Throwing the perfect party without going broke is an art we are all trying to master. It can be hard to decide what to cut back on versus where you should go big. As the Director of Sales and Marketing at Catering by Michaels, I’ve found that these 5 event catering tips are the best way to save money on your next catering order while still serving great food.
#1: Appetizers: Passed Instead of Placed
Passing out your more expensive appetizers is a great way to minimize the potential for wasted food. It’s important to understand that people tend to grab more when there is a tray placed on a table but guests consume fewer items when they’re passed around by servers.
#2: Limit Options for Each Course
In general, the less options people have, the less food they will take. If you have a buffet setup with various food options, people want to try everything—even if they don’t plan on eating it all. Buffets often require more equipment, larger portions, and a higher food cost. A good rule of thumb for saving money? The fewer options for each course, the more you’ll be able to mitigate costs associated with food waste.
#3: Offer Plated Service
When catering an event, most people choose one of three options:
- Action stations
- Plated meals
Action stations and even family-style meals tend to cost more money than a plated dish. This is because of how plated meals give you control over quantity and portion sizes.
Even accounting for multiple courses, knowing the exact amount of food to serve for each guest will certainly cut down cost and waste. Plated meals can also keep rental costs low—it’s hard to find the right platters at the right cost for family-style service!
The type of meat you select can also make an impact on your budget. So get creative with chicken or different types of beef (you don’t have to serve filet mignon). Or, select more affordable seafood options.
Here are a few budget-friendly meat options to consider when planning your next event:
- Flat iron steak
- Skirt steak
- Short rib
#4: Don’t Skimp: Skip Instead
Don’t skimp on something just because you feel obligated to serve it. Today’s wedding trends push people to feel compelled to offer specialty sweet stations or other late night food offerings. Instead of doing it halfway because you think you have to—better to skip it altogether.
On a related note, don’t skimp on the food and drink that’s an expected part of the territory. For example, a cocktail hour without appetizers feels like it’s missing something. Similarly, an entree without a first course seems like an incomplete meal at a wedding. Don’t skimp on the things your guests may otherwise remember as a weird experience.
#5: What About Drinks?
Drinks and alcohol have a reputation for being very expensive. Guests are often hopeful for an open bar or some other source of included alcohol at an event.
Of course, a completely open bar can quickly drain the bank. So instead of offering unlimited access to alcohol, select wine, beer, and a specialty cocktail to serve. If that still puts you over the budget, extend only beer and wine as options. Your guests will appreciate just about any type of alcohol offered if they’re not on the line to pay for it themselves!
Final Thoughts: Catering to Your Unique Wedding Needs & Budget
In many cases, especially at weddings, people start with the venue. But I advise starting with the caterer because of their intimate knowledge of area venues. If your caterer can be your partner from the beginning, you have the opportunity to stay in the know about what the venue includes in their pricing, helping you to optimize your budget accordingly.
If you’re in the Chicagoland area and are searching for a caterer for your next event, Catering By Michaels offers a great variety of options with full service and delivery for weddings, social gatherings, and corporate events.