How much does catering cost?
$10 – $35 per person (basic party / drop-off)
$30 – $150 per guest (formal plated, buffet, stations)
$500 – $7,500 catering for 50 guests
Catering prices by guests
Catering prices are $10 to $35 per person for basic party food or drop-off service. Catering costs $30 to $150 per person for formal plated meals, a buffet, or food stations.
On average, caterers charge $500 to $7,500 for 50 guests, $1,000 to $15,000 for 100 guests, and $1,500 to $23,000 for 150 guests.
|Guests||Food truck or drop-off catering||Formal buffet, stations, or plated dinner|
|Up to 20||$200 – $700||$600 – $3,000|
|30||$300 – $1,100||$900 – $4,500|
|40||$400 – $1,400||$1,200 – $6,000|
|50||$500 – $1,800||$1,500 – $7,500|
|75||$750 – $2,600||$2,300 – $11,000|
|100||$1,000 – $3,500||$3,000 – $15,000|
|150||$1,500 – $5,300||$4,500 – $23,000|
|200||$2,000 – $7,000||$6,000 – $30,000|
*Not including alcohol or gratuity.
Alcohol adds $10 to $40 per person on average for an open bar.
A gratuity adds 15% to 20% to the total catering bill.
Average catering cost per person by type
The average cost of catering depends on the party type, menu, party size, alcohol, add-ons, time and date, and location.
|Catering service||Cost per person*||Description|
|Drop-off catering||$10 – $28||Ideal for casual events where the cooked food is delivered ready-to-serve|
|Food truck||$15 – $35||Casual dining with a variety of food options when booking multiple food trucks for the event|
|Buffet-style or stations||$30 – $70||Guests serve themselves from either a long buffet table or from separate food stations, categorized by type of dish|
|Full-service or corporate event||$30 – $100||Includes kitchen and bar staff to set up, serve, and tear down a plated meal and bar service|
|Wedding catering||$30 – $150||A buffet, family-style, or plated sit-down dinner during the wedding reception|
|Wedding catering package||$50 – $270||Includes food, cake, appetizers, open bar, and optionally top-shelf liquors, grazing table, or dessert statons|
*Not including alcohol.
Catering menu price list
Caterers charge additional fees for hors d’oeuvre platters, appetizers, desserts, and beverages:
|Meal type||Cost per guest||Description|
|Appetizers or hors d’oeuvres||$10 – $30||Finger foods served before or in place of a full meal.|
|Ice cream or dessert bar||$5 – $11||Dessert-only service|
|Breakfast, brunch, or lunch||$10 – $30||Daytime events menu|
|Plated dinner||$40 – $150||Formal sit-down dinner|
|Non-alcoholic beverages||$2 – $4||Coffee, tea, water, and juice|
|Alcohol - Full open bar||$15 – $40||Well liquors, beer, and wine|
|Alcohol - Limited open bar||$10 – $20||Beer and wine only|
Dessert bar prices are $5 to $11 per person for a variety of 3 to 5 pieces per guest.
Chocolate fountain rental costs $380 to $550.
Appetizers and hors d’oeuvres catering prices
A catering menu of appetizers and hors d’oeuvres costs $10 to $30 per person, depending on the number of items served. Serving a selection of hot and cold finger foods keeps the costs down and provides several choices for guests.
|Servings per guest||Average cost per guest|
|Choice of 3 appetizers||$10 – $18|
|Choice of 5 appetizers||$14 – $20|
|Choice of 8 appetizers||$18 – $30|
Alcohol catering costs for cocktail party
An open bar costs $10 to $20 per person for beer and wine or $20 to $50 per person when including top-shelf liquors and cocktails.
Hiring a private bartender costs $30 to $50 per hour for a buy-your-own (BYO) alcohol event.
|Bar service||Cost per person||Average cost (100 to 150 guests)||Description|
|Premium full bar||$20 – $50||$2,000 – $7,500||Top-shelf liquors, beer, wine, and cocktails|
|Full bar||$15 – $40||$1,500 – $6,000||Well liquors, beer, and wine|
|Soft bar||$13 – $30||$1,300 – $4,500||Beer, wine, and two signature cocktails|
|Limited bar||$10 – $20||$1,000 – $3,000||Beer and wine only|
|Single drink bar||$1 – $5||$100 – $750||Champagne toast only|
Other budget-friendly bar options include:
Billed by consumption – A consumption bar charges for each drink served. Some hosts set a maximum cap to stay within budget.
Cash bar – A cash bar passes the drink costs on to the guests.
BYO alcohol – A buy-your-own alcohol event costs $5 to $20 per guest.
Non-alcoholic drinks like coffee, tea, and juices cost $2 to $4 per guest.
