(Closed) Negotiating with Caterers?

posted 4 years ago in Food
Post # 2
Member
47440 posts
Honey Beekeeper
  • Wedding: November 1999

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libellules : Too many couples tell the caterer what they want and are then shocked by the quote.

Be honest about your budget and ask what they can do within it. Most caterers can make changes to the menu to accomodate your  budget, unless you are being totally unrealistic.

Post # 3
Member
9124 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper

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libellules :  I just asked what menu items could be change for similar, but cheaper, alternatives. It brought our original estimate down about $2k (back to the original budget I had given her anyways…)  

We switched out the sauce on the beef crostini (to one I actually liked better anyways), and the chicken skewers were a different flavor, but also still really good. It was honestly just a bunch of minor tweaks that added up to big savings for us. 

Post # 5
Member
3324 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: September 2017

So you told them what you wanted to pay, and they went way over that?

If so, I’d email them back with something like: “This looks great, but I was looking to stick to X$ amount. What can you do for that price?” Or even “This looks great, but I was hoping to include a dessert bar for this price (all in). What can we change to accomodate this?”

They are usually pretty good about changing things up. My first quote had filet and swordfish, but when we went back to ask if they could lower it, they changed it to rib eye and salmon. You can also change out some of the appies if that’s what driving costs up.

Post # 7
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9124 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper

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libellules :  maybe not – our venue had a “kitchen” which was really just a break room for the staff, so obviously not enough capacity to cook for a wedding. It cost $225 to rent portable ovens which I thought was extremely cheap. 

Post # 8
Member
3324 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: September 2017

How many people are you having? One option I looked at were some food trucks that do catering! They have everything they need IN the truck. They usually just do prep ahead of time, pack up the truck, then come to the location and start cooking.

if youre doing buffet, you can also look at restaurant catering. We order (at my work) from this one company who comes and sets up the chafing dishes with the little heater things and puts the food in, and collects everything the next day.

I find actual ‘catering companies’ quite expensive, so you do have other options as well!

How much are they charging you for a bartender? You can usually find licensed bartenders for $20-25/hr pretty easy, or a flat fee for the night.

Post # 11
Member
2968 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: September 2014

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libellules :  Go in with a folder/list. I basically made excel sheets of all my vendors and approx. cost quotes (some i BSed) and have a number written down that you *can* spend for a venue and put together a list of the things you want. Also, write down quotes from other venues if you have it. Don’t be afraid to tell them the other place offered you X… or the price was X and I can only spend X but I really want X.

My venue was $200/pp on a Saturday with a minimum of 150 people. We told them we would guarantee at least 200 people  (we had 225) and I told them that I needed to be closer to 150. With taxes and the admin fee we ended up paying $175/pp- ceremony fee, tips, etc.. not included. They included the up lighting, an ice sculpture, they knocked the ceremony fee down to $500 instead of the $750, we got 2 extra stations at cocktail hour, open top shelf bar with 2 bartenders x 3 bars at the cocktail hour and reception, and a dessert station. We also customized the entire menu.

I told the place I wanted on spot what I was offered at other places and told them we were ready to put down the deposit on the spot if they were willing to work with us OR I would just move on and keep looking. If they see you have it all together and are serious, they will usually work with you.

Since you have to bring your own caterers, get pricing on that first so you know what everything will cost you.

Post # 12
Member
3324 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: September 2017

Some of the food trucks will actually plate up and serve a plated dinner – they just cook it all there. So it doesnt have to be informal.

I’d have 2 bartenders for that many people personally. Are you doing a full bar or just wine and beer? W&B might be easier for 1, but a full bar I think you’ll need 2 because they’ll be making drinks and you dont want people standing in line forever!

Its a little on the steep side depending how many hours they work, but not crazy unreasonable.

Post # 13
Member
7396 posts
Busy Beekeeper
  • Wedding: September 2012

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libellules :  It’s important to remember that catering is not an easy thing. I know it seems like major sticker shock to get those quotes but there is so much more that goes into catering an event as opposed to what you’d pay to eat the same meal at a restaurant. Like someone else mentioned, too many couples tell a caterer what they want and then are surprised at costs. I think it really boils down to just not knowing what to expect. It’s better to go in with a budget and ask them what they can do for that. You might find you’re happy with what they can provide, or you might find that you need to up your budget to get what you really want.

You have to factor in the man hours that go into an event…..Coorespondance, event prep, event labor, and cleanup.

I know as a wedding photographer how much time I spend emailing, phone calls, and consultations. Catering does just as much if not more. I get the ease of set prices but have the joy of continually researching and custom quoting each event. Not to mention when a client comes back and says it’s too expensive or changes the menu…they have to re-quote everything.

It takes a lot of man hours to prep all the food and everything else needed to get to and serve at the event. Load up the catering vans, and unload everythign once they arrive. The staff has to be at the event to set up, serve, clean up, etc. A lot of people forget that once the event is over the catering staff has a good 2+ hours once they’ve gotten back to their home base in cleanup. Not only do they have to packup  and clean at the event, but they get back and have to unload everything and completely clean up.

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