Food and beverage costs can be a significant part of the event budget. Here are some things to know when working with a caterer, and money saving tips to consider.
- When putting your catering budget together consider the following factors:
- Number to attendees
- Length of time
- Table décor
- Labor (captain, chef, kitchen assistant, bartenders, server/bussers, scullery)
- Admin fee
- Sales tax
- The catering hours should include set up, party service, breakdown and clean up.
- Services should include all wages, taxes, training, insurance and other fees associated with employing their staff.
- Check that tables, chairs, linens, china, cutlery, glassware and kitchen equipment are included in the rentals in the quote if the venue does not provide them.
- Check that the caterer has a valid liquor license if alcohol is served.
- Check that the caterer provides an experienced and professionally trained team.
- Ask what time the catering staff will arrive for setup prior to the event.
- Ask that the caterer will do a full clean up and removal of rentals for pick up at the end of the event.
- Most times gratuity for the catering staff is not included in costs. Some caterers do include it but you need to ask. Gratuity is paid at the discretion of the client. It can range from 10% to 20%.
- Ask the caterer if there will be an additional percentage fee if you pay by credit card.
- Tell the caterer your preferred service staff attire. (e.g., tailored black pants and black shirts).
- Stay away from overtime hours as there will be staff overtime charges. Ask what the fees are.
Cost Cutting Tips
- Serve beer & wine as opposed to a full bar. If you are paying for wine per glass, speak with the bartenders and have them do a shorter pour. This allows for more servings per bottle. Have the bartender save the corks or caps of the bottles and count them yourself at the end of the night to be sure you are both on the same page with the numbers and check that it matches the final invoice.
- It used to be that buffet stations were less expensive than plated but these days caterers are charging more as buffets with chef stations add additional labor costs. Ask the venue if one option would be less than the other.
- If the caterer offers 8 passed hors d’oeuvres, ask to serve 4 and that will lower the costs.
- Spread out the total amount of food into several creative and visually impressive courses. Not only is it cost-effective but it takes 20 minutes for our stomachs to signal our brain that we are full.
- Passed hors d’oeuvres vs. buffet stations: You have more control of the amount of the food that is being served with passed.
- Ask for food options that will be less than what they are offering. Most caterers are open to customizing your menu to fit your budget.
- Reduce the length of the event or the time the food will be served. If you have a 3 hour event you can start the passing of the food 1 hour into the event and continue until the end. This will also save on the number of staff hours that will be billed.
- Spread out the total amount of food into several impressive courses. Not only is it cost-effective but it takes 20 minutes for our stomachs to signal our brain that we are full.
- Standard liquor vs. Premium liquor: Choose standard brand liquor over premium to save money on beverage costs.
- Ask if you can provide your own liquor. There may be a fee to do this but it could be less expensive than the caterer providing alcohol.
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About Naif Productions:
Naif Productions is a strategic event planning, design and production firm specializing in corporate, live coaching sales events, social, non-profit, and weddings. Based in New York City, we produce events worldwide from Fortune 500 clients and coaches to families and charities. Naif Productions specializes in helping clients attain their goals, realize return on investment, and achieve the most unique, creative experiences.
About Annette Naif:
Since 1986 Annette Naif has been designing and producing custom events, helping clients create their unique style that translates into a memorable and profitable experience. Annette spent 17 years producing events in the motion picture industry where she helped coordinate numerous productions for film and episodic television programs. Since then Annette’s been running her own event production company, coaching other event planners, teaching an event operations and production course at NYU, and now is the CEO & Creative Director of Naif Productions.