They will plan and organize all aspects of your event including;
menu design, hire the waiters, bartenders and chefs, sourcing
the entertainment, organizing the drinks, selecting the appropriate
rental equipment from an extensive range of glasses and china,
organizing the flowers, the invitations, the place cards, the
tables and chairs, the canapés trays, the cloakroom attendants,
the firework display, the taxis home... and the clearing up!
When should I meet with a Caterer?
6-9 months prior to your event is ideal. You will need to be
assured to having plenty of time to get references, attend an
event that the caterer to doing and be sure to ask for a tasting
while attending the event. This way you understand the workings
of an event, you get a chance to see the caterer in action and
check out the calibre of their food and staff as well as the type
of rentals that the caterer is using.
How do I determine who is the right caterer to look
after my event?
Does the caterer understand your needs? Does he/she have food
knowledge? Does the caterer belong to any associations and have
they attended educational courses to keep abreast of the industry
trends? I believe that you will know when you have found the right
one when you are comfortable with them.
What questions should I ask once I receive a written
Are there any hidden costs that can arise other than the fluctuation
of staffing costs? What is your payment plan? How can I stay within
my budget? The caterer should be able to adjust the menu choices
so that you are able to work within your budget.
Why doesn’t a caterer give prices over the phone?
Caterers want to make sure you get an accurate price, and sometimes
that is hard to do without a little research and figuring on their
part. When you call a caterer they will ask you relevant questions
that will help them plan and price a menu. Then they can email
or fax you a proposal. This should only take a day or so and if
you are in a rush, most caterers can do it within a few hours.
Most events need to be booked a minimum of two weeks in advance
to guarantee the ability of the caterer to accommodate your needs,
and this changes with the time of the year (weddings, Christmas
parties, graduations). Caterers can become extremely busy at certain
times of the year, so as not to be disappointed it is best to
book as soon as you know the date of your event.
How far in advance does the caterer need to know the
final numbers of the guests that will be attending my event?
Every caterer’s policies are different but typically a
caterer will need to know two weeks before your event an estimated
number of expected guests. Three business days before the event
the final count will be required and this number is what you will
be billed for. If your count rises greatly a day or two before
your event, the caterer may not be able to guarantee full service
to all attending. Cancellation policy – again each caterer
will be different but usually a 50% charge applied to any event
that is cancelled within 24 hours of the event.
A $500.00 non-refundable deposit is required to confirm booking
the services of most catering companies. 50% of the balance is
due 30 days prior to the event with the final balance due 5 days
prior to the event along with the final guest count.
Forming a budget for your event is a crucial aspect in planning
an event. In order for your caterer to give you an estimate you
will need to decide on a budget. This will give an indication
to the consultant whether you will be serving caviar or finger
sandwiches. There are a lot of things to consider, food selection,
number of hours your event will run, staffing, equipment rentals
and any other services that you might require. We will need to
know the venue location and any commission fees that are applicable
to that venue, they will need to know the number of guests, type
or theme of the event. An average inclusive cost of a cocktail
reception will run from $50.00 per person to $100.00 per person.
A sit down dinner can run $125.00 per person to $400.00 per person
and a Buffet menu can run about the same. The pricing is dependant
on how elaborate you want your party to be.
Is there special pricing for children?
Usually there is special pricing on meals for children. Rental
prices are the same but children under five eat for free and children
6 to 11 are charged 60% the menu price.
How many pieces of hors d’oeuvres do I need for
Timing is critical in calculating the number of hors d’oeuvres
you need to serve. For a mid-afternoon cocktail reception lasting
three hours plan on 6-8 pieces per person, plus some to which
they can help themselves. One hour before dinner guests will probably
nibble on 4 pieces. For a two-hour cocktail over the dinner hour
it would be safer to serve 10 – 14 pieces per guest or consider
a food station or tasting plates to satisfy larger appetites and
to add another focal point to the reception. At chic “after
eights” guests will consume 6-8 pieces each over four hours,
bolstered by the late night sweets to get them home.
What is the cost of delivery?
Within the GTA the cost of delivery should be in the range of
$25.00 – 40.00. Expect to pay an additional charge outside
of the city. Each caterer has a pricing chart for this purpose.
Delivery to an office tower in the downtown core is usually an
additional charge due to the cost of parking vehicles during an
Example costing for a Cocktail Reception:
6 pieces per person - $18.00 light cocktail party lasting 1-2
10 - 14 pieces per person - $25.00 – 35.00 (6-8 choices
is typical for a full cocktail party)
Can you accommodate allergies or other special dietary
Yes, in most cases a reputable caterer will be well versed in
special dietary needs. They will need to know ahead of time so
that they can plan properly.
Why should you hire staff?
Staff should be attentive, charming and quietly efficient. They
never forget they are there to serve you and your guests in a
professional, courteous and friendly manner.
