Tips & Advice
What types of food do caterers provide?
Different caterers provide all different types of food, and indeed one of the first variables to consider when looking for a caterer is their specialty and menu choices. Caterers almost always provide some type of canapé or passed hot appetizers menu, as this is a standard for most evening functions. Other standards include cheese/charcuterie displays, international small plates/tapas, sandwiches and wraps, raw seafood bar and classic champagne brunch with sweet and savory options. They also offer classic plated dinner menu with different preparations of steak/roast, chicken and fish. And many offer gourmet box lunches for a variety of settings and situations. If you are looking for a sweet table, make sure to find out out they employ a pastry chef or use a third-party vendor.
Typical international cuisine options include Italian, pan-Asian, French and Latin fusion. Many caterers will create offerings to accommodate culinary trends--for example, offering a slider bar, a make-your-own taco bar, a specialty bacon station, or a vegetarian buffet menu. It’s important to know that, while restaurants usually specialize in just one or two cuisines, caterers will often do a range, since they can adjust according to the client’s order and needs.
How much do catering services usually cost?
Catering services don’t have a “usual” cost, since the cost of getting a simple boxed meal for 10 people carries an entirely different average charge than the cost of getting a wedding catered. Here are a few standard ranges for common types of catering. Taxes and service fees not included, but are typically built into the bill:
Lunch, customer picks up:
Passed hors d’oeuvres for 20 people, 2 hours:
- Low: $150 for meat + cheese tray and grilled vegetable platter for 24 persons.
- Medium: $240 for boxed lunches for 24 persons + cutlery packs, no beverages.
- High: $400 for sushi and Asian appetizers for 24 persons, includes soft drinks.
Outdoor daytime social event for 30:
- $300 (light canapés and cash bar)
- $700 (heavy hors d’oeuvres, 10 items per person + beer/wine)
Banquet service for 30 for corporate function:
- Low: $330 for burgers and hotdogs with three sides
- Medium: $650 for Western-style BBQ with pork and chicken, sides
- High: $900 for fully catered pig roast with sides and serviceware.
- Low: $600 for Mexican or Italian-style buffet service including salad and choice of two entrees.
- Medium: $1,200 for plated three-course classic menu , choice of chicken/ribeye, including beer/wine.
- High: $2,800 for full-service multi-course plated dinner, including setup, beer/wine, tabletop and dinnerware rental.
What is residential catering?
Residential catering is the category of caterers who provide food in people’s dwelling places. These services specialize in providing restaurant-quality food, service and experience for private functions in spaces that don’t have residential kitchens or servingware and furniture for a large group.
Food service for hospitals and students who live on university campuses are non-commercial residential catering, but this is on the opposite end of the spectrum in scope, since these non-commercial services specialize in high-volume meal service for hundreds or thousands of people daily, and they usually do not provide off-site catering.
What is commercial catering?
Commercial catering, also known as corporate catering, is for-profit food service, mainly for business functions and companies. Commercial catering services might provide lunch service to businesses, all-day food service for corporate functions, or specialize in craft services on film sets or any other type of non-residential establishment. Restaurants and takeaway food outlets fall into the commercial catering category, since they have commercial kitchen space.
What is usually included in catering services?
Catering service always provides food, and usually some type of beverage, but the service inclusions can vary beyond that. Some catering services include setup, decoration and service within their basic offering, while others will simply drop off the food in the kitchen of the event venue. Sometimes catering will include plated service, while, in other cases it might be buffet style. The simplest and least-expensive catering service provides boxed meals with cutlery packs to eat on the go.
“Beverage” is also a flexible term, since it can mean full bar service, only includes beer and wine, or just means bottled soft drinks.
What services do banquet halls offer?
The services that banquet halls offer vary, though most banquet halls want to offer more than just raw space. The broad categories for banquet halls are BYO and Inclusive. BYO means “bring your own,” as in the renters have to bring in their own bar and catering, and figure the cost completely separate of venue rental.
If banquet hall rental only includes the space, the customer can usually rent basic décor that the space already owns (drapes, centerpieces, table linens) for a minimal upcharge. A full-service banquet hall will offer catering, audio-visual, a bar, professional photo and video, and special extras, like themed décor. Many will have partnerships with car services and hotels so that they can offer hotel and transfer to guests from out of town.
With an inclusive banquet hall (one with its own in-house catering), if customers commit to a certain catering spend on a less busy night or off season, they might get a discount on the hall itself. For example, a venue manager might waive half the $1,500/evening cost to rent the venue if someone agrees to spend $7,500 on food and beverage from the in-house catering and bar.
However, luxe halls that offer the full gamut of services (a stage, a coffee/tea station, shuttle service, security) usually don’t discount the cost of the venue even if there is a steep food and beverage minimum. Instead, the venue will include most services in the base price--even the catering and bar staff.
Do wedding venues allow outside catering?
Some wedding venues allow outside catering. It depends on the type of venue. Also, some venues have a specific list of preferred caterers they will allow. It is always best to speak to the specific venues you have under consideration and get each one’s rules.
Do wedding venues provide catering services?
Yes, many wedding venues provide catering services, either in-house or through a preferred caterer.
How far in advance should a wedding hall be booked?
A wedding hall should be booked nine months in advance, or even further in advance if you love a particular spot, or if you want a particular kind of space in a market with many weddings, or if you plan to get married in high season (this depends on the region, but June is a universally popular month). Some people who want a particularly popular venue during a busy season book their wedding venues a year and a half in advance. Others wait till the wedding is within six months, and this can work out fine if it’s in a destination with lots of venues at a range of sizes and prices, and also if the wedding’s taking place in the low season (November-December).
How much does it cost to rent a banquet hall?
The cost to rent a banquet hall varies widely, with the low end of the price range generally between $500-$900, and the higher end of the spectrum being $2,000-$3,000 for four hours. Mid-priced “inclusive” banquet halls (i.e. banquet halls with décor included and in-house catering) will sometimes charge less for the venue if there’s a higher food and beverage minimum. Some banquet halls will also charge by the hour, or per person, inclusive of food and beverage. For example, an “inclusive” venue might charge $80 per person for the space and food/bar, which comes to $12,000 for 150 persons.