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Food and Cakes

Logistics of Semi-Catered Food

FI and I are planning a fairly casual garden wedding with outdoor reception.  It's super important to us that the food be delicious and match our personalities, but not necessarily that the food be fancy or "wedding-ey."  Right now we're looking at doing either Chinese or barbecue, and looking to feed around 100 people. 

A fully catered service would bring in the food and plates/cups/etc. and serve all of it, right? 

But if we chose a restaurant that didn't exactly cater, I'm assuming we could buy the food ourselves and rent the plates/warming trays etc. for the event.  So, like, we could buy barbecue by the pound, then put it in the warming trays and set up a buffet or whatever. 

So here's my question, having never catered an event before: How exactly would the logistics of that work out in regards to the timing of the ceremony/reception? Would we delegate someone to pick up the food right before the ceremony and keep it warm through the ceremony itself (15-20 minutes), then eat right after?  I don't really know how long food can hang out while still tasting fresh and yummy. 

And would warming trays/buffet setup be super expensive to rent? Could you get them from the same place you get plates and silverware?  Does all of that equipment rental defeat the money-saving benefits of picking up food that way vs using a catering service? 

Basically: HALP I do not know how to feed large quantities of people. 

(PS: I'd like to keep the budget under $2,000 for food and servingware if at all possible, although there is a little bit of wiggle room)

Re: Logistics of Semi-Catered Food

  • It really depends on the food you get. Something like pulled pork, or any other saucy protein like a braise or a stew, will hold well for a while (as long as you keep it at 140 degrees or warmer). Room temperature food can be out for two hours (only one hour if it's very warm). 

    Warming trays and chafing dishes are very affordable to rent, but you'll have to pay someone to man your buffet and there's a lot of coordination involved (set up, clean up, etc.).

    Perhaps expand your catering search. I found a local butcher shop that does full-service catering. We got a pig roast (pulled pork and sides, staff and equipment, disposable plates, napkins and cutlery) for only $20 per person. I don't know where you live, but you might be able to find something similar with a little searching. 

    Check corporate caterers and more casual companies. And don't be afraid to call more expensive companies and see if they'd be willing to work within your parameters.
  • JoanE2012JoanE2012 Exit 21 (Jersey!) member
    5000 Comments 500 Love Its Fourth Anniversary 5 Answers
    fenshae said:
    FI and I are planning a fairly casual garden wedding with outdoor reception.  It's super important to us that the food be delicious and match our personalities, but not necessarily that the food be fancy or "wedding-ey."  Right now we're looking at doing either Chinese or barbecue, and looking to feed around 100 people. 

    A fully catered service would bring in the food and plates/cups/etc. and serve all of it, right? 

    But if we chose a restaurant that didn't exactly cater, I'm assuming we could buy the food ourselves and rent the plates/warming trays etc. for the event.  So, like, we could buy barbecue by the pound, then put it in the warming trays and set up a buffet or whatever. 

    So here's my question, having never catered an event before: How exactly would the logistics of that work out in regards to the timing of the ceremony/reception? Would we delegate someone to pick up the food right before the ceremony and keep it warm through the ceremony itself (15-20 minutes), then eat right after?  I don't really know how long food can hang out while still tasting fresh and yummy. 

    And would warming trays/buffet setup be super expensive to rent? Could you get them from the same place you get plates and silverware?  Does all of that equipment rental defeat the money-saving benefits of picking up food that way vs using a catering service? 

    Basically: HALP I do not know how to feed large quantities of people. 

    (PS: I'd like to keep the budget under $2,000 for food and servingware if at all possible, although there is a little bit of wiggle room)
    I would go with a company that has staff that will prepare the food, put it out, monitor it for refilling as well as food safety levels (ie temperatures) and clean up.  It's a big event and you don't want to have to have family or friends "work" any part of your wedding. 
    ei34
  • You could try to do something more family style. I know youddon't want anything wedding like but pastas are good for a family style type thing. I agree with Joan though. It's better to have hired caterers to make sure the food is at the proper temperatures the entire time. You don't want to get your guests sick :/
  • lyndausvilyndausvi Western Slope, Colorado mod
    Moderator Knottie Warrior 10000 Comments 500 Love Its
    I would also expande your search and look for a full service caterer.    We found a bbq caterer for my dad's birthday party for $15 a head.  It includes a lot of food and they do the setup, serving and breakdown of the food (not the guest tables).

    Do you really want one of your guests missing the ceremony so they can pick up the food?