How many Waiters/waitresses do I need for my party?
A ratio of one waiter to every 10-15 guests plus the kitchen
brigade suffices for most events.
What type of stemware do I need for a typical cocktail
You will require red and white wine glasses rock glasses, beverage
glasses and in some cases champagne flutes. Most glasses are available
in both glass and crystal models and are available from any catering
equipment rental company. You will need to budget more than one
set per guest to ensure that you have an adequate supply on hand
for the duration of your party.
Rental Equipment, should I rent or use my own?
The expense of your equipment rentals can vary depending on what
your event requires. The advantages of renting equipment rather
than using your own is in the case of breakage the caterer will
not take responsibility. There have been incidences of a client
insisting on using “some” of their special pieces
because of sentimental value but when you consider that the rental
companies have some very chic items in their repertoire these
days and for the safety of your “Aunt Agatha’s”
bowl do you think it is really worth it? Accidents happen and
caterers would prefer not to have to go to their insurance agents
with claims that can cost them thousands. Caterers can arrange
everything from tables to chairs, china to crystal, flatware to
silver, plain linen to elegant designer cloths and napkins to
match. Costs for rentals can run from $15.00 per person to $50.00
per person depending on the intricacy of the meal.
If you are hosting your own party in an outside Venue or within
your condo’s party room without a caterer you can arrange
with your insurance company to have the facility added as an additional
insured for the period of your party usually at a nominal charge
and in some cases no fees will be charged. When hiring a caterer
to assist you with your party it is a requirement that all caterers
carry at least one million dollars of insurance coverage and five
million is required for most Toronto venues which is comforting
to know if anything was to go wrong during an event.
What are the procedures of purchasing your own beverages?
I strongly believe that the client should be able to cut significant
costs by purchasing the beverages of their choice at the best
possible price. Most caterers can assist you with quantities to
purchase but some caterers will charge a corkage fee for this
LCBO requires you to obtain a “Special Occasion Permit”
if you are hosting a party in a Venue where there is a chance
that the general public may gain access to your reception. If
you are hosting a private home party or within your own condo
party room you are not required to obtain a special occasion permit.
Special occasion forms are available from any LCBO store although
only certain stores will process the permit. You must fill in
the appropriate information required on the form. If you have
questions regarding the forms the customer service representative
in the store is qualified to assist.
There are three classes of Special Occasion Permits
Sale: A Sale special occasion permit is issued when money is
collected directly for beverage alcohol through an admission charge
to the event, when tickets for beverage alcohol are sold to people
attending the event, or when there is any pre-collection of money
for the beverage alcohol. A levy fee is also charged when you
purchase your products at liquor, beer or wine stores because
you are reselling the beverage alcohol at the event. Sale Permit
fee is $75.00 per day.
No Sale: A No Sale special occasion permit is issued when beverage
alcohol is served without charge or when there is no money collected
for beverage alcohol – either directly or indirectly –
from guests. No Sale Permit fee is $25.00 per day.
Auctions: An Auction permit allows beverage alcohol to be auctioned.
Applicants must be a registered charity, an executor of an estate,
or a Sheriff in the conduct of duty. Auctioned beverage alcohol
cannot be served or consumed on the event premises. Auction Permit
fee is $75.00 per day.
Special Occasion Permit forms are available for downloading
here for your convenience:
Can a caterer provide beverage service?
Most caterers can take care of your bar service. There are many
options for bar service from: consumption, fixed price bar, to
a soft bar. All caterers should be providing you with a smart
serve* staff who will provide an array of professionally prepared
drinks to accommodate your guests requests. Bar prices generally
ranges from $15.00 to $35.00 for a full bar and $15.00 –
$18.00 for a wine and beer bar and soft drinks would be $5.00
- $8.00 per person.
*Smart Serve Ontario Certificate training program is designed
to educate servers, bartenders, managers and other staff members
as to what their responsibilities and obligations are under the
law, as well as recognize the signs of intoxication and implement
intervention strategies for aggressive customers. Designed by
the Hospitality Industry Training Organization of Ontario, the
Smart Serve Ontario Certification program also helps staff and
management develop proactive approaches to preventing alcohol-related
Can I get items that are not listed on a caterers menu?
Yes you can! Most caterers have a pre-prepared menu for simplicity
but most caterers welcome your suggestions for a unique item that
they may not regularly serve.
How do you keep the food hot on the way to our function?
The food leaves the caterers kitchen usually with just enough
time to get to the function and set up for the event. It is placed
in stainless steel dishes, wrapped in foil and then shipped in
thermal containers which are air-tight and will keep food hot/cold
Can I take the leftover food home?
This is a question that is asked often. Taking food home is a
health issue The caterer cannot control safe handling of the food
after it leaves a controlled environment and does not encourage