Whether you’re thinking of outsourcing food for a special occasion, a business event or as a way to save money on regular meals, prices are important. Below, we go over several important considerations and points to keep in mind when picking (and working with) a service provider. Ingredient Choice and Quality Some businesses buy a limited selection of food items in bulk. They tend to enjoy economies of scale, saving a lot of money. If you want to be at budget or under it, look for a provider in this category. Here’s how to tell for sure. Create a set menu with the items you’re going to want and need. Then, ask several local services for a catering cost breakdown for your selection. By looking at the prices different brands and teams charge, you’ll quickly understand if there’s an opportunity to save by going with one provider over another. Don’t make the mistake of equating a high costing policy to high quality. If you need or want to save money, many providers will still be able to give you healthy, delicious meals that your guests and employees enjoy. Using a Catering Pricing Calculator Most providers, including ourselves, offer spreadsheets (or website widgets) that help you figure out food costs per person. These can be very convenient because they help you pinpoint (or estimate) how much you’re going to pay for the menu you want. A typical spreadsheet will offer price breakdowns for: Starters, snacks, entrees, and hors-d'oeuvres. Main meals, including hot meals and portable options like sandwiches. Soups and side dishes. Desserts. Soft beverages and alcoholic drinks. If you’re thinking of serving guests with multi-course meals, ask for these to be included (alongside costs). Conversely, if you know you won’t need certain food and beverage types - like alcohol drinks - ask for a file version that automatically excludes these options. Once you have a fair idea of what’s going to be required, look for a combination of dishes that includes: Fiber-rich foods like vegetables and some varieties of pasta. Savory foods; usually starters and hot dishes. Sweet dishes, most often ice cream; baked goods; fruit (including fruit baskets). A protein source, e.g. legumes; fish; meat; dairy. Provided you tick all the above boxes, you’ll end up with a menu that’s both delicious and nutritious. Estimating Prices on Your Own Some providers don’t have a catering costs calculator - or have a very simple one that only gives a final price with no details. If this is your situation, consider working together with the service provider to arrive at a menu that works for the event you’re planning. They may not want to reveal their exact costing breakdown, but they should still be able to help you meet your budget. Specifically, explain what your needs are; what guests will and won’t eat, e.g. due to dietary restrictions; what the occasion is. Given this information and a general idea of what you want to see, visually and in terms of food choices, virtually all catering providers will be happy to offer several reasonably priced options. Alternatively, give an expected price per person - and have a brainstorming session to arrive at options that make sense. If you use catering often, and on a regular basis, consider making your own cost calculator. This way, you’ll be able to compare offers from individual caterers - and also get an idea of what picking one provider over another is costing you. Separating Food and Service With many services, most of what you pay goes for service fees, including transportation; waiting on tables; manning food stations. Where possible, ask for costing breakdowns that take this into account - and consider hiring your own temps, or using volunteers, to save money. Another reason to separate the two is to get a better idea of how much you’re paying per service per person. You may find that some offers - like chocolate fountain tables for small groups - seem inexpensive at face value, but suddenly balloon in costs when you realize that they actually use up a lot of each individual’s allotted budget. --- One important thing to remember is that the whole is more than just the sum of its parts. It helps if a detailed item breakdown is available during budgeting - but don’t forget to think about presentation, taste, and nutrition too. This is also true if you need to justify your catering budget before a colleague or superior. Be mindful of their needs and wants, but remember what’s best for guests and employees - and justify prices with reasons that matter to everyone. To get a free consultation on catering prices in the UK, contact us via our website: catery.co.uk.