A Tale of Two Caterers (Part One)

My parents and I met the caterer in the evening yesterday on Wednesday and we have finalised the menu and guest numbers! I’m having lots of good vibes (even despite the fact that I’m going to have to fork out close to 2k more than what I budgeted) and I can’t wait to see the spread of food all nicely and prettily aranged! And of course hopefully get to eat til I’m stuffed at least have a taste of a bit of everything.

Alhamdulillah, alhamdulillah, alhamdulillah.

I guess ada hikmahnya dengar cakap mak bapak (there is a hidden blessing in listening to parents) because I finally settled on this caterer based on their preference.

The other caterer I had initially set my heart on said some things that made my parents not so confident to engage his service.

Firstly, for some reason he jumbled up what I had discussed with him over the phone. I had asked him to quote me price for food per pax for 500 people, with 50 packets of rice and accompanying dishes to be given away to close relatives included in the total price. In other words, as per standard industry practice, the packed food is complimentary or is part of the package price, hence there is no need to pay more for them. Yet, when he came to my place to discuss personally with us, he stated that I asked for food for 500 people, with 450 being the guests who would eat at my wedding, and 50 being the people who would receive the packed food! And the total price would be $X per pax for 500 people!

Of course we were shocked and although we clarified what we meant, my parents perhaps felt that they could not trust him totally. As for me, at that point in time, although I took it as an honest misunderstanding, I was disappointed that it happened because I had spoken to him a few times on the phone and I thought that we were on the same page. Furthermore, why did he perceive it the way he did when it is standard industry practice to provide complimentary packed food?

Secondly, the caterer honestly told us that he had never cooked for a wedding held at my venue. I believe he had also never cooked at a different place and brought the food over. He did actually express his high hopes for getting this opportunity to cater for a wedding held at my venue as he wanted the experience. Due to this ‘confession’, my mom did not feel confident in engaging him.

As for myself, I was not as risk averse as my mom, and did actually have faith that he could do the job well. I even thought that him being honest about his inexperience is a good thing and that if we were to give him this opportunity that he had been hoping for, he would probably give it his best shot in order to prove his abilities to us. Why, he might even perform above and beyond our expectations! After all, if he does an excellent job, his business would benefit because personal first-hand experience and word-of-mouth recommendations (or in this day and age, glowing blog reviews) would attract future customers.

The only issue I had with this ‘confession’ of his is the fact that he failed to cushion or reduce the impact of such a risk factor to anxious first-time customers by enticing us with a better deal! The cheapskate bride-on-a-budget me (or perhaps business-minded me) thought that if you wanted a business deal bad enough, and yet you wanted to be honest about your inexperience, at least play your card well and throw in an offer so irresistible that your potential customers would be willing to overlook the risk factor!

For me, it was as easy as giving me a discount of $1 per pax, and I would have worked harder at convincing my parents to stick with engaging him. Because a discount of that amount would mean that I would get the price that I budgeted for at the very start of my wedding planning journey.

Besides all that, unknown to my parents, he actually does not even have his own cooking-for-big-event equipment! He rents them from others, and when I first spoke to him he mentioned that his usual supplier is either booked up on the weekend of my wedding, or has raised the rental fees (I can’t remember the exact problem) so he has to look for an alternative supplier with better rates first before he can confirm that he could cater for my wedding.

And guess what! I actually went out of my way to put him in contact with another supplier which I happened to have found out from reading another BTB’s post quite some time ago (and I couldn’t remember which BTB it was but I remembered that Dyan of The Card Maison actually commented on that post and I went on a frantic Google search trying different combinations of keywords before I found the exact BTB and the exact post!)

I don’t know what I was thinking, putting so much faith on a relatively unknown caterer whose food I had not even tasted and whom I only got to know about online from someone I did not know personally! Technically, though, that someone is not totally unrelated to me; I am connected to her on a two-degree basis, and I did hear good comments about the quality of the food from someone I know personally.

Granted, he did offer other complimentary items like fresh flowers and fancy frames with our initials on each guest table and food menu signs on mini blackboards (a concept I like and I’m going to DIY), so perhaps that was the pull factor for me.

Alas, it was not meant to be as my mom didn’t approve and furthermore I wasn’t going to get the good deal that I initially thought I would get, so I had to tebalkan muka (literally, ‘thicken my face’, i.e. swallow my pride) and give the caterer a call to say we weren’t going to engage him after all, despite the initial verbal agreement (and my enthusiasm) that I would.

Now, I’m really bad at declining (thus disappointing) people, so that phone call took a lot of prior self talk and visualisation. Luckily for me, it was his son who picked up the call since he himself was away so I did not have to deal directly with his disappointment (or possible discontentment, or worse, a last-ditch effort to get me to change my mind).

Luckily, too, we did not make any cash deposit nor sign any contract during that first (and last) face-to-face meeting so the only bad feeling I got was my guilty conscience for having given that caterer high hopes at first, only to reject him later. I didn’t have to beat myself up feel bad for having wasted money by forfeiting any deposit. To alleviate that guilty conscience, and as consolation to the caterer, I told the son that I would keep their company in mind for future events, and perhaps I’d engage them for other (lower-stakes / smaller scale) events like my housewarming. And I am serious about that, and sincerely hope I could make it up to them by engaging them in the future!

Anyway, I just digged up the soft copy of the quotation that the son had emailed me before I made that fateful phone call. I just realised that I was quoted food for 550 people (same number of guests that I finally confirmed with my current caterer) at $X per pax, but then the 50 packets of food was written down as a separate item, and true enough, the total price indicated was more than $550X. It turns out that he was going to charge me $(X – 4) for each packet of food! (Haha pardon me for using algebra, but I’d reveal more details after my wedding okay.) And the total price came up to be only $50 short of the total price I’d be paying my current caterer.

So yes, in conclusion, this is indeed one instance that proves that there is something to be said for listening to and getting the parents’ approval for big decisions. (But no, I’m not about to make it a norm.. this shall just happen on a case-by-case basis hahah).

This post was supposed to be about my current caterer! But I guess I needed to get that story about the other caterer out of my system first. In Part Two, I’ll talk more about the confirmed menu and differences (good ones) between my current caterer and the other one that makes me oh-so-glad I chose this one instead of the other.

Til the next post!🙂

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