There are some tried and true guidelines to catering your own event.
- LESS is MORE. Many people will try almost every dish or drink offered. Provide more quantity of fewer options to lower consumption and waste.
- ABUNDANCE is RELATIVE. Overstuffed plates and bountiful displays communicate abuance. You can do it with less food than you think. Choose smaller tables and smaller plates so you can fill them to the brim.
- TIMING is IMPORTANT. Hungry people are unhappy people. Give yourself extra time to shop & serve.
- PLAN for LEFTOVERS. Give away or donate extra food so it doesn’t go to waste. Some beverage distributors will let you return unopened cases (ask in advance and don’t ice down whatever you plan to return).
DIY Snack Suggestions
Here’s items we’ve found foolproof for events of any size. We often roam the aisles of Trader Joe’s and Costco figuring out what we can serve for less than $1 per person.
- Beverage at room temperature: still water, wine, matcha green tea, pineapple juice.
- Tortilla chips and dips (gluten-free & vegan).
- Cheese and cracker (vegetarian, high protein, most people love cheese).
- Snackable veggies and fruit (gluten-free & vegan). We found that most people won’t spend the time to eat a whole fruit or vegetable during an event. Cut these up into bite size.
- Cookies (people love cookies).
Catering Cost-Saving Tricks
- Serve buffet or family style. Individual plated courses are typically the most expensive and most wasteful.
- Label your dishes with ALL ingredients if possible. This keeps people with allergies safe and prevents people from selecting buffet dishes that they can’t eat.
- Make hydrating beverages abundantly available. The body can’t tell the difference between hunger and thirst. Hydrating your guests pro-actively will stop them from over-eating accidentally.
- Convince a restaurant looking for advertising that your community would be great potential customers for free or discounted catering.
- Get someone to sponsor your food and/or beverage.
- Rent a restaurant for your event exclusively in the early evening and serve appetizers. Near the end of your event, the restaurant will open to the public which creates a transition point. Make it easy for your attendees to get tables and it’ll feel natural for them to pay for their own dinner after your event.
- Food trucks sometimes have a lower cost-structure than restaurants to serve on-site.