When you’re looking for a caterer, it’s best to inquire with multiple parties to determine the best fit for your event. As a standard practice, caterers share proposals with prospective clients that lay out their plan of action for your event, based on your initial consultation with them.

It’s important to know that you shouldn’t take these proposals at face value. Some catering companies work hard to address every detail, down to the number of cocktail napkins on hand. Others bulldoze through the details, which could result in a bit of chaos when necessary items are missing on the day of your event (or a higher budget to compensate!).

Because of this, it’s best to ask all the catering companies you’re considering some questions before signing a contract. The right questions (and catering proposal comparisons) will help you to avoid last-minute emergencies like not having enough food, or not having linen ready on the day of the event.

Here are five important things to look for when comparing catering proposals:

#1 The Menu

Even when comparing similar menus across multiple catering companies, the execution will undoubtedly be different in terms of ingredients used, serving size, taste, cost, and quality. There are caterers that offer cheap but quality food but compromise when it comes to the serving size and others that compromise size for quality.

When you initial consult with your caterer, be ready and straight up about your event non-negotiables: quality, quantity, or cost—or are you sparing no expense to get the absolute best food?

Some things to consider:

  • Flexibility of menu options. Some catering companies only offer a fixed menu, while others, like Catering by Michaels, will work to accommodate your requests (including certain dietary concerns for guests).
  • Included beverages. Are they included in the package? What type of drinks will be served? Well drinks or top shelf? Which mixers will be included? Ask about all the drinks that will be included in the package, and make your special requests known as well.
  • Can you bring your own drinks? If so, will there be an additional charge per person? When it comes to bringing in outside beverages, there is usually a small charge for insurance purposes. And if you’re planning to have alcoholic beverages, don’t forget to ensure your caterer has a liquor license in the county where you’re holding the event.

If you aren’t sure about the taste and quality of the caterer’s food and/or beverages, you can ask about tastings, but usually, this is not covered until after the proposal is accepted.

#2 Payment and Extra Charges

Let’s be real—cost is a big factor in choosing a caterer. Fortunately, there are options for every budget. But here’s where it gets tricky: some include all charges with their final proposal, while some incorporate sneaky hidden charges to make it seem like they are an affordable alternative. Because of this, it’s imperative to be aware of and ask about any possible costs that may be billed to you.

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