7 Ways to Get a Great Value on Event Catering
Make it casual. Who says that your event must be formal? I’d bet if you asked around, you’d find that your friends and colleagues would feel just as comfortable in a casual setting where they could relax and enjoy themselves by mingling with others and tasting food at their leisure. Take a look at casual options like picnics, cookouts or even a waterside luau. They might be more affordable than you think.
Get creative with expensive ingredients. Ahi tuna and filet mignon may sound like high dollar items and they are, but only if you serve them in large portions. Find a caterer that can creatively incorporate expensive ingredients into the hors d’oeuvres or the side dishes. Instead of lobster tails, how about lobster mac-n-cheese? And ahi tuna served with seaweed salad atop a wonton crisp served as a passed appetizer is a great way to introduce elegance without the large price tag of serving it as an entree.
Be open to new ideas on food. Many event hosts or planners may be under pressure to serve high end cuts of beef in order to impress guests. Instead, serve them something new and knock their socks off. Open up to newer cuts or tougher cuts of meat that can be cooked just right to make them elegant. Braised beef short ribs are once again gaining in popularity across America and their flavor and elegance is unmatched. Instead of a tired filet mignon and mashed potatoes, how about braised beef short ribs over creamy mascarpone grits? I promise you won’t hear a complaint.
Hold your event on a weekday. Most catering companies have higher minimums for weekend events than weekdays. And many venues have lower pricing for their “less than busy” days. Although the food and service will cost the same, this will allow you hold a more casual event instead of the usual formal event that may be required to meet higher minimums.
Shorten your event (make it a cocktail party). Instead of a soiree with a full dinner, how about hosting a pre-dinner happy hour with passed hors d’oeuvres? There will not be pressure to provide heavy food or large portions, but instead, your event will be seen as the “place to be” before everyone gathers for dinner on their own or a night out on the town. Hosting a two hour cocktail party instead of a full dinner can cut your budget by a third without cutting the elegance.
Skip the China. Just last week I watched an old episode of “Top Chef” where contestants were making 5-star cuisine to be served at a cocktail party. Lo and behold, this great food was being served on plastic plates and eaten with plastic forks. And do you think it took away from the food? Definitely not. If their guests enjoyed food on plastic plates, why can’t yours? A client told me recently, “if the food is great, no one will care what they eat it on.” ‘Nuff said.
Save on the bar. Serving alcoholic drinks at most functions is a social norm, but not everyone needs a full bar with single malt scotch and top shelf vodka. Serving quality beer and wine along with a specialty cocktail can help you save quite a bit and satisfy almost everyone, but also won’t make you look cheap.