Within the realm of wedding coordinating my heart truly is in food and beverage. To me, one of the most important aspects of an event is the breaking of bread, conversations over great wine and full tummies from food that guests leave talking about. Long gone are the days of dry chicken and mashed potatoes- especially in our local city of Portland, Oregon- where food, wine, beer and cocktails rule the roost.
There is no excuse for bad wedding food or poor service, especially when food and beverage consumes a large portion of the budge. It is crucial to have a great experience before signing the dotted line with your caterer. If catering is in-house at a venue, and food and beverage are important to you, I highly recommend a tasting prior to booking the venue.
Narrow down your list of potential caterers to two; three max. Most caterers spend an abundance of time creating personalized menus with their Chefs, costs analysis, and tasting experience. Pay attention to how far in advance you are booking a caterer. Small companies will only contract a few events per weekend, so it is common for them to be unavailable as your wedding date nears.
Schedule your tasting in advance to allow ample time for companies to prepare. Many caterers have set days and times they offer tastings and often they don't include weekends, so plan accordingly. Up to four guests for a tasting is appropriate without asking too much. If you have a Planner, it is important they attend with you, as they have experience and knowledge to give their opinion. If you don't have a Planner, bring along someone you highly trust their food expertise (probably not a good idea to bring your Taco Bell loving maid of honor who will likely think everything is good!).
Do not be afraid to ask for culturally specific items, and family favorites. Ask for alternative entrees or accommodations for your guests with dietary restrictions and children's meals. This is standard practice and should be available.
Pay particular attention to these details and don't be shy to jot down some notes:
- Food Presentation- Did the food look appetizing?
- Taste and Temperature- Were the flavors bold? Bland? Served at the correct temperature?
- Cuisine Descriptions - Did the staff share with you the ingredients, where items were sourced and easily answer your questions regarding the food?
- Service- Did you feel well taken care of? Like you were at a restaurant you would want to come back to?
- Protein- Was your steak tender? Was your chicken moist? How large are the portions?
- Proposal Overview- Did they present you with a copy of the proposal they previously sent you? If not, ask to see it. Did they take notes on items you want to adjust?
- Report- Did you feel comfortable with the catering manager? Were they easy to communicate with and did you get all of your questions answered?