top of page

Should I have to pay my caterer for a wedding tasting?

wedding tasting seattle
wedding tasting

As a highly experienced chef and caterer, I have spent a significant amount of time contemplating the issue of tastings for couples planning an event.

So today, I came across this question publicly posted on Reddit, and the responses (I will share a few) are what led me to write this article today!

So here's the question: How do you know what caterer to pick without tasting???


This might seem like a dumb question but like…how do you pick a caterer without tasting the food? I’ve started looking at caterers and it seems so strange to me that you don’t get a tasting until after you’ve paid a massive deposit. So essentially you won’t know if they’re good or bad or terrible until it’s too late. Am I missing something here?? Do you just pick one you can afford and hope they aren’t shitty???

So, in an attempt to break this down a bit, here goes.

This issue has two sides, each with valid points.

  • On the one hand, couples want to have a wedding tasting to feel confident in their choice for their special day. They believe that the caterer should be willing to offer this service for free, given that they are spending a considerable amount of money on the event. They see the tasting as a way to try the food and ensure it meets their expectations. This makes perfect sense, of course, and on the surface, it is a reasonable perspective and expectation.

  • Conversely, the caterer wants to get the business but is faced with an expenditure that may not be worth the time and effort. Caterers know that most couples will request tastings from multiple caterers and that quite possibly will not win the business. On average, based on my research, couples do 3-4 different tastings when possible. If you do the math, you can see that that may average out to a caterer getting one job for every 3-4 tastings he offers.

Let's consider the Caterers' costs:

  • Preparing food for a tasting is time-consuming, and some dishes require days of preparation. This can lead to a significant expense for the caterer, including staff hours, procurement of ingredients, and arranging the tasting with the client.

  • Depending on the type of food and how many dishes the couple wants to sample, some dishes require preparation that may start days in advance. For example, cured salmon takes four days, smoked brisket takes 12 hours, and slow-cooked anything takes a few hours. Regardless of whether a caterer is preparing a menu for 2 people or 200, many dishes require time. In a professional environment, time equals staff hours, which equals a considerable expense. This is without even considering the cost of the goods, which is negligible compared to the labor. Additionally, ingredients may need to be purchased retail due to the limited amount needed. Overall, depending on the food, the cost to a caterer is considerable.

  • As a chef and caterer, I estimate that a tasting for four people can cost a minimum of $150 and up to $500 for high-end food. This estimate includes the net total of time and labor, procurement of ingredients, cost of ingredients, and the time spent arranging the tasting with the client. To book one job, the caterer typically needs to do 3-4 tastings, leading to a net total expense of $375 to $1500. This represents about 10% to 15% of the total amount charged for the event.

  • Charging a fee of $25 to $100 per person for a tasting is reasonable for the caterer and fair to the prospective clients. If a couple decides to move forward with a contract, the caterer may or may not refund a portion of that fee, and if they do, it should be looked upon as a gesture of goodwill. This fee is also a way for the caterer to protect themselves from people trying to score a free meal.

It is essential to note that couples may not be aware of the caterer's position or the costs involved in providing a tasting. Couples may not realize that if they went to a new restaurant, they would expect to pay for their meal, regardless of whether they enjoyed the food!

Here are a few of the varying responses I picked from the answers/opinions

I hear you! I went to a catering convention and tasted samples. Usually have to pay but it was worth it for me

We refused to go with anyone whose food we couldn't taste. Luckily there were several vendors who did offer tastings, but I was also shocked at how many didn't. (And I was really glad we did tastings, because at least one well-reviewed place was super blah.)

That's wild. My caterer had a $60 tasting fee, which went towards the total if you booked with them. I'd say scour the reviews like a hawk.

We just went by reviews. Both times turned out fantastic. Even if they offered tastings, we wouldn't have done it anyway cuz it was too far away for us to go, and even if we like or dislike it it doesn't necessarily mean our guests feel the same way.

So here is the verdict: (My verdict that is)

For some couples, trying out multiple catering companies will give them peace of mind and help them make a comfortable choice. Yet, for others, social media will do the trick.

If your caterer doesn't offer tastings or If you find yourself unwilling or even unable to bear the cost of multiple tastings, here are a few ideas

  1. Use social media. Look up the company on a search engine and see what kind of experiences other people have had.

  2. Ask for referrals. Once you have narrowed down the list of who you like the most, ask the caterer if it is possible for you to contact previous clients that they have had.

  3. Ask questions. Very simply communicate with your caterer and ask all the questions that you have on your mind. I find that your gut insticts will lead you to the right choice.

  4. Contact your venue and see what suggestions they can make. I would venture to say that if the venue is recommending a caterer, they have worked with them before and are confident that they will do a good job. Chances are that they have even sampled the food, as they usually will make their way to the buffet once all of the guests are finished.

  5. Many caterers offer group tastings. Ask about it!

Hopefully, this will be "enough food for thought" (HeHe) to help you to decide what is the best way to start your search for the perfect caterer for your special day.

In conclusion, I believe that a wedding tasting is an investment in the couple's special day. It is an opportunity to enjoy a night or afternoon out, try the food, and, most importantly, gain the peace of mind they need to make an informed decision. By understanding the costs that the caterer must absorb to offer a tasting, couples can make a fair evaluation of what reasonable expectations are, while choosing their perfect caterer for their special day and enjoy their event to the fullest.

Hopefully, this will help you decide the best way to start your search for the perfect caterer for your special day.

15 views0 comments


Rated 0 out of 5 stars.
No ratings yet

Add a rating
bottom of page