Party catering cost per guest by cuisine
Catering for a party costs $3 to $30 per person, depending on the cuisine. Budget-friendly sandwiches and burgers are popular for outdoor parties, while pasta is an affordable option for indoor events. Food truck catering costs $10 to $40 per person and is popular for large events.
|Cuisine type||Average cost per person|
|Asian||$12 – $30|
|BBQ||$12 – $22|
|Burgers||$10 – $15|
|Indian||$15 – $25|
|Mediterranean||$10 – $23|
|Pasta (Italian)||$8 – $18|
|Pizza||$10 – $25|
|Sandwiches||$3 – $12|
|Tacos||$10 – $18|
|Desserts only||$5 – $11|
|Drinks (Coffee, tea, juice bar)||$2 – $4|
Wedding catering cost
Wedding catering costs $30 to $150 per person on average, depending on the style. Wedding catering packages cost $50 to $250 per person, including appetizers, main course dessert stations, cake, and an open bar.
|Package||Average cost per head||Includes|
|Budget||$30 – $75||Buffet or food station meal with cake and a cash bar|
|Standard||$50 – $150||Buffet-style or self-serve food stations, minimal appetizers, limited alcohol, and a slice of wedding cake|
|Luxury||$90 – $250||Upgraded plated meal with appetizers, grazing table, wedding cake, added dessert stations, and a premium open bar with top-shelf liquors|
How do caterers charge?
In addition to the food, cost factors that affect catering charges include:
Party size / minimum fees – Some caterers set a minimum fee or number of guests to book an event.
Service fee – A service fee of 18% to 22% covers the catering company’s back-end operating costs. This is not a gratuity for the staff.
Gratuities / tip – A gratuity or tip of 15 to 20% for good service is common.
Tax – Taxes are charged based on the local sales tax rate.
Menu add-ons – Adding alcohol, appetizers, or desserts increases the cost. Some caterers include non-alcoholic drinks in their price.
Date and time – Caterers set higher rates for evenings, weekends, holidays, and peak season dates. Weekday events may be available at discounted rates.
Extra time – Most caterers include a set number of hours in the contract, usually 2 to 4 hours. Expect to pay 1.5 to 2.5 times the regular hourly rate for staff if the event runs over schedule.
Location – Caterers in metropolitan areas charge up to 30% more. Caterers that travel outside their area may charge a per-mile travel fee.
Rentals – Caterers often include a basic table setting with the food, but may also rent tables, chairs, linens, and other equipment at an added cost.
Servers / staff – Servers and waitstaff cost $20 to $30 per hour, with 1 server needed for every 8 to 25 guests.
Catering service FAQs
How to save money on catering
Follow these tips to save money when catering on a budget:
Schedule the event on a weekday and avoid holidays and peak season dates.
Reduce food costs by serving only appetizers or casual cuisines like barbecue, pizza, or sandwiches.
Hold a daytime event and serve a more budget-friendly breakfast, brunch, or lunch menu.
Limit alcohol to keep costs down.
How far in advance to book a caterer
Book the caterer at least 6 months in advance to secure the preferred date, especially for large events, holiday parties, or weddings. Smaller events with 50 or fewer guests require less notice.
What do caterers provide?
Caterers provide all the food for the event, cooking it on-site at the venue or in their own commercial kitchen. Catering services often include all the serving dishes, plates, glasses, and silverware in their price. Some caterers offer a selection of rental tables, chairs, linens, and custom place settings.
Do caterers charge a gratuity?
Some caterers include a gratuity charge of 15% to 20% that is split between the servers working for the party.
Before adding a cash tip, review the contract to confirm a gratuity charge is not already included.
Do you tip caterers?
Tipping caterers 15% to 20% of the total bill is standard. The gratuity rewards good service and does not replace any separate delivery or service fees the caterer charges. For pick-up catering orders, a tip of 5% to 10% for timely service is suggested.
How to find and hire a caterer
When hiring a caterer near you, be sure to:
Ask for referrals from friends, your party planner, the venue manager, or corporate contacts.
Search online for a
professional caterer with
Read their reviews on Fash and Google.
Select a minimum of 2 to 3 caterers and make tasting appointments with each.
Select the most skilled professional that works within your budget.
Review all contract terms before signing and make the final payment after the event.
Questions to ask caterers
Have you worked at our venue before?
Can I schedule a tasting?
What bar and buffet setup and equipment do you include in your quote?
Is your menu flexible, or do you only offer pre-selected options?
Do you offer options for kids, vendors, or guests with special dietary requirements?
Do you cater both buffet-style and more formal plated dinners?
Does your estimate include glassware, plates, and silverware?
Do you set the tables for the event?
How much time is needed for setup and cleanup?
Once the guest count is confirmed, do you allow changes to be made?
What does the staff wear?
Is a gratuity included in the final bill? If not, how should I tip the staff?
Is a full liquor bar included in your price estimate? If so, what liquors does it include?
Can I supply my own alcohol? If so, will it reduce your quoted price?
Do you carry liquor liability insurance coverage? Do I need to purchase a separate host policy?