A Pot Of Coffee Is How Much?

When it comes to catering prices at most hotels and conference centers, sticker shock is not an uncommon reaction among Christian meeting planners. This is especially true for first time planners, or those who are looking to move an event from the church to an off-site location. The cost of an urn of coffee at the hotel down the street is just a tad more than what it costs to brew one in the church’s kitchen!

While there are legitimate reasons (cost of labor, meeting space, banquet equipment, food cost, etc.), one of the primary reasons behind the higher costs is that they can. Once you’ve selected a hotel or conference center for your event, price competition is out the window and you become a captive audience. (A way to avoid this is to include catering pricing in your RFP. This way you can factor catering costs into your overall selection process.)

Since very few, if any hotels/conference centers, will allow you to bring in food or beverages, your only real option in controlling your catering costs is to make good, cost-effective choices. With that in mind, here are some suggestions for things you can watch out for to help keep your catering costs down.

  • Depending on the size of your group, compare the costs and time savings for eating a meal in a private section of the dining room versus having a catered meal.
  • Focus on getting your guarantees as accurate as possible. Typically guarantees are due 48-72 hours prior to the beginning of the event. Be sure to get your guarantee dates in writing so there’s no confusion.
  • Specify the “overset” (the # of people beyond the guarantee # for which the facility will set tables and chairs. Usually varies from 0-5%, with 3% the industry average) in your contract. The higher your “overset” is, the more conservative you can be with your guarantee.
  • Typically you will be billed for the guaranteed number or the number actually served, whichever is greater.
  • Be sure to have a good understanding of the service charges and taxes that will be added to the price of the meal/catering. In most locations, these costs will add 25% or more to the cost of the meal. (Note – Due to our religious non-profit status, neither Ridgecrest of Glorieta add tax or service charges to the cost of our catering.)
  • Don’t compromise on quality due to budget constraints. Instead, consider reducing the number of catered functions for your event.

No doubt there are other things you can do to help control catering costs. Please feel free to share steps you have implemented to help keep your catering costs down.

Your Thoughts?