Planning: Negotiating Your Catering Budget

Trying to figure out if your caterer is giving you the shaft on that reception dinner? I know that, unless you’re a pro in the restaurant biz, understanding portion sizes and amounts per serving can be confusing (and sometimes – pretty pricy if you don’t know what you’re getting into). One thing to keep in mind before getting a catering quote is to do your homework!

  • Know what the going rate for specific foods are in your area (just chat up the produce gal or butcher at your local grocery store for this information – you’re just looking for a ballpark figure here.).
  • Know how many guests will be at your wedding (if you can, try your damnedest to know this down to the person – five extra can bump the price!).
  • Know what kind of dinner style interests you (buffet, sit-down, family style, American service – know your styles so that you understand what the chef is talking about).

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Image Courtesy of: Annette's Catering

But Cris, why in the hell do I need to know this stuff? How could this knowledge possibly help me negotiate a better deal with the caterer? Glad you asked, my lovelies. Ever heard the saying knowledge is power? It’s true – by knowing what all goes into a catered meal, you’ll know when and where it is appropriate to question catering quotes and ask for a deal.

While I can’t help you by giving you exact quotes on what prices are appropriate for your area or your style of meal…I can help you to properly figure the amounts of food that you and your caterer should be agreeing upon to serve your guests. Here’s a rundown (per my future MIL who used to be a caterer):

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Image Courtesy of: The Nest

For a Buffet: Calculate 1 pound of meat per person. Seriously.

For a Sit Down Dinner: Calculate 6 to 8 ounces of meat per guest.

For the Cocktail Hour: Calculate 3 to 4 pieces of each nibbly per person.

For a Sit Down Dinner: Calculate 1 to 1 ½ cups of salad + ½ a cup of toppings per guest.

For a Sit Down Dinner: Calculate ½ pound of veggies per person.

For a Buffet: Calculate 3 pounds of veggies per guest for every 3 types of veggies available.

And remember to ALWAYS calculate an extra 10% of everything on top of your set menu to cover potential big appetites and extra guests.

Do these estimates look right to you (I’d LOVE to hear from some pros!)? Have any of you successfully negotiated with your caterers? How were you able to score your deal? Chime in!