Catering Portion Tips to Control Spending and Waste

Jul 03, 2018 | Divyesh Amipara

For food lovers, it can be a disheartening sight to see food go unbeaten at events. It’s something that’s bound to happen because for the people attending catered events such as a wedding or party, food often takes a back seat to everything else that’s going on. Food and beverages can be the biggest expense for event planners, however it’s one of the easier ones to reduce. To help you cut the costs of catering here are some tips that will help you save money on catering and minimise waste for your next event.

Know the numbers

When determining how many people to cook for, many Sydney caterers and event planners make the mistake of greatly overestimating the number of guests. It is not enough to simply look at the number of people that have registered for the event. This is especially true if it’s a free event, as there are likely to be a lot of no-shows, as much as 25% of the attendees. Even ticketed events can sometimes have an attrition rate of up to 10%. It’s important to do your research on the attendance of similar events that have happened in the past but if that’s not possible the previous figures are a good starting point. Having said that, it’s a good idea to have a 2% ‘buffer zone’ to accommodate unexpected guests because in their mind not having enough food is much worse than having too much!

Cut back on breakfast

It’s the most important meal of the day, and for caterers it just happens to be the most wasteful. This is due to the fact that people are becoming increasingly health-conscious and are trying to avoid eating too many carbohydrates, which are prevalent in pastries, a popular and easy breakfast menu option. Having enough refreshments is very important however, so consider ordering them a la carte to avoid paying more than you need to for per person packages. You should plan for 1.25 drinks and 0.5 pastries per person if you’re offering them, especially if your event is primarily an older crowd (consider offering more if it’s an event where families will be in attendance).

Consider plated meals instead of buffets

If the event calls for it, serving plated meals are likely to lead to less waste than a buffet. Due to the nature of a buffet, caterers tend to prepare more food per person for it and this will lead to a lot going uneaten. By presenting the food on plates people are unlikely to complain that they might be receiving less food than if there was a buffet.

Limit the bar

While open bars are very popular with guests, their cost can be very difficult to project. If you’re on a budget a good option is to use a ticket system. Upon arrival you can give the guests one or two tickets that can be exchanged for a drink at the bar, after which they’ll have to pay for subsequent drinks. This way you won’t have to buy out the entire bar which has the potential to be a very hefty expense.

Review the menu

Perhaps the best way to save money when catering for an event is to go through and justify all items on the menu. You shouldn’t be compelled to provide an item such as fruit salad just to tick a box, because if your guests don’t eat it it’s simply a waste of money. Think about what foods are the most popular with guests and order more of them, and vice versa. This could be done by contacting the caterers, surveying your employees/colleagues or even asking your guests for their preferences.