Before you begin calling catering and food-service companies, prepare a list with as much detail about the event as possible. The most important thing to know, beside the event date, is the location. Have at least a general idea of your budget for food and drink. The caterer will also need to know the number of guests and how the meal will be served.
There are several options for meal style:
Buffet style is when all the food items are set out on tables and the guests serve themselves. If you are on a tight budget, a buffet is typically the least expensive option.
A sit-down dinner is usually more expensive because there is a wait staff to serve the food.
A food station is when foods are grouped together and different stations are placed around the room.
Hors d'oeuvres are served by a wait staff or set on a table for the guests to serve themselves.
Also, let the caterer know if you or guests will provide some of the food. Ask about serving pieces as well. Special foods, cakes, for examples, will need special utensils.
If you plan to serve alcoholic beverages, ask if the caterer provides the bartender and drink supplies and whether the number of guests necessitate more than one bartender. If you have a tight budget for drinks, ask about only serving cocktails for a specific time. If you provide the alcohol, ask how much the bartender charges per hour. Also ask if bartenders are tipped separately or if tip is included in the total price.