The average cost for a caterer is $20 per guest. Hiring a caterer to provide cuisine for your guests, you will likely spend between $20 and $110 per guest. The price of catering can vary greatly by region (and even by zip code). View our local caterers or get free estimates from pros near you.
When it comes to making sure your event is a success, good food can play a big part in making it memorable. Your choice of caterer can make all the difference in how memorable it is.
No matter what your budget is for catering your event, you’ll be able to find a caterer that can provide what you need to fit it, be that in the form of serving from a food truck or serving sit-down guests a four-course meal. Know in advance what you are hoping for, and the caterers you interview will do their best to give you the right quote and menu.
If your budget is incredibly tight, consider having a food truck at your event. Offer fewer choices and have the owners prep all the food in advance, and you can still feed all your guests at a low price. Don’t assume that your only cost is the food—many cities charge operation fees to allow food trucks to serve food anywhere, and that cost would be yours to pay. For example, the City of Austin, Texas, charges a $300 operation fee.
Expect to pay extra, too, for extended mileage. It can be difficult to serve a lot of guests from one or two windows, so take serving time into consideration when booking.
Serving your guests lunch can be a lower cost option than serving them dinner. Alfred Catering in Austin, TX, charges $12.50–$14.50 pp for brunch vs. $15.50–$24.50 pp for dinner. The final cost depends on the menu you choose, with prices rising based on the amount of meat and dairy on the menu.
Another option can be to have all the food prepared off-site and delivered to the event. Most event centers will have people to set up tables, and ways to keep food hot or cold, and guests can self-serve. Some prices for caterers happy to drop off food are:
Dont forgot about Hors D’oeuvres! Guests are often hungry while waiting for the big meal, due to the schedule of speakers, photo shoots, and other things happening on the side. Having hors d’oeuvres available at different times during the event can keep your guests more content. Hot hors d’oeuvres cost more than cold, and elaborate hors d’oeuvres can, by law, require a chef in the kitchen, leading to a higher cost.
Expect to pay $2.50–$7.95 pp/per hors d’oeuvre.
Another option similar to the drop-off choice is to hire a catering company to set up stations or tables in a room with a different food choice at each one.
Popular tables have different cheeses and bread or crackers, while others have a carving table, or a choice of desserts, or hot or cold sides, etc.
The caterer provides the linens, silverware, glassware and serving staff, which is an approximate 20% service charge on the total cost.
Carlyle’s Catering in Atlanta, GA, have four menu options. Some sample pricing is: three cold hors d’oeuvres for $15.25 pp; one carving station with 3 cold and 3 hot hors d’oeuvres with sides for $36.95 pp; one dessert bar for an extra $7–$8 pp. 100 guests = $1,525–$4,495.
It usually ends up being a better price per person to take the flat rate offered by caterers rather than choose from the à la carte offerings, and it can also save a lot of time on your part. Culinary Canvas Catering in Phoenix, AZ, offers an event buffet package of an hors d’oeuvre station, salad, dinner roll, entree + 2 sides, tablecloths, napkins, and silverware for $4,500 for 125 guests = $36 per person.
Even after you cover the cost of feeding your guests, there may be many other aspects of the event you need to hire professionals for. Ask your chosen caterer who they can recommend, and some will offer to take care of all your additional needs—event location, rentals, a florist, DJ, TABC bartenders, valet/transportation, equipment, entertainment, linens, décor, tables, dance floors, lighting, bar, tent, tables and chairs, and even game hosts.
Expect to pay a deposit of at least 5% to book the date, and possibly up to 50% of the total up front. Also expect additional fees for miscellaneous expenses. Caterers will charge a cancellation fee if you cancel too close to the event date—usually the 5% deposit.
There will be a number of exceptional caterers to choose from near your event, so take your time choosing what matters to you. Do walkthroughs, tastings, and check online reviews. Ask about special offers or packages. And may your event be everything you’ve hoped for.
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