Most caterers can accommodate a variety of budgets, offering both frugal and high-end choices. Although caterers will vary in price, most buffet menus start in the $30 range per person for a single main course item, increasing with the variety offered. Plated dinners start at $35-40 per person for three courses. Stand-up reception prices are based on the quality of the items and number of pieces per person. Typically, pricing starts in the high $30s per person; the addition of chef-attended action stations will add an extra $5-15 per person as well as an hourly labour fee for the chef.
Some caterers include the price of labour for servers, bartenders and chefs in their menu price. Often, a minimum attendance or sales requirement must be met, or additional charges could apply.
Many caterers will also charge a percentage-based service fee that may or may not result in a gratuity for the staff at the event. Be sure you understand the additional labour charges your caterer applies. Make clear how you feel about a bartender setting out a tip jar, if you prefer them to discretely accept tips, or want them to decline tips altogether.
If you’re inclined to add a gratuity for the service staff to your final invoice, be sure to specify this to your sales rep. It is never expected or required, but always appreciated by a hard-working, considerate team.
As an aside, if your event will be self-catered, it is rarely appropriate to ask a professional caterer to offer staff alone. Seek instead a private staffing company that doesn’t rely on food profits to cover their overhead, or find a team of volunteers to man the floor. The same goes in a situation where your caterer does not offer service staff, like an out-of-town hire.
Rentals and Décor
Some companies don’t own their own china, glassware, flatware, tables, chairs, and linens. They may mark up the prices for some or all of these rentals. In some cases, you’ll receive a discount by using their preferred suppliers.
Some companies have a rentals division, an event planning division, or both. Find out what is included, what is extra, and how you can use your sales rep to take your event to the next level.
You may need assistance installing and striking your décor, and not all caterers or event planners will offer this service. There are, however, private decorators for hire, so do your homework to confirm what’s included. Consider whether you want your friends and family tying sashes or setting centerpieces on the morning of your special day.
Just a Taste
Some caterers offer free tastings and it’s a great way to decide what you want on your menu. Many caterers will host open house events so you can see how they conduct events and how they present unique, custom items. It’s also great opportunity to connect with other vendors that are invited.
You’re on a Budget
Is it a good idea to try to bargain with your caterer? It is, but you must be mindful of the bottom line. Every caterer has one. If your menu includes seasonal items, they may not be willing to offer a discount when those items are out of season.
Conversely, you may have an easier time getting discounts when your event is held in the low season.
Should you ever self-cater?
It’s possible, but you’ll need to consider the time and effort it will take you to
Guest Blogger - Great Events Group
I have been writing since I was a teenager, and it cheers me to play with words and turn phrases. Until now, it has been mostly a hobby, but my new position with GreatEvents has incited me to write a few professional pieces, including guest blogs and magazine articles. Writing about an industry I love is a treat, as is the mitigation of party mishaps through the education of the public.