8 Questions for Your Dessert Station Caterer
Dessert stations are a popular choice for a host looking to sweeten their guests’ experience. From flavored popcorn, to cupcake towers, chocolate fountains, candy bars, s’mores, and of course ice cream, there are some questions that will help you in the process.
1. What do I need to provide?
Some packages are all-inclusive/hassle free, while others rely on the host to chip-in. A basic request that you may find, is that the caterer may require the table and tablecloths be provided, especially for large venues.
Received a lower than average quoted price? Then this question is essential, because the caterer may be assuming the host will agree to pick up the tab on specific items. Typical items that the host may be asked to provide include the serve-ware and sometimes the candies themselves.
2. Where is your product made?
If your dessert station requires items to be made/baked by your caterer, ask them where it is made! Under the Texas Cottage Food Law, many items can be made from home without the need to be in a permitted kitchen. It’s a great law that was passed, and helps many cake decorators and candy makers avoid the high expense of renting kitchen space.
But it can put you, the host, at risk. If your caterer does not have an established reputation, and is working from home, know that no-one is inspecting their home for sanitary practices.
3. Are you allergy friendly?
If you have an event caterer, likely you will have specialty dishes prepared for those with allergens. As someone who is allergic to a handful of things, I can vouch that many times the dessert is overlooked! It always means the world to me when there is something sweet (other than a basic fruit cup) that I can enjoy.
Hint: ask for a dessert option that could possibly be vegan and gluten free.
4. What about decorating to our theme?
You go to the company’s website, and see beautiful tablescapes, but what the dessert station caterer doesn’t tell you is that that table was customized by the host or host’s event planner. So ask, what’s included. Even with details like the serving cups, they may show up with plasticware, but online you see high end plating. Some will offer higher end decorations at a fee, while others choose to make that a standard for every event.
5. Have you worked an event my size before?
This question is overlooked, yet so very important. An independent caterer who has never set up a dessert station for 700 people may miss important logistics. If the station requires servers, keep in mind there is a risk of long lines and frustrated guests. Make sure the table is staffed correctly. And if not manned, then ensure that you aren’t sending 700 guests to one tiny candy bar, elongate the serving space; two tables instead of one.
6. Is your staff personable?
Ice cream stations are a great example for this question. Some dessert stations require staffing. You may have beautiful table decorations, amazing product that delights your guests’ senses, but if the serving staff appear angry, bored, pushy… then it’s a loss. Make sure to ask if the staff is personable, and listen carefully to the caterer’s response. If there is no mention of being energetic, friendly, or outgoing, you may want to look elsewhere.
7. What does the set-up and break-down process entail?
Most staffed dessert station caterers say they will arrive one to two hours before the start time to allow for set-up. The trick is, sometimes your dessert caterer is at the finale of the event. So the caterer will be arriving to set up while your guests are there enjoying the event. Depending on the location of the dessert station, this can be a distraction for your guests. Ask your caterer if they can do an early set-up, and if there is a fee associated.
For the break-down process, two things: (1) what happens to the left-over desserts and (2) who is responsible for the trash. Talk to the caterer on what makes best sense to do with the leftovers. Give it to the staff as a thank you, pack it up as a to-go for your guests, or simply trash the remaining product. Speaking of trash, make sure it is clear to all parties on what happens with the wrappers, disposable serve-wear, etc. The last thing you want are confused guests wondering what to do with their trash, or a messy visible area where trash is stashed until the end of the night.
8. Do you have liability insurance?
Liability insurance is not required for a business to sell food products. Most established companies will have some form of insurance, and many venues will not let the caterer work an event unless they do have insurance. Tip, if your caterer does something truly unique (let’s say nitrogen desserts), ask if that is specifically covered under their insurance. A business can say they have insurance, but serve items that are not fully covered. For example, it took our business 3 weeks and 50+ inquiries to find an insurer that allowed for nitrogen.