6 Ways to Get the Most out of Your Wedding Catering

Lauren Fisher, photos by Andrea Paulseth

You don’t know what you don’t know. With hundreds of details to set in place for a wedding, and each aspect a profession in its own, the whole thing can be overwhelming. We talked to a pair of local experts to get their best advice on at least one part of the process: making sure your guests are fed! Read on for some great insight into getting your catering just right.

1. “Don’t wait ’til the last minute to start looking around for the right caterer,” Bobby Lor, owner of ClaireWaters Bar & Restaurant (2106 N. Clairemont Ave., Eau Claire), said. Start looking for your caterer as soon as you have settled on a wedding date. “The catering process takes time, even if someone is just looking for taste testing,” Lor said. Waiting for the last minute puts undue stress on the couple and caterer alike.

2. “Make a really efficient to-do list,” Chef Tony Draganowski of Bijou Bistro & Catering Company (2629 E. Clairemont Ave., Eau Claire), advises. Couples should decide whether they want a plated or buffet service, whether they want china or disposable dishes, whether they’re looking for linen or paper napkins.  Determine what rentals, linens, and table cloths you’ll need. “The most important thing is to get that information on paper to get a foundation to start from,” Draganowski said.

3. Get a detailed quote from your caterer. Often, couples who don’t get this information up front are shocked when they receive a final bill that includes unexpected upcharges for services they assumed were included. “Make sure you know what the caterer includes,” Draganowski suggests. Bijou Bistro’s reputation for fairness is based on setting clear expectations and delivering on them, he says, and couples should settle for no less.

4. Expect to pay for taste testing. “Taste testing is usually not free, because it costs money and time to have taste testings,” Lor said. Providing free tests comes at a risk for caterers, as couples might still choose to book with someone else. “Typically we would charge for the taste testing depending on what they are looking for, and then get that credited toward their catering cost,” he continued. It’s important to note that caterers need to get their samples in stock, so it’s ideal to give them a week or more of notice for tastings.

5. Check the quality of your caterer’s restaurant. A good way to get a sense of what your caterer is capable of is by eating at their restaurant, if they have one. “It’s the same chef,” Lor said. “If you have eaten in our restaurant, you can expect the same quality of food from catering.”

6. Ask your caterer for guidance. “When a bride and groom is starting out, they often say, ‘Oh I never thought of that.’ ” Draganowski said.  “I bring up things that they never knew about.” Thanks to his 30-plus years of experience, he knows just what questions to ask his clients, including what their wedding itinerary is, whether their venue provides dishes or linens, and whether couples have considered any guest allergies. Asking your caterer what other considerations you should keep in mind can save a lot of hassle.

To learn more about ClaireWaters catering services, contact Joua Xiong-Lee at clairewaterseventcenter@gmail.com. For more on Bijou Bistro & Catering, visit www.bijou-bistro.com.

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