Frequently Asked Questions

What does catering cost?

The cost of catering depends on several factors aside from just the guest list and menu chosen. Below are a few of these factors:

  • The style of event you are hosting affects the number of staff needed.

  • Requirements your chosen may have for caterers.

  • The number of hours our staff will need to be on duty.  How you structure your event timeline also affects how many team members are on duty for "x" number of hours.

  • Whether you are using china or disposables.

  • How involved you want our team to be with set-up/ tear-down of tables, chairs, linens, place settings, etc. 

  • Even the equipment and catering kitchen space your venue has can affect your cost....if a venue holds 200 people but their kitchen (for example) is 12 x 12, there isn’t enough space for a caterer to work so a catering work tent may be needed along with work lighting, tables, etc.

  • These are just a few of the variables that factor in.

  • We will work with you to gain an understanding of what you envision and help you go through the options of how to achieve this vision. 

Do you charge for the service labor at my event?

Yes. We do have to charge for the service labor hours the staff puts in servicing your event.

  • These costs are not figured into the cost of your food....they are a separate line item on your proposal.

  • We do not figure the service labor into the food costs because events may have similar menus but their staff costs may vary based on whether they are doing a full plated service, partially plated service, buffet service, etc.

  • Even decisions such as whether you are using china or disposables affect labor and not all events make the same choices so labor is assessed on an event by event basis. 

Do you charge a set gratuity?

We do not impose a set gratuity...we believe this should be left to the discretion of the host. Our onsite service team does value the recognition of a job well done at your event. When using our bartenders, it is at the host’s discretion whether or not they are allowed to put out a tip jar. If the host prefers to not have a jar out, the host will be required to turn in a gratuity for the bartender or bartenders prior to the hosting date of the event. 

What types of catering do you offer? Do we have to have a full team of staff?

We offer a variety of options:

  • Drop Off/ Customer Pick Up

  • Delivery with Food Staff Only.  For this option, we provide the food and a very limited number of staff people to set it up/ monitor it’s holding & replenishment/ break it down after meal service is complete. There is no front of house staff to bus tables or clean up after the event at the end of the night.  Clients considering this option need to make sure they have their own help lined up for setting up the event and cleaning up afterward

  • Full Event Service Team (food staff, front of house staff, banquet captain). 

Will you help make arrangements for our rental needs?

Yes. We will gladly make the arrangements for your rental dishware, glassware, flatware, linens, tables, and chairs. If you prefer to handle the arrangements for these items on your own, you may do so. With this said, it is important that you order the number of plates, flatware, and glasses we ask you to order. We do know how many pieces it takes to get through an event and if that piece count is reduced without our knowledge, you may find your event running out of clean dishware. We do not assume responsibility for errors made by clients or their planners when they choose to handle this ordering on their own. 

Do you offer tastings?

Yes, we do!

  • The tastings are complimentary for 2 people to attend. Should you want to have more than 2 people in attendance, you may make these arrangements in advance and there will be a $25.00 per extra person fee due to be paid by the end of the tasting.

  • All tasting fees must be paid for prior to the tasting.

  • When attending a tasting, please make every effort to be timely...being too early can be as complicated as being late.

    • The kitchen and the rest of the operation work on a precise time schedule to assure your tasting is of the utmost quality as is the food they are handling and sending out the door for the day’s events.

    • We may also be finishing the clean up from an in house event prior to your arrival OR we may have another appointment trying to finish up before your arrival.

    • Being late can cut your appointment time and create a lag with the tasting items coming out because the kitchen will not be able to “fire” hot items until they know you are there.

    • We do reserve the right to reschedule your tasting if you are running too late.  We want the food to be of quality and we also have other appointments scheduled that we have to move on to.  If your estimated arrival and completion time for the tasting will present a concern for either of these factors, we do reserve the right to reschedule.

    • If you choose to not reschedule in this situation or you do not show up for your appointment, the tasting fee is non-refundable.

Do you charge a deposit?

There is a non-refundable $500.00 date retainer to secure your date for catering services. This is to be turned in with the signed contract. If you are renting one of our venues, the deposit amounts for our venues are equal to 50% of the venue rental with tax. These are also non-refundable and are to be turned in with a signed contract. 

  • 50% of your current catering balance is to be paid 30 days out from your event date.

  • The remaining balance is due 14 days prior to your event date.  

Can we book any combination of the services you offer or are we required to book them all?

We do not require you to book a certain number or combination of services through us. What you book is completely up to you. With this said, if you are renting one of our venues, it is required that you use our catering since the catering company operates out of one and owns the other. Should you choose to book catering, floral design, and planning through us, you will receive a 10% discount on the three collective services (catering, flowers, and planning). This can add up to decent savings for you as the client. The discount on catering is applied to food and standard beverages only. Alcohol, labor, equipment (disposables/ rentals/etc) are not eligible for the discount. No other discounts would apply past this point. There are additional pricing considerations given with planning services when you are hosting at one of our venues. 

Do you require clients to purchase event insurance?

