What is the Average Cost of a Catered Event?

When you organize a catered event for the first time – whether it’s an extended family get-together of 50 people or a full-fledged wedding reception of several hundred – you’re faced with a lot of questions. What’s the best way to go about choosing a menu? How can you make sure there’s something for everyone, and that none of the guests feel “left out” or overlooked? What’s the best venue for the event? If the event is being held outdoors, what kind of weather contingency plans should be included? Is table service the right way to go, or will it work better to set up a buffet?

Answer all of these questions is a part of the process for organizing a catered event – but there’s one question that people ask more than any other: How much is this going to cost?

Of course, there are events and situations where people decide to spare no expense – but the reality is that paying a caterer is only one part of the overall budget. For that reason, people are naturally concerned with getting the best possible deal on catering, in order to free up the budget for other aspects of the event – such as entertainment and venue.

According to statistics commonly found online, the cost of a catered event averages from $20-$40 per person. When you weigh this against the cost of going out for a meal at a restaurant, the difference is not that great in many cases.

But costs could be lower than that – or they could be higher. The cost per person of any catered event will depend on the menu choices, the number of people present (costs per person will generally go down as the crowd gets bigger), and the type of service you choose. For instance, table service can add significantly to the overall amount your caterer needs to be paid. Trained waitstaff need to be on hand, and the entire process is more involved. By comparison, buffet-style services are generally more cost efficient, and can also be more practical for many types of events.

In general, professionals are good at working within the budget and finding ways to get the cost down – but they’ll also be honest with you about how those decisions might compromise the service or quality of the event. The ability to give quality advice early on in the process is the key between a great value and just a low price. Paying less for your catering services won’t deliver value if the experience and quality of the catering is impacted in a negative way.

Getting the most of your catering budget

In order to maximize every dollar you spend on catering, the best strategy is to put extra focus on choosing the right caterer. There are probably many different caterers who will be more than happy to work your event – but only some of them have the requisite experience and training to be able to deliver a high-level professional result. That includes the entire planning and budgeting process, during which an experienced caterer will help you make decisions that maximize your budget without compromising the integrity and quality of your catering experience.