Wedding Cakes & Food Forum

How do most caterers charge?

Our caterer gave us an estimated cost for 75 people. This is a flat rate. If 60 people show up, it'll still be the same as it would be for 75 people. He also said it doesn't matter how many children there are, the final charge will be what he esimated for 75 guests. Does all this make sense?

Is that the way most caterers operate? Or should there be a per plate cost?

Thanks for your help!
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Re: How do most caterers charge?

  • edited December 2011
    I think it depends on the catered. I know the ones we looked at charged per person, and then children were less some of the time. The ones that weren't less for children we were going to average the age of the kids. If they were really young, under 5 we would count 2 as 1 adult. If they were older than 12 we would count them as 1 adult each, etc.

    But all charged per person, so 60 was 60. However once the final headcount was in it could not be changed. So if we told them a week before the wedding that 75 people were attending and only 70 showed up, we still paid for 75, KWIM? I would clarify with your caterer if maybe that is what they meant.
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  • edited December 2011
    I've never heard of a flat charge, but a food/beverage minimum is very common. Maybe your caterer's minimum is 75 adults? Usually with a minimum you can upgrade entrees or add more hors d'oeuvres if less than the number of people in the minimum come.
  • soozy87soozy87 member
    Third Anniversary 10 Comments
    edited December 2011
    That sounds very odd to me. What if you told them 60, and 75 people show up. That just doesn't make sense.

    Our charged by the person and then half price for children. We gave them a final count the week of the wedding.
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  • edited December 2011
    It's very odd. I haven't dealt with caterers much, which is why I'm asking you, but it doesn't doesn't seem right. This is the email I got from them:

    Yes, that is based on 75 guests.  I will need the final count 2 weeks before.  It will need to be paid in full then.  If less than that show up, you still pay for 75.  You can take leftovers home.  If more than that show up, you pay for more.  I will bill you for the difference.   I always have more food to cover for more people.  I always plan for those who don't rsvp.  Any guests (adult or child) who eat, pay the same price.

    Do you think I'm being cheated?
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  • edited December 2011
    Now that I've read that, no. You are not being cheated. Don't worry. Your caterer's plan is very standard. 

    1. You give your caterer a final head count (usually 2 weeks out) and that's what they charge.  If you have no-shows, it totally sucks because that's a cost that you will eat.  Be prepared for it to happen; I think most brides on here have had one or two no shows. That's why it's so rude to RSVP yes and not show up because it literally is money spent by the hosts that it wasted.  At least your caterer will let you take home the extras; most don't. 

    2. He's being prepared by having extra food on hand in case non-RSVPs show up. This happens to brides all the time too.  He's not charging you unless the food is needed though (so if no one else shows up, you're good to go).  But he charges to protect himself in case dishonest brides try to sneak extra people in after the final head count was given. 

    3. The kids thing is caterer by caterer. Some caterers charge the same. Some have a discount. Some only give a discount if the kids eat a special kid's meal like chicken fingers.  The kids being charged the same is definitely not cheating you; it's what a lot of caterers do. 

    I hope this helps. It sounds like you found a professional. 


  • edited December 2011
    Thanks, Nola!

    The way I understood his email is that he will charge for 75 people even if we only have 60 people RSVP. Is that not what it says?
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  • edited December 2011
    I don't think he's saying that he'll charge for 75 no matter what. I think he was saying that whatever number he has quoted your event costing (in a prior email I am guessing?) is "based on" the assumption that you'll tell him that you're having 75 guests when he needs his final head count 2 weeks before the wedding.  The number should be adjusted if you tell him less or more than 75 when he needs the final head count.  But once you tell him your final number then you pay that price even if fewer people show up 

    (So if you tell him 75 and 15 people are jerks who don't come, you'd still pay for 75.  But if you tell him 60 he should adjust the estimate that he has given you). 

    I'm almost positive that's what he meant and he was just being sloppy in his wording when he said "you'd still pay for 75."  I think he meant "you'll still pay for the number of people you tell me 2 weeks out."  That is the industry standard.  Definitely send him a follow up email to clarify.  It's best to make sure it's cleared up in writing. 

    I'd try something like, 

    "I just wanted to clarify one thing about your last email.  I understand that the estimate you gave me was based on if I tell you that there will be 75 guests when you need your final head count 2 weeks before the wedding.  I just wanted to make sure that if I give you a head count that is smaller than 75 that the price will be adjusted accordingly.  I understand that if I give you a final head count and then there are guests who do not show up that I am still responsible for paying for those guests."   

    Or something like that. 
  • edited December 2011
    Thank you SO MUCH, Nola! You have been a tremendous help!
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  • edited December 2011
    No problem! I hope everything works out!
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