staff: The unsung heroes of your big day – efficient, friendly and organized, delivery personnel are vital to making sure the day runs smoothly. Good delivery staff will arrive promptly (barring any unforeseen traffic!) and will be in and out with a minimum of fuss, ensuring that all items of a couple’s order are checked, packed, and delivered to the proper locations on site.
Review the Reviews
With over 35 years in the biz, Encore Catering knows a thing or two about reputation. Before signing on the dotted line Cary Silber of Encore Catering suggests searching for online reviews to read up on others’ experiences.
If reviews are consistently positive and encouraging across numerous platforms, there’s a much higher likelihood of success. On the flip side, if you spot a negative review, a professional caterer will be pleased to explain the reason behind them and outline to you exactly how they intend to avoid any concerning pitfalls. A professional caterer can address any past hiccups without getting defensive.
Catering is not a Commodity
When you’re hyper-focused on planning your own wedding, you may find that you begin to look at catering – and many other aspects of weddings – as a commodity and begin questioning why one caterer’s Beef Wellington is $3 more per head than another’s.
Fia Pagnello of Kiss the Cook Catering tells us: “The appearance and presentation of food can make people “see” flavors before they actually experience tasting them. This phenomenon can actually influence flavour experiences, so it’s highly important to choose a wedding caterer that will present food in an unique and attractive manner.”
In other words, presentation contributes a great deal to the overall enjoyment of your wedding. Good presentation takes additional time and skill and time and skill will typically increase costs. Case in point: “One of our most popular items for wedding season last year was our Mason jar salads, which are a perfect example of how presentation can make a relatively simple salad extra special and memorable. Decor elements are also a great way to enhance a display. For example, we like to use old barn board, real oak wine barrels, chalkboard menus or vintage crates at a rustic outdoor wedding to really enhance the presentation of the food while also reinforcing the overall theme of the wedding..”
Do you have a question for Toronto’s caterers? Ask it in the comments section and we’ll get an answer for you!