Catering FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Hiring a Caterer

Why should you hire a caterer?

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 proposal?

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.

2. Getting Started

How far in advance do I need to book an event?

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.


3. The Budget


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 each guest?

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 event.

Example costing for a Cocktail Reception:

6 pieces per person - $18.00 light cocktail party lasting 1-2 hours

10 - 14 pieces per person - $25.00 – 35.00 (6-8 choices is typical for a full cocktail party)

Sweets range from $1.50 – 3.50 each

Staffing Costs run from:

Staffing – Chefs @ $35 - 40.00 per hour / minimum 4 hours

Waiters / Bartenders @ $25 - 32.00 per hour / minimum 4 hours

Supervisors $40.00 – 75.00 per hour / minimum 4 hours

Equipment Rentals – estimated from $15.00 – 30.00 per person for a cocktail reception. $25.00 - $50.00 per person for a buffet or sit down dinner.

Delivery within the GTA - $30.00


4. The Event

Can you accommodate allergies or other special dietary needs?

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 reception?

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.


5. Other Things


Is insurance required to host a party?

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 service.

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 available:

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 problems.

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 for hours.

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 this practice.


Have more questions? Just give us a call or drop us a line.