Money-saving tips for Catering

It’s no secret that whenever Trinis go to any type of event, the main conversation topic afterwards (and during!) will be about “food.” The same rings true at weddings. The variety, quantity, taste, and even the presentation of your food will no doubt be critiqued by your guests.

Here are some ways to manage your catering budget and still get rave reviews from your guests:

Portion Control – Believe it or not, buffet stations can sometimes work out to be more expensive than plated service.  This is because a buffet requires more staff to prepare and serve it. It also requires serving pieces, linens, décor, warming dishes and larger quantities of food. Buffets also require constant supervision and re-filling.

Another fact about buffets is that whenever guests are allowed to help themselves, portion control can go haywire! This is because people tend to eat more and waste more, at buffets. A cheaper alternative may be to have passed hor d’oeuvres for a cocktail hour rather than have an appetizer buffet.

Appetizer appeal – You can save catering dollars by simply selecting the types of food you want served and when; for example shrimp, salmon or steak will certainly cost more than chicken. However, you can still serve at least one of those dishes by having it made into an appetizer, instead of a main course.

Know how to budget for desserts – Typically, guests will have about 1-3 servings of dessert. You can offer one slice of cake, tart or pastry and allocate approximately 4 ounces of a creamy dessert, such as ice cream, sorbet or mousse. If you will be serving numerous desserts, you can serve smaller portions. Candy buffets, ice cream stations and chocolate fountains should have full-time attendants, to assist guests and help with portion control.

The Family-Style trend – This type of service occurs when dishes are brought to each table and guests serve themselves. Naturally, this trend cuts down on the need for as much wait staff and lends itself to more informal weddings. If your wedding is more formal but your would like a “homey” feel to the food, serve traditional one-pot dishes such as paella, lasagna and casseroles.

Try a Theme – More relaxed food themes such as “Barbeque” or “Mexican Fiesta,” can be quite economical. These themes work well in terms of guests serving themselves – for example, you can set up a taco bar or a mashed potato bar, to accompany your barbque.

Time management –One major way to control your budget is to control the duration of your wedding. The fact is that the longer guests remain, the more they will consume! One idea may be to have a cocktail reception, featuring active stations, that lasts three hours, versus a cocktail hour, followed by a sit-down dinner and dessert that can last five hours. If you cannot tweak the time at all, then try to anticipate which foods would be the most popular and order more of these selections.

Quality versus quantity – Why not swap the traditional five-course meal for a three-course meal? If you cut a soup or salad and an extra dessert from a pre-set menu, many guests would not mind (or even notice!), especially if they have had an exceptional three-course meal. You can also use good-quality “filler” food, such as breads, savoury pastries and fresh rolls to help fill up your guests’ tummies.