No, we do not. When hosting at certain venues, they may require you to have this but we won’t. There are venues that we service that require us to add their property to our insurance for the day of your event. We are charged a fee by our insurance company to do this and we do pass this actual cost (not marked up) along to you as a line item in your BEO (Banquet Event Order). 

Do you have a large service team? 

Yes. We are able to provide events with all levels of staffing that host’s may desire or that their menu and service plan require they have. We have experienced banquet captains that oversee the event as a whole, back of house leads who oversee the kitchen team onsite, trained front of house servers, food runners, bartenders, etc. 

If we use your bartenders, but we are providing our own alcohol at our venue, do you require us to have an ABC permit? 

Our operation is fully licensed by VA ABC therein our bartenders are operating under our license. When they are on-site and in control of the alcohol service, our license covers your event. This is not to say that your venue may not require you to obtain a permit regardless but we will not. There are MANY venues we service on a regular basis that are familiar with our licensing so they do not typically require their clients to get their own. 

Can you help us accommodate the needs of gluten free, vegan, vegetarian, and food allergy concerns within our guest list? 

Yes we can. We need to be made aware of these concerns and how many guests may share them so that we can help determine the best way to take care of those guests. PLEASE NOTE: With today’s popular gluten free diet trend, it presents a concern for all caterers to have clarification as to whether your gluten free guests have chosen this as a life style choice or if they are Celiac sufferers. Celiac is a serious medical condition and requires stringent monitoring of many things behind the scenes to assure the guest’s safety. 

Will you work with family recipes for certain items?

We know family traditions are important so we will be happy to take a look at your family recipe, price out what the cost is to utilize it, and let you know once we have it figured out. From there, it is up to you if you would like for us to incorporate it into your menu or not. 

When are guest counts and payments due?

Your Minimum Guaranteed Guest Count (MGGC) is due 30 days prior to your event date.

  • You may add to this count but you may not reduce it.

  • Once your MGGC is received, adjustments will be made to your BEO (Banquet Event Order) to reflect this information.

  • The BEO will then be sent out to you and a payment equal to 50% of the balance will be due.

  • We do not make adjustments to labor or outsourced rental amounts until the final guest count is turned in.

 

Your Final Guest Count (FGC) is due 14 days from your event date...this is the time you will add any additional guests to your count (you may not reduce down from the MGGC).

  • We will again make necessary adjustments and send the BEO out to you for the final payment to be turned in.

  • Your final payment must be received prior to the date of your event unless other arrangements are expressly made with us. 

Will you tell us if there are ways to reduce our costs?

Absolutely. We know every event has a budget and there are a lot of things that need to come from that figure. We always try to educate our clients as to the different styles of event hosting available to them, what the pros and cons are to each of those styles, how each of those styles vary in cost, etc.

 

The style of event service you choose is the big determining factor in cost at the end of the day. We are happy to show you how adjusting the quantity of appetizers, shifting between china and disposables, etc can change your spending. We will also let you know if you are asking us to provide something that you can do more cost-effectively on your own. For example...sodas and bottled water.....we are happy to order these items in and provide them for you but it is smarter for your budget for you to pick these items up at a store like Costco or Walmart. 

How much food do you provide for a buffet? Will we run out?

Your BEO will show the piece count you are paying for in terms of appetizers so you can adjust those however you like. In terms of a buffet dinner or action station set up, we prepare for your final guest count plus 10%. This means if you confirm a final guest count of 120, we will prepare buffet food for 132.

 

The serving sizes for each food item are based on industry standards, which tend to draw from USDA guidelines. That being said, we cannot control how large or small of servings your guests put on their plates. Knowing how your guests eat and being open about it, is an important factor in making sure there is enough food. If you have any big eaters, we need to know and we need to know how many. We don’t know your guests so we (as do all of your vendors) depend on you to help us be aware of certain things.

 

  • A good example is a repeat contract we do that usually averages 150 guests; the person in charge of the event knows there are a lot of heavy eaters so they confirm set up for 150 but food for 200 (which means we send food for 220). They don’t run out.

  • We have a few other contracts that may have a 100-person attendance with a few heavy eaters so they confirm about 115 for food (we provide food for 127). 


  • The other side of the coin is that you may have average eaters but they REALLY REALLY enjoy ONE particular item such as beef tenderloin. In a situation such as this, you don’t necessarily need to up your count to cover all food items, just the beef.

    • What this would mean is (for example) you have determined your guests are average eaters so you are confirming for your actual RSVP count of 120. The concern is that you know the beef eaters in your group will demolish the beef tenderloin.... you can choose to confirm for additional servings of beef tenderloin only...say 140 servings of this but 120 servings of everything else.

  • Long story short, we need to work together to understand your group and those within it to make sure that the right decisions are made to properly cover your group eating style. 

We don’t live near you, can we still work with you easily?

YES! We are very used to our clients not living in our area or, many times, in the state as they are planning a destination event. We are very accustomed to working with clients via email, conference call, and video call. 

2061F Evelyn Byrd Ave.
Harrisonburg, VA 22801

 

earlykatering@gmail.com

540-801-8139
540-442-1479

© 2020 Early Katering Company