When it comes to planning your wedding, one of the most important decisions you will have to make will be choosing a catering service. A good caterer can transform a celebration into something truly spectacular.
However, the reverse is equally true, and a poorly catered reception can make for a disappointing end to what should be an unforgettable day. Of course, most couples have little real world experience when it comes to hiring a caterer, making it difficult to know what to expect when shopping for a reliable service. That lack of experience is often compounded by some all too common misconceptions about caterers and the services they offer.
These myths can make shopping for a catering service more frustrating than it needs to be, and can add stress to any already hectic wedding planning process. So, in the hopes of relieving some of that added stress, we’re going to explode 5 of the most common wedding catering myths and misconceptions.
1. Off Season Weddings are Cheaper
While it’s true that it can sometimes be cheaper to hire a venue off season, the same does not apply to hiring an off premise catering service. Whether your wedding is in the spring or in the winter, your caterer will have the same expenses to cover.
The cost of food, labor, and linens is not really affected by the seasons, and regardless of when you schedule your wedding the caterer will have to supply the same materials to deliver the level of service you expect.
You might be able to find off season discounts when it comes to wedding photographers or entertainers who are looking to fill up an empty business calendar, but you should not expect to see any substantial savings when booking your caterer.
2. 90% of Your Catering Cost Should be Food
The first thing everyone thinks of when they hire a caterer is the sumptuous food that will be served at the reception. But catering costs cover much more than the meals themselves. There are equipment costs to consider, and your caterer will most likely have to bring a mobile field kitchen along to fully complete their service.
There’s also the staff to be considered, and the line cooks and waiters will have to be paid. Finally, depending on the venue, your caterer may also be tasked with supplying tables and chairs in addition to linens and table settings.
Also, keep in mind that most professional caterers add a service charge to cover gratuities for the staff. If you think all you should be paying for is the cost of food and prep, you’re in for serious sticker shock.
3. A Buffet is Cheaper than a Sit Down Dinner
Many people make the mistake of assuming that buffet service is cheaper than a proper sit down dinner. But the reality is that a buffet requires more food, more staff, and more equipment to be truly successful.
Remember, your guests will be loading their plates at will, and heading back for seconds when their third glass of champagne takes effect. That’s going to cause food costs to spike, not to mention the additional glassware, plates, cutlery, and linens. With a plated meal you and your caterer will have more control over the final costs of service, including food, equipment, and staff.
4. Catering Costs Should be Comparable to a Restaurant
It’s easy to think of caterers as mobile restaurants, and to some extent that’s true. However, the two business models could not be more different. When you dine out at your favorite restaurant, everything for the night’s service is in place. Menu options have been designed to be as cost effective as possible, linens and tableware are standard throughout the venue, and management has scheduled the staff to meet the needs of the day.
However, when you book a catering service they not only have to bring you a high end mobile restaurant experience, they have to fully customize it according to your wishes. That means special tableware and linens to match your wedding theme, a unique menu to wow your guests, and staff to ensure that your reception goes off without a hitch. That greatly increases the cost of the service, and that is naturally reflected in the price you will have to pay.
5. You Should Always Pad Out Your Guest Count
Figuring out how many people will be attending your wedding reception is often trickier than it sounds. Sure, you have the RSVPs, but inevitably some guests won’t make it to the celebration and others will bring an unexpected plus one. Ultimately, knowing how many guests will be attending the reception can be a challenge.
That being said, professional caterers know their business, and if you provide them with a general head count they’ll make the necessary provisions for any unexpected guests. There’s no need for you to pad out your guest list as a safety measure. If your caterer is experienced, they’re already a few steps ahead of you when it comes to guaranteeing full service to all of your wedding guests.
Catering is a complicated business, which is why it is so important to hire an experienced service for your wedding. When you start shopping for an off premise catering service, understand that you are getting more for your money than simply a good meal.
You are getting a unique experience, customized to your tastes and those of your guests. If you can ignore some of the common misconceptions associated with the catering business, you will soon find a caterer that will work with you to deliver the exceptional culinary experience that your wedding demands.