    What differentiates an average host and a great host is anticipating unexpressed needs and wants of their guests.  Just because the want/need is not expressed, doesn't mean it wouldn't be appreciated. 
  • we considered the same scenario at first, and then realized we could not ask any of the guests, close friend or family, to be in charge of handling the set up and monitoring of the food. the other thing we realized is, when doing it all ourselves seemed cheaper, when you add in the costs of rentals, delivery and the hassle of set up/clean up, pick up and returning everything, it's really not that much cheaper and it's a hell of a lot of work!! in the end we found a BBQ caterer who will cook on site, prep/ set up, serve and clean up ... our guests can just be guests, and with the food being served we can control portion sizes so everyone gets fed.
    Wedding Countdown Ticker
  • Places that rent plates and utensils often have warmers and whatever else you'd need. Our caterer provided everything needed to serve. To keep costs down, we provided our own plates, cups, flatware etc.
    There are a few bbq places around here that charge $10 pp. It includes delivery, setup, cleanup and paper plates/plastic utensils, if you want real plates etc, you could rent them separately 
    I am a personal chef and clients sometimes hire me to help with dinners or parties. At these, I don't cook, just get the food heated (or chilled) and set up for them. I clear plates, fill glasses, do the dishes and clean up. When someone compliments the food, I say, "thank you but I didn't make it, ____did, I'm just here to make sure everyone gets to enjoy themselves" or something to that effect. If you found someone like that they could pick up from the restaurant and take care of proper heating/cooling, set up, clean up, etc.
  • wabanziwabanzi member
    500 Comments 250 Love Its Second Anniversary Name Dropper
    edited March 2014
    fenshae said:
    FI and I are planning a fairly casual garden wedding with outdoor reception.  It's super important to us that the food be delicious and match our personalities, but not necessarily that the food be fancy or "wedding-ey."  Right now we're looking at doing either Chinese or barbecue, and looking to feed around 100 people. 

    A fully catered service would bring in the food and plates/cups/etc. and serve all of it, right? 

    But if we chose a restaurant that didn't exactly cater, I'm assuming we could buy the food ourselves and rent the plates/warming trays etc. for the event.  So, like, we could buy barbecue by the pound, then put it in the warming trays and set up a buffet or whatever. 

    So here's my question, having never catered an event before: How exactly would the logistics of that work out in regards to the timing of the ceremony/reception? Would we delegate someone to pick up the food right before the ceremony and keep it warm through the ceremony itself (15-20 minutes), then eat right after?  I don't really know how long food can hang out while still tasting fresh and yummy. 

    And would warming trays/buffet setup be super expensive to rent? Could you get them from the same place you get plates and silverware?  Does all of that equipment rental defeat the money-saving benefits of picking up food that way vs using a catering service? 

    Basically: HALP I do not know how to feed large quantities of people. 

    (PS: I'd like to keep the budget under $2,000 for food and servingware if at all possible, although there is a little bit of wiggle room)
    There is a middle ground to what you are describing.  We are having a restaurant caterer our buffet dinner (Szechwan).  This includes the staff to set up/break down the buffet, serve/service it, with all the warming/service dishes required.

    We are providing the linens for the buffet tables and plates/glasses/silverware.  

    The price will vary by where you live.  Ours is $20 per person with 6 waitstaff (plus tips) included.

    If the restaurant has a liquor license, ask if it will extend to your venue (e.g., a liquor catering license)--depending on the laws in your state, this may save some money and hassle in getting your own alcohol permit (however, you may still be required to have a licensed bartender).
    20130121-125529.jpg 
      Wedding Countdown Ticker
  • lc07lc07 Sunny Southern California member
    2500 Comments Fifth Anniversary 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    We hired a catering company to do dinner but they allowed us to provide the appetizers for cocktail hour so we saved money there since my husband owned a grocery store at the time. We had a HUGE spread of cocktail hour food. We delivered the food to the caterer the day before the event, they were in charge of displaying/replenishing it etc. They made their money on the dinner part, staffing, etc.
  • Check into casual caterers or resturants that cater. Yes it will cost you a little more then if you just bring in food but here are the advantages

    • They will bringing in all the serving dishes & untensils needed including ways to keep food warm
    • Depending on menu they may even prepare things fresh on site as need
    • You can usually contract with them to provide plates, napkins & utensils
    • They will take care of serving guests & refilling food
    • They will take care of packing up food at the end of the night
    • They will take care of cleaning up food area at the end also
    • You won't have to worry about returning anything the next day to a rental company
    • you and your guests get to relax & enjoy everything & not have to do anything
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