Catering Costs and Variables
The cost of having an event can vary widely. The following guidelines should provide you with a good idea of what you can expect and help you in designing
the vision for your event. While this page tries to breakdown all the factors, our
Sample Events page tries to paint an overall picture of common events and their
Time of Day - The time of day can play a significant role in the type of event you
are planning. Your guests will typically expect
different types and quantities of food depending on the time of day.
We suggest the following as an example.
Lunch - 11am to 1pm
High Tea / Snacks - 2pm to 4pm
Dinner - 5pm to 7pm
Heavy Hors d'oeuvres - 5pm to 7pm
Light Hors d'oeuvres - 8pm +
Type of Event and Menu - The type of event can be the biggest determining factor in price,
and also has the widest variability. Does the event require
substantial service staff (i.e. a served dinner), medium staff
(passed hors d'oeuvres), or light staff (a buffet)? Is the
menu simple or complex? Start with the following as rough
estimates as to what you can reasonably expect various types of
menus (food) to cost.
Light Hors d'oeuvres $18 - $27 per person (such as a
Bounty & 3 or 4
Heavy Hors d'oeuvres $28 - $42 per person (such as a
Bounty & 6 or 7
Buffet Dinner $27 - $40 per person (sample
Plated Dinner $33+ per person (sample
High Tea $20 - $33 per person (menu)
Simple BBQ $19+ per person (menu)
Box Lunch $20.45 per person (lunch menus)
(Staff and rentals are not included in these estimates
as they may vary widely)
Rentals - Often people forget about the cost of rental items. Consider
if your event can be done with paper and plastic or if you need
glass and china. Do you need tables and chairs? Cloth
Napkins? We will handle all the arrangements and you can expect the following prices for standard
Glass and China $9 to $16 per person
Table and Chairs with Linen $9 to $14 per person
Cloth Napkin $1 per person
Service Staff - The number and type of servers at your function depends upon the
number of guests and the size of the facility. Most events,
especially those with table side service, require service staff.
A table service dinner will typically require one service person for
every 12 to 15 guests, with an average time of 8 hours per server,
including set up, clean up and travel time. A traditional
buffet will need one service person per 15 to 22 guests, for
as few as 4 hours, depending on the menu and location. For
hors d'oeuvres stations you may need only one server per 30 guests.
For weddings or extended events, the times may be longer.
Additional service staff may be added to reduce service time with a
higher ratio of servers to guests, and for on-site culinary staff if
the menu requires it.
There is no travel fee, however travel time is charged at the
servers' hourly rate of $36 per hour per server. Cost may vary
for culinary staff.
Does the site you rent provide tables and chairs? Linens?
Tents? Kitchen Facilities? Is there electricity?
Running water? (Yes, we sometimes cater in the woods or the
middle of a vineyard.) Is there a flight stairs separating the
kitchen from the dining room? All of these may affect your
We can recommend many locations and provide
information about their services.
Length of Event - A simple idea, which is sometimes overlooked: How long do you expect
the service staff to stay? How long will you need to rent a hall?
Remember that in the time you set aside for the site rental you must
include time for set up and clean up. Can the catering staff
start clean up while your guests are still there? Will the
site charge you more if you run over your time?
For a traditional wedding reception you should expect 8 hours (2 hours for set up, 5 hours for guests, and 1 hour for clean
If you plan to party into the night, that, of course will mean more
What kind of bar / beverages will you have? - Will your event have only soda and water, beer and wine, or a full
bar? Will it need to be served? Full service or just
Since PSC does not sell alcohol, you have the option to save quite
bit of money by providing it yourself, or you may elect the
convenience of a professional bartending service.
If you provide the beverages we can provide everything else for the
bar from mixers to glassware. Beverages & More's website has an
Planning Guide. We also like Wilibees
Wine & Spirits located right next door to us, they have good
prices and are happy to provide their expertise. Or call Bartenders
Unlimited (415) 898-3731 for a professional bar service.
Year / Indoor or Outdoor Will you need a tent to account
for rain, wind or cold? Heaters? Lighting? We arrange for all of
this along with your other rentals. The cost of these items can
vary widely, but we can advise of this, your needs, weather
expectation and such, during the planning process.
Also see: Sample Event Costs