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How to Save on Catering Without Looking Cheap

4 minute read

By natadm

Choosing a caterer is one of the most important parts of event planning – if your event’s food isn’t delicious, your guests are sure to judge you. When catering any event, you want to give your guests an experience they’ll talk about about for all the right reasons.

A good caterer combines delicious food with stunning presentation to make your event exceptional, but it’s easy to spend thousands on food alone. If you need catering that’ll impress your guests, you don’t have to sacrifice flavor for your budget. You just need to know how to score great catering for less.

Catering Costs Add Up Quickly

When planning your event, budget should be first and foremost in your mind. You only have a set amount of money to pull off something memorable, so make sure you prioritize catering when allocating funds.

Even with a budget in place, many people wind up overspending on catering. Food is one of the biggest costs of any event. According to Eco Caters, the average catering cost is $6,600 for a single event.

It’s often the decisions you make that cause costs to rise. Ordering too much food is a common mistake. You want to have enough to feed everyone, but you don’t want to be stuck with more leftovers than a small army could eat in a week.

Getting too fancy with presentation is can also increase costs. You don’t need to provide a full meal at every event, or have waitstaff service. Buffets allow you to offer more variety for less money and don’t require extra staff from the catering company to serve food. And if you really want to stick to your budget, consider eliminating alcohol – having a bar of any kind increases prices dramatically.

You Can Save Money on Catering

Aside from avoiding common mistakes that lead to overspending, there are several tactics you can use to cut catering costs without leaving your guests feeling underwhelmed:

Shop Around

Read reviews of catering companies and restaurants with catering services. Compare what they offer and the prices they charge to determine which one offers the best combination of services within your budget, keeping in mind the cheapest option may not always be best.

Simplify Serving

Hire a catering company with its own silverware and dishware to avoid paying extra for rentals. You can also opt to use composite disposables. These can be obtained in bulk from online retailers or business suppliers, but make sure you order high-quality items to prevent messy spills and ensure guests don’t have to use multiple plates and utensils during the course of the event.


Ask caterers to break down the cost of everything in the quotes they provide. With these details, you can more easily compare services offered by different companies. You’ll be able to see “hidden” expenses like corkage fees, tableware rentals, service charges and gratuities. Depending on the company, the latter can be as much as 20 percent on top of actual catering costs.

Go Local

Popular caterers and restaurants may charge more because of the prominence of their brands, and you’re not likely to be able to negotiate a deal. Local options, on the other hand, have more reasonable prices not only because they don’t add markup for a brand image but also because food is often locally sourced. You get fresher, tastier options at a lower price point, giving you more flexibility in your total event budget.

How to Get Started

When you’re ready to hire a caterer, skip the enticing ads and the big names offering “deals.” Instead, hit the internet to search for affordable caterers in your area. Sites often have money-saving offers you can take advantage of to reduce catering costs. Local companies may also offer specials for events held around holidays or be willing to work with you to put together a catering package within your budget.

Online services like ezCater and CaterCow connect you with local restaurants and caterers to simplify the planning process through online ordering. Some have mobile apps, allowing you to do research on the go or place orders from anywhere. Order minimums, fees, reviews and menus are readily available, making it easy to compare local options and determine which vendors offer the services you need.

With smart planning, a little time spent on research and an understanding of where you can cut corners without sacrificing quality, you can find a great caterer regardless of your event budget. Look for the best deal instead of the lowest price, and you’ll save a bundle while still leaving a positive impression on all your guests.

Like anything, it’s always a good idea to be aware of the latest research. We recommend comparing at least 3 or 4 options before making a final decision. Doing a search online is typically the quickest, most thorough way to discover all the pros and cons you need to keep in mind.