As many people who have planned events know, catering can be one of the biggest expenses associated with putting on an event. Having good quality food at your event is also one of the most important elements of a successful event. Poor food can leave guests with a literal bad taste in their mouth, and complaints that might ruin guests’ overall memory of the event.
Fortunately, there are some clever ways in which you can save on a pricey catering bill, while still inspiring. Below are seven tips to reduce your event catering bill, without your guests ever knowing the difference.
1. Remember that people eat with their eyes first
This is one of the truest statements in the culinary world, and having a caterer that takes the time to present a dish well can take your event from memorable to unforgettable. Appetizing food presentation can mean anything from a well laid-out buffet with a few special touches, or plated dishes with an exciting flourish. By enhancing your food’s aesthetic, guests will not only enjoy the food more, but they will also come away with a better overall impression of the event.
Insider event catering tip: if your caterer cares about how their food looks, you can rest assured that they care even more about how their food tastes. Confidence in flavor typically leads to confidence in presentation.
2. Do not dismiss stationary hors d’oeuvres
Stationary hors d’oeuvres can also save on your catering bill by minimizing your staff count. Instead of having one waiter per tray of passed hors d’oeuvres, you can have one waiter per table of hors d’oeuvres. Additionally, guests often prefer hors d’oeuvres stations to passed hors d’oeuvres, because they do not have to wait until something they like comes around on a tray.
3. Create buffet stations that inspire
A serving buffet not only gets people fed quickly, but it also offers guests a wider variety of food options. Additionally, buffets cut down on the number of staff needed to cater an event. Instead of having upwards of twenty waitstaff for a single event, a caterer can run lean with a couple of waiters per buffet table. A buffet can still be elegant and include a carving station or even a simple cooking station where pasta or omelettes can be made to order. Buffet lines are also great places for guests to mingle and meet others who are seated at other tables.
4. Consider a modified menu
Another creative option to reduce catering costs is to ask your caterer about a modified menu. Oftentimes your caterer will offer a discount if you select menu options that have less expensive ingredients. For example, you might consider selecting one seafood hors d’oeuvre, instead of two. Or you could go with a chicken main course instead of a beef main. Additionally, some caterers will reduce the total cost of the catering bill if you have fewer menu options, but still the same amount of food.
5. Win over your sweet-tooth crowd with a creative dessert table
Instead of serving traditional desserts, which are costly and usually go uneaten, win over your dessert lovers with a fun dessert table. Some crowd pleasers include a chocolate fountain with dipping treats, a candy bar table for guests to fill small bags, or mini cupcakes on a pedestal. All of these options require little staffing, and create a ‘wow’ factor, while being cost effective.
6. Go with your venue's preferred caterer
Most often, your venue's preferred caterer is your best option. The caterer has been taste tested many times by the venue and has won the venue's stamp of approval. Furthermore, the venue's preferred caterer is usually your most cost effective option, as the venue receives quantity discounts from the caterer, which are usually passed along to clients. Additionally, the venue's preferred caterer knows the venue's facilities well, which will ensure that the catering process is seamless. You won't have to worry about missed delivery times, confusion about drop-off location, or issues with food preparation times.
7. Look into alternative beverage service options
Depending on your event, you may not need a full premium bar. Most of your guests will not specify a liquor type anyway, so it may not be worth the additional per person charge for a premium bar for the couple of guests who do. Instead, consider a standard bar with mid-tier liquor options. For more savings, go with a wine and beer bar. For certain types of events, such as networking happy hours, wine and beer will be what most people want to drink anyway. If you are thinking of serving champagne at your event, look into having a champagne toast instead of offering champagne all night.