Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Eight questions to ask your caterer.

When planning a wedding there are a multitude of things to consider, across a range of suppliers.  Most of our clients, especially those planning a wedding, have never used caterers before and so other than the obvious questions such as menu choices, cutlery and china patterns and colour of the tablecloths, many of the more mundane, but still essential, questions go unasked.  Some of these questions may well apply to other suppliers too.

We thought it would be helpful to put together a little checklist of things you ought to know....

1) How many other weddings or events is your caterer involved with on your event date?

Unlike many caterers, we limit the number of events we work on each day so we can be sure only the best and most trusted staff work on your event.  It also means that, in the main, the Thames people you speak to from the start will work with you throughout the process and be there on the day, so you can be sure of a friendly face and know that your event team know all the carefully planned details.  This way you know that your event isn't just another day to us.

2) Who from your caterer's team will be there to manage your event on the day?

Again, because we limit the number of events, you will have ample opportunity to get to know your likely event manager over the planning period, and it will usually be one of the company's directors.  If there is a reason why another event manager will be working on your event, then we will always make sure you have met that person well before the event.  It is this level of personal hands-on service that we believe makes the difference.

putting the final touches to a marquee wedding

3) What is the staff to guest ratio?

We assign staff levels depending on the size of the event and the venue.  We allocate a service team of six waiters per 80-100 guests or 8 -10 tables. If there are more than 100 guests, we repeat the formula, so no team has to deal with more than 100 guests.  If there were 140 guests, for example, there would be 2 teams looking after 70 guests each, 400 guests would be 4 teams, and so on. Each team has at least one chef, depending on the menu type.  Each service team has a team leader and there is an overall Event Manager.  For larger events our Head Chef will oversee the kitchen.

4) Is the food prepared on-site or cooked elsewhere and transported hot or reheated?

temporary kitchen
We want our food to reach you at it's best, and that means freshly cooked for service.  If your venue doesn't have a kitchen, we can provide a temporary facility, including ovens, hot cupboards etc.  Under certain rare circumstances where there is no facility to cook on site, such as Henley Town Hall, and where the venue is within a short distance of our kitchen, we can transport food hot, although we prefer not to do this.

5) Does your caterer use strictly fresh and seasonal ingredients, or do they use frozen and pre-prepared products?

Thames Catering's chefs use the freshest and highest quality ingredients, and where possible we source these from local suppliers.  All meat and eggs are free-range and we will use organic produce if available within the client's budget.  All our dishes are made for you from scratch by our chefs.

6) Does your caterer employ their own staff or use an agency?

We have an excellent team of waiting staff and chefs that we use for our events.  We recruit them ourselves and train them where needed, ensuring high levels of friendly and discreet service.  On larger events, we may supplement these with agency staff, but we have one agency that we work with on a regular basis and who tries to send us a core team of staff for our events, so they all know how we work and what standards we expect.

The team at Henley Boat Races, 2012, Temple Island Meadow

7) What insurance cover and licences does your caterer have?

All caterers must hold food hygiene certification, so make sure you ask to see a copy of the certificate.  We also have public and product liability insurance to the value of £5m and employers liability insurance to the value of £1m.  Lastly, we are personal licence holders for the sale and supply of alcohol, and if your venue doesn't hold a premises licence, we will be happy to obtain a TEN for your event.

8) How will your caterer go above and beyond to provide a unique experience for you and your guests?

With our superb food and professional and efficient event management service, we make sure every event is a day to remember for our clients.  We offer an unparalleled level of flexibility in planning both menus and front of house details with all our clients, giving a genuinely bespoke service.  Our On The Day service means clients can relax and enjoy their event knowing all the other little details are safe in our hands.

A little thank you from one of our clients