You're engaged and you've already booked your venue... or not. If you have not, then check out Finding the Perfect Venue post first and then come back to this post. Once you've got a date and decided on the type of wedding you plan on hosting - casual, funky, romantic, fancy - it's time to look for a Caterer. In Austin, booking a great caterer can be as difficult as finding the right venue. It's important to go in equipped with all the questions you need answered so you get the best food you can that fits your needs. Here are five important questions (in addition to: Is my date available?) you must ask a caterer before signing a contract. 1. Are you licensed by the State of Texas to serve food? Do you have TABC certified bartenders? If you're hiring a caterer in Austin, then they must be licensed. In most cases, you'll find this won't be a problem, but sometimes new businesses or hobby caterers just getting started don't have all the paperwork done yet. So, make sure you ask this question just in case. In regards to TABC certified staff, not all caterers hire out bar staff. If you're looking for an all-in one, this is especially important to ask. 2 . Are we tied to a menu when we sign the contract or can we change it along the way? In most cases, you won't have to set the menu until closer to the day of the event, but some caterers will require you to pick a price point. In that case, you should ask if you are tied to the price point or if you can downgrade or upgrade at any time. 3. Do we have to work off a preset menu or can you create a custom menu for our event? If I have a special dish I’d like served, would you accommodate that? If you are a foodie, this is probably one of the most important questions you will ask. It will also be important to those who have a family tradition they need to incorporate into their menu. Many Austin caterers don't have a problem accompanying special food requests or making a special menu, but it's important to ask before you sign anything. It's also important to find out how much they will charge for a make-you-own menu package. Specifically, you will want to ask how much certain foods cost - ie: cuts of meat, seafood, organic. 4. What’s the difference in cost between passed appetizers and appetizer stations? What’s the price difference between a buffet and a sit-down meal? If we have a buffet, are there any stations that cost extra, like a carving station? Okay, we realize this is more than one question but it's all in the same realm. Most important take away from this question - buffets are not always less expensive than plated meals with servers. Not only do many people go up for seconds when there is a buffet but buffets that don't have servers serving food also allow for guests to over-serve themselves and more food ends up in the trash than is needed. 5. Do you do food tastings and is there an extra charge for this? When we first started our business, we were surprised to find that many caterers don't include a free food tasting in their food packages. We understand that making meals upon meals for folks to taste without a contact can get pricey but it's important to know you like the recipe someone uses. Many caterers do have options where you pay for the tasting and it goes toward your contract once you sign but some do not. Make sure you ask if tastings are included or they go toward the final package price. There are a lot more questions to consider, these are the ones we like to start with. For more questions, download our Questions to Ask a Caterer today.