Questions & Answers from Rob Goyena
Vice President of Catering by Uptown
Kate, Washington DC:
I am having a very non-traditional wedding–a tiny ceremony and a private dinner for about 20 guests. Do you work with clients like me who will be so low-scale?
Typically, Catering by Uptown is best suited for weddings of 50 guests and up, but on occasion, we do smaller events. It’s important to have a good fit with your caterer and your event, so that it will get the best possible service. We make sure that if we take on a smaller event, we do it only on a day where we can dedicate the full resources ANY wedding will require. It turns out that a 20 person wedding can have as many details and decisions as a larger wedding. For us, it comes down to a question of finding a good fit on the given date.
Kim, Washington DC:
From my perspective, there are positive points to buffets, to be sure, and these include the variety which is offered, and the ability to select portion sizes. Sometimes, they can also offer other benefits, such as a more free-form structure to the event, and sometimes can make the event more comfortable if the guests are to be seated in more than one room.
I prefer sit-down dinners for weddings if space permits. The way that we offer a sit-down meal, you get the best of both worlds. We try to keep the dinner to 45 minutes to an hour and 2 courses served, with sweets on a buffet to get people moving after dinner. Longer dinners can be a problem if the caterer gets too involved in a 5 course meal with elaborate service. Most of our clients are interested in a lot of dancing at their parties, so we try to keep the dinner shorter. In addition, we offer two entrées on the same plate (a duet, duo, surf&turf) and then handle special dietary needs and children’s meals as required.
Most of our clients choose the sit-down dinner when presented with those options, but we still do a fair amount of buffets, and in the right circumstances, they can be wonderful.
Mikah, Arlington, VA:
We love catering at a variety of wedding venues across the DC, MD and VA area. What we see at our own facilities is that we are able to offer a more comprehensive approach to the event in some cases. This can be most effective in the areas of price and flexibility.
As to price, we are able to offer our clients significant savings in several ways. First, because we are not transporting the equipment, staff, and food (not to mention the kitchen equipment) we can give a bigger bang for the buck. In addition, we have some significant discounts that we can offer for clients that are willing to consider off-peak dates and times. Because we’ll still be doing the catering, someone can achieve a great savings by helping us to use all of our resources (space, equipment, staff, etc) on a date / time when we otherwise might not be doing an event. As a result, we now do almost as many Friday night weddings as Saturday night weddings. We do three dozen Thursday night weddings…
For the flexibility… because our facilities are specifically for weddings, we gear our policies and procedures solely for that. Many other facilities have a primary purpose other than weddings, and those things must be accommodated as well.
That said, there is no way we can duplicate the unique character of a space like the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Newton-White Mansion, The Galleria, Top of the Town, etc. And so we bring many of our clients to those locations, and because of our stable on-premise base, we are able to offer amazing values at these wonderful locations as well.
Anna, Washington, DC:
Hi Rob. Do you get requests from couples to make family recipes for the reception? If so, what’s been your favorite request?
We love to do this. We’ve done dishes from every corner of the world, and in some cases, as many as 3 tastings of the dish prior to the wedding…after all, many family recipes are a pinch of this, a dash of that…
My favorite one eventually became a mainstay dish at our firm. We called it Chicken Devonshire, because the bride’s grandmother lived on Devonshire street. It’s basically a stuffed chicken breast with roasted peppers, spinach, onions, feta, and provolone and a tarragon cream sauce. Even at the end of a party (when I would get to eat) it was amazing!!
The answer here varies a little based on where the event will take place, as each facility or caterer has their own pricing policies, but it’s generally acceptable to do a beer & wine bar, and perhaps add a specialty drink or two. These can be prepared in batches and generally don’t require the most expensive alcohol.
Another option is to focus on wines–it’s relatively easy these days to find some interesting, relatively inexpensive bottles to serve, and offer a variety of choices to your guests. Those who drink most heavily tend not to consume as much alcohol when wine is the focus instead of beer or mixed drinks…keep in mind I say they TEND not do consume as much…
Also, consider a daytime wedding and see if that helps the cost factor a bit. A brunch can get you into mimosas and the like and save considerable money.
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