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How much does Catering cost? 2021

Average Price
£500 - £1,000

What should I expect to pay for Catering?

Want to hire a catering company but not sure how much it will cost to do so? Read our handy guide to find out how much your caterers will charge depending on the size of your event and the type of cuisine you wish to serve.

What is a Caterer?

A catering team is responsible for the preparation, delivery and display of food at events. They will prepare your food off-site and transport it to your venue. 

Caterers plan every aspect of the cuisine from sourcing the ingredients to ensuring there is enough food to feed everyone depending on the number of guests and the length of the event. It is a job that involves planning, logistics and of course, the ability to create delicious food that will entertain your guests.  Find a Caterer near me.

In some cases, caterers can also serve the food depending on the type of event you are hosting. On the cheaper side of things, it’s also possible to hire mobile caterers that will prepare the food and leave it with you to serve.

How much do Caterers cost?

The average cost of a catering service can vary depending on several factors, but to give you a general idea, here is a rough estimate of how much you can expect to pay:

Average cost (in total) £800
Minimum cost (in total) £500
Maximum cost (in total) £1,000+

For weddings, the average figure is closer to £2,000 and above.

What changes the cost of a Catering Service? 

The cost of a catering service can vary depending on several factors: 

  • Number of Guests

  • Event type

  • Meal type

  • Price per head

  • Location

Number of guests

Caterers can provide food for everything from your office lunch break to a large conference with thousands of attendees. For them to provide a quotation, they’ll need to know the number of guests, which is where RSVPs come in handy.

Event type

Are you looking for your guests to mingle and move around the venue, or will they be mostly seated? Events that have structured timings (such as weddings or awards ceremonies) work best with sit-down meals that can be timed to perfection. For casual or networking events, buffets offer more convenience and are more affordable.

The event type should also take into consideration the cuisine itself. It’s important to ensure that the food is appropriate for the event. When in doubt, a basic spread that has plenty of options for those with any dietary issues is always a safe bet. If you want specialist foods served (such as oysters, lobsters etc) then this will increase the price of your catering bill. 

Meal type 

From basic finger food to the finest oysters, the cost of catering very much depends on the type of cuisine you are looking to serve and to how many guests. What also will affect the cost is if it’s a basic spread or whether your guests need to be fed for the entire day. 

Typically, sit-down meals at weddings are the most expensive form of catering. Let’s look at a breakdown of different catering costs: 

Type of cateringHighest average price Lowest average price
Sit down meal£150 per head£40 per head
Buffet£40 per head£8 per head
All-day events (several courses)£225 per head£100 per head

The main decision you have to make is whether your event would best suit a buffet or a meal served at a table. Usually, buffets tend to be cheaper with some of the lowest prices per head. However, they do require plenty of venue space to display food. Plus, there needs to be room for your guests to move around each station too. 

With formal occasions sit down meals are usually the order of the day. However, the challenge with sit down meals is choosing a menu in advance that works for all tastes and dietary requirements, as there is not as much choice as you’d find with a buffet. Sit down meals are typically more expensive, especially for wedding catering, but add a touch of luxury to the occasion. 

All-day events may require a greater level of catering and expense. For example, breakfast in the morning, a main meal in the afternoon and then a grill in the evening. It will differ depending on the event but keep in mind your guests will likely want to eat every four hours or so. Weddings usually have some light food put on in the evenings or a topped up buffet following the main meal in the afternoon.

Catering prices per head

The most common pricing structure a caterer will use is the price per head. As the name suggests, this breaks down the cost per person. It’s also handy because it will ensure you have enough food for everyone. The price per head will take into account the length of the event. Longer events will incur a higher cost because more food and labour is required.

The price will also depend on whether you want to serve hot or cold food. A cold buffet is the cheapest option to go for averaging at £8 per head. It will have things such as sandwiches, quiche and salad. 

A hot buffet requires the catering crew to stay on-site which is more expensive, averaging at £15 per head. It may include dishes such as carved meats, pizza, pasta, curry or roasted vegetables. 

Meal typeAverage price per head
Cold buffet£8
Hot buffet£15
Business breakfast£4
3-course meal£32
Evening grill£12

Location

The location of your event will affect the cost in two ways. Firstly, where you are based will impact the price of ingredients and labour. Secondly, any travel costs will be included, especially if the caterers you choose are not local to the venue. 

It’s perhaps not a surprise that London is the most expensive location to hire a caterer in, owing to the increased running costs for businesses. When taking into account the cost of a 3-course sit-down meal, the average cost per head is £40 in London and £20 outside of London. 

If you’re on a budget then a cold buffet is significantly cheaper compared with a sit-down meal. 

LocationMaximum cost (per head)Minimum cost (per head)Average cost (per head)
Outside London£30+£8£10
London£50+£10£20

Is it worth hiring a Caterer? 

Whether it’s a corporate function or a family celebration, putting on an event takes a lot of work and planning. Taking responsibility for feeding your guests for a day is a tall order. 

A professional caterer on the other hand will have everything under control. They will be able to best advise you about the type of dishes that would work best for your event. Plus the amount of food required for the number of guests you need to feed. 

Caterers are also well versed on hygiene practices not to mention how to best display your food so that it looks as appetising as possible. If you want to ensure your guests aren’t left hungry then hiring a caterer is highly advisable. 

If you require a delicious spread that will wow your guests then look no further than a professional caterer. Price-wise, you can tailor your budget depending on whether you’d rather serve cold buffet food which will be cheaper or a hot 3-course meal which is more expensive. 

Take the hassle out of planning your event -  hire a Caterer through Bark. 

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