Catering costs for an event can spiral out of control pretty quickly and can vary depending on whether you choose, for example, a simple or more gourmet-style catering. We will show you how much event catering can cost, provide tips on what you have to be mindful of when planning your catering and highlight some economically-priced alternative catering options.

The perfect catering for your event

When planning your event, there will come a point, when you need to decide for the right kind of catering. A perfect event needs high-quality and delicious food. As a rule of thumb: The better the catering the more expensive it will be. That is why it is essential to compare prices.

Define your requirements in advance. What standard should the food meet and what specialities do you want to be on the menu? The caterer needs to know what kinds of dishes you are looking for, what the set-up is going to be and how many guests you are accommodating. Of course, the type of event you are planning also affects the style of catering. Is it a standing reception with tray-service canapés and sparkling wine which will allow your guests to mingle whilst enjoying the food? Alternatively, is it a lavish event, e.g. a wedding, where a seated service is more appropriate?

Be flexible to lower your catering costs

Catering prices vary, depending on the type of catering and other factors. A bowl-food buffet will cost around 15-50 GBP per person, finger food will be closer to 15-30 GBP. But costs can be controlled if the event planner decides at an early stage. Which dishes are an absolute must and to what extent the caterer can be given free rein. Once you have a firm idea of what you want, you can start looking for event caterers and compare prices. If you start planning your event early you have the advantage of being able to adjust your plan to changing circumstances. Having flexibility also allows you to accommodate a cheaper caterer, whereby the buffet menu might differ from the original plan, but the overall cost of your event catering will be lower.

Cut catering costs or avoid stress?

It is only natural that as an event planner you want to keep catering costs as low as possible. However, you may discover that any savings you make will cost you in other areas. For instance, if you choose to collect the food yourself and drop everything back after the event, you will likely save money, but your workload is greater and the overall experience is guaranteed to be more stressful. Even if it means that the catering is more expensive overall, it is highly recommended to arrange your caterer to take care of delivery and pick-up. You can balance this cost out elsewhere, e.g. by offering a smaller selection of drinks. 

The number of guests is another crucial factor when booking catering. In general, booking an event caterer makes sense if you are expecting ten or more guests. The overall price will increase with the number of guests, but the price per person will decrease.

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Compare prices of different providers

Comparing prices allows event planners and decision-makers to keep catering costs under control. Aside from the considerable amount of time this process can take, there is another risk to be aware of. It is called the ‘bargain hunter syndrome’. Do not be deceived by package deals. Most of these packages only cover the food but not the additional services provided by the caterer. This will then add considerable extra costs. Furthermore, the choice of drinks tends to be very limited. There are lots of online platforms that compare event caterers based on a number of factors. Once you have narrowed down your options, you should schedule a tasting. This is the only way to truly guarantee the quality of the food and make adjustments to the menu if necessary.

Set priorities for a suitable catering

Apart from the food, it is also important to know how many waiting staff you will require. This depends on the size of the event. Keep in mind that there are agencies that employ students as waiting staff. Hiring inexperienced staff will reduce the cost of your catering, however,  every special request will cost extra. Once again, the cheapest option might not always be the best. A special event moment can wow your guests and make your event an instant success. Great examples of inspired catering centre-pieces would be a mobile cocktail bar or a cooking station where the food is prepared live in front of your guests’ eyes – a current food trend and a true event highlight. 

Sustainable food for lower catering costs

Vegetarian dishes are a healthy and budget-friendly catering option. If you are looking for a vegetarian menu, you should choose a caterer that can offer a bespoke and exciting menu and prioritises variety. Asian cuisine, for example, offers a huge range of vegetarian dishes. If you are organising a green event, there are lots of sustainable and regional dishes to choose from for your buffet. Going down that route will most likely increase your catering costs, but provides a healthy and popular alternative. If you decide to make your event green you should be careful to pick an organic event caterer. In order to arrange sustainable and budget-friendly event catering, we recommend having a detailed briefing with the caterer. This will ensure clarity on how much food needs to be delivered, reducing food waste and saving resources.

Tips for your wedding catering

Wedding catering can quickly drain your budget, but there are several ways to reduce costs. For instance, your friends and family can get involved by making the wedding cake, which has the benefit of adding a personal touch to the event. The selection of food and drinks also has a big impact on the price of your catering. Instead of champagne you could serve a good-quality prosecco. The cost of wedding catering can be managed by choosing vegetarian dishes and offering a smaller selection of drinks. The starter is another opportunity to make savings as a selection of cold starters is considerably cheaper than hot dishes, because less equipment is needed to serve them.

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Use food trucks to keep costs down

Another way to lower the cost of your event catering is to hire food trucks. This avoids having to pay for serving staff and gives your event a unique atmosphere. With an increasing number of food truck festivals popping up around the country, it proves that this style of catering is trending massively. Be sure: it is a popular choice. To ensure that everything goes smoothly you should be aware that this type of catering can only serve a limited number of guests. In addition, keep in mind that while food trucks can lower your costs, they usually require more planning. Perfect timing is important, bearing in mind that the vendors need time to set-up ahead of the event and clear everything afterwards. It is also possible to use a combination of food trucks and other event caterers.