Wedding Food And Beverage Glossary, Catering Terms


Photo by Anna Kim


By: Tori Rogers, Hawaii Weddings by Tori Rogers

F&B. BEO. Service Charge…what does it all mean? Event catering is like a foreign language to those not in the banquet or food and beverage industry. We have done extensive research and put together a comprehensive glossary of catering terms for you.

Action Station: A table or area where chefs prepare food to order and serve it fresh to guests.

Back of House:  “back stage” or behind the scenes; everything that you and your guests do not (and should not) see

Banquet Captain: The lead person or persons, appointed by the venue or catering company, charged with overseeing food service at an event

Banquet Event Order (BEO): A Banquet Event Order,  Function Sheet or Event Order, is a detailed document that provides to a venue instructions and a timeline for how the banquet, meeting, or event will be run. It specifies the details of a specific food and beverage function or event room setup, including final menus, agreed-upon room setups, specific timing and agendas, staffing details, etc.

Bowl Food: Small bowls of delicious food passed amongst your guests during a standing reception.

Biscotti: An Italian cookie often flavored with anise or nuts. Traditionally oblong-shaped.

Bon Bon: A type of candy that is covered in fondant or chocolate.

Buffet: A type of dining style where food is prepared and set up at tables and guests  line up to either serve themselves or request food from the server.   A good way to offer several entrees in a free-flowing atmosphere. Not recommended for couples with limited space.

Butler Service: A type of catering service where servers offer food and drinks to guests on platters.

Call Brand: A specified brand name a customer requests when ordering a drink,  like “Grey Goose” instead of just saying “vodka”

Camp/Field Kitchen: Sometimes the venue does not have in-house catering, allow full use of a kitchen, or even have a kitchen. This requires the caterer to bring a makeshift kitchen.  This might incur extra costs.

Canapé:  Any bite-sized food. Usually this bite-size appetizer is served on a small round of bread, cracker or vegetable. Anything bigger is finger food, anything bigger than that is bowl food.

Carving Station: An area manned by catering staff who carve slices of meat, such as prime rib or chicken, in a buffet setting at the request of guests.

Cash Bar or No Host Bar: A beverage-service system where wedding guests pay for their own drinks.

Catering: The provision of food and beverages.

Cava: A white or pink sparkling wine from Catalonia.

Chafing Dish: A large dish that sits over a low flame to keep its contents warm. Popular at buffets.

Champagne Flute: A slim glass with a stem, designed to retain Champagne’s carbonation.

Charger Plate: Decorative plates that are larger than the dinner plates and sit at each place setting. Never used for food, sometimes removed before service, sometimes the first course is set on them.

Chill Table: A table that can be filled with ice, over which food is placed to keep fresh. For example, a raw bar is placed on this.

Cocktail Hour: A festive gathering where guests mingle as cocktails and hors d’oeuvres are served, typically preceding dinner. This typically takes place after the conclusion of the ceremony and before the dinner reception.

Cocktail-Style Reception: A stand-up social function at which beverages and light foods are served. A mix of heavy passed hors d’oevures and food stations. Guests mix and mingle while eating.

Corkage Fee: Cost of bringing alcohol that has been purchased elsewhere into a facility.   A fee charged to open your bottle of alcohol during your reception. The charge applies only if you have provided the alcohol yourselves instead of getting it through your caterer or venue.

Count: Total number of guests at any point in time

Cover or Covers: The actual number of meals served at a catered event. A food and beverage term for “guest”. For example, instead of saying “There are 59 guests to serve,” a chef might say “I’ve got 50 covers to do”.

Crudités: An appetizer of raw vegetables (like carrots, celery, cucumbers and peppers), sliced up and served with dip

Deposit: The amount you will be required to pay in advance of your booking.

Dry Hire: This means you are hiring something, for example the venue, without any labor, assistance, furniture, delivery etc. included. Always check what “dry hire” includes.

Enhancements: Individual food items that can be added to an existing package or menu.

Exclusive Caterer: The featured and only caterer allowed to provide catering at a facility

Event Manager: The person who will be there on the day managing the ops team of chefs and waiters to make your plans a reality.

F&B: Short for “food and beverage”.

Family Style: A way of serving where food is served on large platters at each table for guests to pass around and serve themselves while seated.

Final Guarantee: The final head count given to the caterer. The bride and groom will pay for this number.

Finger Food: Food meant to be eaten directly using the hands. Bigger than a canapé and smaller than bowl food

Finger sandwich:   A small sandwich meant to be eaten in a couple of bites, often part of a buffet.

Food Stations: A fun way of serving a variety of foods at a reception.  Multiple buffets set up at stations throughout the reception location. These stations are often chef-attended and may be themed by food type or cuisine style.

Front of House: Like the stage of a theatre; everything you and your guests DO see!

Full Service caterer: A full-service caterer will be able to do everything beyond simply providing the food and drink, from planning, to managing the other suppliers.

Gluten Free: Foods that do not contain gluten. Gluten is found in grains such as wheat, barley, rye, and a cross between wheat and rye

Guarantee: A commitment to pay for a contracted number of servings whether or not that number is actually used or consumed, usually required to be provided three days or more in advance of an event.

Head Count: Actual number of guests attending an event

Hire: The term for everything that is hired from other companies by your caterer. For example, special glassware, cutlery or charger plates.

