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My Catering Bill is HOW MUCH!

Congratulations! You are engaged to the love of your life and now you are about to embark on a lifelong journey together, you set your date and now you have to plan the wedding. You may only have a year or less to do it in, this is a huge task for those unacquainted with party or event planning.

One of the most important aspects of your reception will, of course, be the catering. It is a fact that ten years from now most of your guests won’t remember much about your wedding except how beautiful the bride looked and how good the catering was; however, it might come as quite a shock when you receive the catering quote. A good caterer will cost you as much as 40-50% of your wedding budget. Sure there are lots of budget caterers out there that will charge extremely low rates, but you get what you pay for. Be careful.

When hiring a caterer, it is important to understand what you are paying for and why prices are positioned as they are. It is not as simple as paying for the food on your plate because there are immense amounts of work that go on behind the scenes and costs are extremely high for everything.

Basically, just like any other business, prices come down to the costs of doing business. Food and labour are the two major ones for a catering company. The days of foodservice companies getting product for far less than consumers are long gone. Many times food distributor prices are higher than the national grocery store chains and if a chef wants to maintain high quality then he/she has to work within those prices or spend a couple days at the grocery store. When we are talking about buffet service it is even more difficult to meet budgets as guests will usually take far more than they will ever eat and all that wasted food needs to be paid for.

Labour is the next huge cost for a caterer. Immense amounts of time go into planning, prepping, organizing and executing an event. The food doesn’t just magically appear, and is usually the result of a full staff of cooks and an event co-ordinator putting in a full weeks work to get the job done properly. Then, of course, there is the on-site service staff as well. Gone are the days when a server makes minimum wage and works hard for it. To find the right service staff that will give a great impression of the catering company is difficult and costs money.

These two costs will take up about 60% of a caterer’s revenue, and there are continuous marketing costs, equipment costs, vehicles and fuel, insurance and licensing, rent, very large gas, water and electricity bills, bridal shows, cleaning costs and so many others. In fact it is extremely difficult for any foodservice business to pull out a profit from their revenue. 5% is considered pretty good.

So, taking all this into consideration, how does one know if they are getting the best value for their dollar? First off, one must understand the difference between price and value.

For example, let’s say you are looking at two different caterers for your wedding reception. Caterer A may serve a roast beef dinner for $20 per plate and Caterer B for $32 per plate. The menus may even look the same. So obviously the $20 per plate dinner is the better value, right? Not necessarily! Caterer A may be serving outside round and Caterer B may be serving Prime Rib. In fact, the quality of the two menus may be completely different altogether, so make sure that you have a tasting of the menu. A reputable caterer will offer it for free as part of their package.

There are two distinctly different ways that caterers charge for their services:

Caterer A is charging on a per plate basis and the initial price per plate seems quite low. However, they will charge for labour, rentals, delivery, coffee/tea, wedding cake and more as add-ons to the price. Unfortunately these all cost money and the end consumer has to pay for them. You can expect to pay service charge and tax as well.

Caterer B specializes in all inclusive packaging on a per guest basis and may include all the place settings, server and chef labour, coffee/tea, wedding cake, appetizers, delivery and more in the price per guest. Usually this is because this caterer owns all their equipment and doesn’t need to rent it, which costs less. The price per guest seems high at first, but there will be no additional charges other than those mentioned in the quote including service charge and tax..

Both methods of pricing are perfectly acceptable as long as the caterer is up front about what is included in the price. Read your quote and contracts very carefully and ALWAYS make sure your caterer has a licensed facility and is fully insured. This also adds to your price slightly, but the peace of mind is completely worth it. You should be able to sit back and enjoy your special day with no stress and no worries.

This should give you a good idea what you are paying for when hiring a caterer and make the whole wedding planning process a lot easier.

Article Provided by Tim Floritto - Executive Chef located in Kelowna, BC

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