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.