Hors d’oeuvre or Appetizer: French for “outside of work,” referring to a food item served outside of the main meal.

Host or Hosted Bar: A sponsor or host of an event pays for drinks ordered by the guests. Also known as This can be done by the hour (open bar), by the bottle, by the drink (per consumption) or per person.

House Brand: Any brand of liquor served when a customer requests a drink by its generic name, e.g., gin and tonic, scotch and soda – The least expensive brand served, as opposed to more expensive Call Brands, when a customer requests a drink and specifies a brand name

House Wine: A reasonably-priced wine featured by a restaurant or venue, often served in a carafe or by the glass – Guests specifying only the variety, i.e., Chardonnay, will usually be served the house wine.

In-House: Everything that the caterer (or venue) already has.

Inclusive Rate or Inclusive Price: Quoted cost with no extra fees to be added. Usually includes tax and gratuity for food and beverage functions.

Locally Grown: Items that are grown near the location they will be used; an encouraged element for eco-friendly weddings.

Maître De: Originally maître d’hôtel, this refers to the head waiter/waitress who is managing everything going on Front of House, and relaying it to the Event Manager. This host or head server supervises other servers.

Minimum: The minimum catering revenue required for a function; If minimum is not met, additional charges usually will apply. A surcharge may be added to the client’s bill if the minimum is not reached. For example, you may only have 20 guests, but the menu requires a 25 person minimum. This means you pay for 25 people whether or not you have 25 people.

Mise en Place: Literally means “putting in place”. This a kitchen term for organising and preparing the ingredients that they will need later on.

Mocktail: A non-alcoholic cocktail. It is basically a “virgin” version of the alcoholic beverage.

Off-Site Caterer: Person or company who prepares food in their own facility or kitchen and delivers food

On-Site Caterer: Person or company who prepares food at a facility and serves it at that facility

Open Bar: Hosted bar on at an hourly rate plus the cost of the bartender.

Ops Meeting: Held by the caterers before your event. The time when your Event Coordinator hands over the Ops Sheet to the team who will make it happen.

Ops Sheet: The battle plan for your events team on the night; all of your plans translated into numbers and events-speak to ensure everyone gets it right.

Organic Catering: Catered food grown without the use of pesticides or fertilizers. The food is often sourced from sustainable, local vendors

Outmess: Small meals for your events team and any suppliers, often eaten back-of-house. Your photographer may ask for you to supply “outmess” during the day. Some venues will charge for some outmess for their security team as part of the hire.

Overset: Number of place settings above a guarantee

Passed hors d’Oeuvres: Finger-friendly foods (or canapés) passed by servers, along with cocktail napkins.

Placement: The correct way of displaying cutlery, glassware and stationery on the table. Etiquette rules here!

Plated Dinner or Plated Service: Foods are arranged on individual plates in the kitchen or prep area and served by servers to guests seated at the table.  Typically guest make their menu decision prior to the event, although this decision can at times be made at the event.

Platters: Used to display and serve canapés to your guests. Can be extravagant or elegant, but should always allow for beautiful presentation. Often added to with “props”.

Plus Plus: The addition of taxes and service charges to the food price. Usually designated by “++.”

Premium Brand: Usually referring to higher-priced, better quality brands of liquor offered at a venue

Prix Fixe: French for “fixed price;” a multi-course meal at a set price per person, allowing no substitutions.

Props: The term for everything that exists purely for aesthetics, with no purpose other than to make things look beautiful or convey a theme e.g. feathers and flowers.

Prosecco: A dry sparkling Italian wine.

Raw Bar:  Typically offers a variety of raw and cooked seafood and shellfish that is served cold

Roll-In Meal: Buffet presented on a moveable cart

Seat Assignment: Guests are assigned to a seat at an assigned table.

Service: A term for the delivery of food and drinks to all of the guests.

Service Charge: A fee for services provided by facility, including food staff. A mandatory and automatic amount added to standard food and beverage charges – usually to defray the cost of labor, such as housemen, servers, technicians, etc. – of which the facility receives a portion of the charge.

Shuck: What one does to open an oyster!

Snake Service: Waiters line up with plated food then walk together, like a snake, to the table, before circling it and laying the food down in front of your guests simultaneously.

Soy-Based Products: A product made from soybeans, a legume native to Asia.  Gluten-free diners cannot have this.

Sparkling wine: A bubbling white wine that comes from a location other than the Champagne region of France.

Stations: Similar to the buffet concept but tables are broken out by food concept/item.

Sustainable Catering: Caterers who feature locally grown ingredients in their foods.

Table Assignment: Guests are assigned to a specified table, but can choose their own seat.

Table d’Hote: French phrase indicating a full meal with a limited choice of dishes for a fixed price

Table Stationery: All the bits and bobs that will sit on the table alongside the Placement (menu cards & place names).

Vegan: a person who does not eat or use animal products. This excludes meat, eggs, dairy products and all other animal-derived ingredients.

Water Stations: Tables set up with water bottles or pitchers of water for guests to serve themselves

Welcome Reception: Opening event to welcome guests, usually serves food and drinks

Walk-Through: Inspect a facility and its set up; To review meeting itinerary and details.

Whisper Call:  Instead of the MC announcing that guests should take their seats for meal service , the Maître De walks amongst the guests and asked each of them to move through to their table.

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