Tuesday, September 14, 2010

How Much Does it Cost?

Mazel Tov! You’re planning a simcha – a celebration for your family and friends – such a happy occasion. It seems a pity to have to ask “How much does it cost” but realistically it’s pretty important!

You’re not alone – it’s one of the most frequently asked questions and one of the most difficult to answer. It’s not that your caterer is trying to evade the question, but simply that many factors go into determining the price.

Key factors –
1) Venue
2) Number of guests
3) Style of service

Let’s focus on this last point – many people believe that buffet-style is less expensive than a plated meal and are frequently surprised to learn that pricing is comparable – why?

While buffet certainly creates a less formal atmosphere, from a food-cost perspective, it’s often more expensive. Why? Portion control!

Your caterer must bring an abundance of food. For example, if your buffet has three options with a beef, a fish and a vegetarian entrĂ©e, your guests move through the buffet taking a little bit of everything or a lot of one thing. The caterer needs to make sure that if the beef dish runs out before everybody has gone through the line that he can replenish it. With buffets, people always go back for seconds it’s inevitable. Someone gets up to dance or to get a drink from the bar the plate is left unattended and is cleared by a waiter doing their job. The guest comes back to no food and goes right back to the buffet for more. Portion control is lost.

A plated meal creates a more formal atmosphere and can also be a better choice when there is a speaker or many of the guests are older. A plated meal ensures the caterer portion control and so that offers a savings – everyone receives a pre-prepared portion and rarely does a guest request a second serving.

The other factor to consider is the staffing.
A buffet typically requires a lower waiter to guest ratio (1:20 or 1:25) versus a plated meal which requires a 1:10 or 1:15 waiter/guest ratio.

So, back to your question - How Much Does it Cost?

Based on the venue, the number of guests and the day of the week, ball park costs are as follows –
• Cocktail hour prior to the dinner – 18.00 to 25.00 per guest
• Plated or buffet meal – 45.00 to 60.00 per guest
• Additional items – wine/beer/liquor, staffing and rentals

We always recommend that our clients decide first what atmosphere they’re trying to create for their guests and then work with the caterer to develop a menu to match their budget.