The golden age of bottomless champagne fountains and endless platters of gourmet hors d’oeuvres at corporate events is fading fast. In recent years, catering costs have skyrocketed, leaving event planners scrambling to balance attendee expectations with shrinking budgets. The tasty news is, with a little creativity and strategic planning, you can still deliver a memorable and satisfying experience without breaking the bank. 

Simple Strategies to Save on Event Catering in 2024

Limit the Need for Onsite Cooking

Labor costs have absolutely skyrocketed over the last few years and tend to eat up a big chunk of a planner’s catering budget. This is particularly true for off-site caterers. Select a menu that has limited need for onsite cooking – or better yet, no need. We’ve been able to help our clients deliver excellence while saving at the same time by going with a menu that can be delivered hot and ready to serve. In ideal scenarios, we’ve had 1 chef/driver that can execute alongside a strong in-house service team.

Negotiate With Your Caterer

We’re big on negotiating and believe it NEVER hurts to ask. So go ahead and ask your caterer if they can offer you any discounts, packages, or incentives. As an example, we’ve asked caterers if they can give us a lower per-person price as long as we guarantee a minimum number of guests. Other times we’ve asked if they can throw in some extras like drinks, desserts and equipment for free, and if they hesitate, at a reduced rate. 

If you’re just not comfortable with negotiating, work with a professional event planner. We negotiate for a living and have no qualms asking for a better price on behalf of our clients. 

Get Creative

One of the best ways to save on event catering is to get creative. Think of alternative options that shave off spend while still delivering experience. As an example, you could have a cocktail reception instead of a sit-down dinner. This saves you on food, tables, chairs, and linens but your guests can still be wowed with the drinks, appetizers and exceptional service.

Similarly, you can opt for a brunch or lunch event instead of dinner, which is another way to save on food and alcohol. 

And if you get really creative, you can go with a BBQ station, food truck or pizza oven to add a bit of fun while also saving a bundle!

Plan Extra Early

We’ve said it countless times and we’ll say it again: the earlier you begin planning your event, the more control you’ll have and the more you can save. When you research and book your caterer far in advance, you have more time to compare prices, negotiate those sweet deals, and secure their availability. 

Having a lot of time on your side also helps you set a realistic catering budget, which will allow you to prioritize your needs. Time essentially means never underestimating your costs or overspending. 

Limit Bar Options – But Make Them More Appealing

Not many organizations can offer a full bar these days. And that’s okay. The fact is, most guests don’t expect or need a full bar to be happy. They’re fine with beer and wine.

What we’ve found works well is to overdeliver on the beer and wine selection. For instance, instead of the standard beers (Bud Lite, Heineken, etc.), why not offer some local microbrews? As for wines, there are a plethora of lesser-known varietals that will please your attendees. You can also ask the bartender to come up with one single bespoke cocktail for the event.

The Wrap

By implementing these budget-savvy catering strategies, you’ll not only save money but also gain the satisfaction of knowing you’ve hosted a successful event within your means. Remember, a memorable experience doesn’t have to equate with extravagant spending. With a touch of planning, resourcefulness, and the valuable tips you’ve gleaned here, you can cater to your guests’ needs and leave them raving about the event long after the last crumb is devoured.


Corporate Event Management
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