Chicago Caterers Guide

How to Find the Right Food for Your Midwestern Ceremony

Chicago’s reputation as the most sophisticated down-home city in the United States rests, in huge part, on the amazing food. Whether it’s chic Continental or those perennial pizza places, the eats are as cool as the wind. Finding the right caterer for your Chicago wedding is purely a matter of knowing where to look. Read on for city-wide tips.

Start searching for your Chicago caterer about 9 months’ prior to your wedding, even earlier if you have the time. You don’t need to have your Chicago reception site picked out, and the best caterers get booked up far in advance. Prices for caterers vary tremendously, depending on the size of your wedding, the site, and your personal style. Expect to pay anywhere from $15,000 to $50,000.

When looking for caterers, ask friends and relatives, as well as other vendors. If you have a favorite Chicago restaurant, enquire if they do weddings. Most caterers take care of all food and beverages, hire all servers and bartenders, and are in charge of setup and cleanup.

When you’re ready to start interviewing potential wedding caterers, check out the Chicago Local Vendor Section for a list of top-rated caterers in the Chicago area.

Once you start the interview process, be sure to tell the company exactly what you have in mind for your wedding, and any special needs your guests might have. Can the caterer manage a kosher wedding? What about vegetarian or vegan dishes? A good caterer should have 5-7 years’ experience, and you should ask for references and contact the Better Business Bureau for complaints.

Next to food and beverages, the most important thing your Chicago caterer should abound in is personality. If the guy you’re interviewing has an attitude problem, chances are his staff will too. Ask about the attire of servers and let him know of any preferences regarding personality types. Meet with the Party Staff Coordinator (he’s generally hired by the caterer) to go over the style of your reception and expectation of servers.

Some cost-cutting measures to discuss with the caterer include having a buffet instead of a seated meal, and limiting the bar to wine and champagne. If you want a full bar, you can substitute medium-shelf liquor for top-shelf brands. The dessert dish can be eliminated, and you can place hors d’oeuvres stations in the room as opposed to having servers pass trays around.

Reliable Chicago wedding caterers will do a walk-through before your wedding (even if the reception is at your home), to make sure food and storage is adequate, and to sort out any unforeseen glitches. The wait staff is generally served a meal right before or right after the reception, so as to avoid service lapses. Gratuity for all workers should be included in the contract; if you decide to give an additional tip, it should be handed to the caterer in charge at the end of the night.

-David Toussaint

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