Catering your event doesn't have to bust your budget. There are many steps you can take to minimize costs while still throwing a memorable and enjoyable bash. The following are a few tips to help you cut costs and not quality.
Tip #1: Skip the buffet
A buffet can be costly on many fronts. People tend to eat more at a buffet, or at least take more food, which means you must pay for more food to be prepared. You also need to offer a larger selection of food so that the spread doesn't look sparse. Full service means your guests are presented with food already plated, which helps with portion control and lowers cost. You also can get away with fewer options without looking cheap.
Tip #2: Don't make the meat the star
The traditional catering option of "chicken or beef" can be costly in this age of rising meat costs. Instead, think of main dishes where meat is an ingredient and not the main event. Pasta dishes, stirfries, and rice dishes are just a few options. You can still provide a choice of the protein ingredient, if desired, but it will be served as part of the dish instead of as the star of the plate.
Tip #3: Ask, don't assume
Don't fall into the trap of providing your guests with everything. For example, there is no need to have more than just a water glass on the table at the outset. Drinks can be brought out as requested or purchased at the bar. Don't automatically place coffee cups and bowls of creamer and sugar for dessert service – the servers should only bring cups to those wanting coffee and the bowl of creamer and sugar is upon request. Otherwise, you end up renting more glassware than you need and your complimentary items may walk out the door instead of being used.
Tip #4: Combine services
Instead of renting everything you need for the event separately – room, tables, linens, tableware, catering – check to see if there are discounts for combining services. For example, many venues offer table and linen rental that can be added onto the venue cost at a discount. Your caterer may also provide a combined discount if you rent tableware or linens through them. Compare discounts and final costs from all the options, and don't be afraid to ask for a discount if one isn't offered for combined services.
For more information, talk with a caterer in your area.