There is something in the event catering world that I have a bone to pick with. What is up with not letting your customers taste your food without booking first? This past year or so I toured a lovely wedding venue with my local Association of Bridal Consultants. A group of wedding planners are going to have a lot of questions and one of the first ones was, “Do you do tastings?” The answer was, “Oh yes, of course we do.” We left it at that. Little did I know that we weren’t being told the entire truth.
About a month later, I brought a couple to tour said venue. They are in love and ready to sign a contract. When the tasting issue came up, I was floored and NOT happy. “We do tastings after you make a deposit.” What? I ask about the food and why the venue had come to that decision and they said that their food is top notch as is their pastry chef and no one has ever complained about the food. I’m not convinced, but the clients were okay with it. We didn’t make a deposit that day as I wanted them to have time to think it over.
Once my clients got to the point of putting down a deposit and the deposit was made. We waiting for the tasting. Our turn came and it was held in one of the beautiful ballrooms in the company of many other couples who had booked the venue. The venue put out a comparable spread that my clients had chosen and as we hit the buffet line, it took my foodie groom and myself by surprise. I was completely shocked by not only the poor presentation (wedge of risotto anyone?), but once that food hit my mouth (the cake was obviously not made by a pastry chef and came from a box), I was not amused. I was angry that my clients were now faced with the realization that their non-refundable $700 deposit was gone.
Here are a few of my catering tips to help you avoid a similar situation:
1. Don’t ever ever never ever book a catering hall, traditional caterer, personal chef, restaurant, bakery, etc. without a tasting prior to booking. Any business that does that is more than likely hiding something.
2. Before putting down a deposit. Insist on trying comparable food you will be serving to your guests and seeing how it will be presented to them. Ideally, if you are serving Buffalo Prime Rib, then you should get to taste Buffalo Prime Rib and it should be presented well, not slapped on a plate. However, not all caterers and venues are able to accommodate this and a comparable sampling of their fare is adequate. The emphasis is on comparable: if you are serving chicken, a sample of a chicken dish would be comparable and if you are serving hot hors d’oeuvres, then a sample of a simply executed hot hors d’oeuvre is acceptable. For a bakery, not only want to taste the cake, but you want to see actual photos of cakes they have created, not pictures from a magazine or downloaded off the Internet.
3. Let the venue know that you love their facility, but will not contract with them unless you have a tasting prior to giving them any sort of non-refundable deposit or retainer.
4. If you are so in love with the venue that you want to put that deposit down right away, be sure that your deposit depends on their tasting and is refundable if you receive poor quality food at your tasting.
5. If they won’t refund your deposit under any circumstances…RUN! Do not pass proverbial “Go” or collect that $200! Any caterer or chef worth their salt will let you taste their creations first.
I leave you with a bit of humor (Not humorous for the couples involved) from Cake Wrecks.
“Professional” Cakes Gone Bad