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Budget wedding reception

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
I have been asked to bid on a wedding reception for 60-80 people with a food budget of $800 (excludes liquor and all other expenses such as rentals). The bride wants a 5:30PM appetizer reception in April (ARGH! They expect dinner!). I don't want to tell her this is difficult unless I go to Sam's Club and getting prepared food. I am going to suggest she have the reception at 2:00 to cut the cost. Any other ideas? Does anyone have some menu suggestions? She doesn't like rich food but does like Italian, Greek/Mediterranean,seafood and cheese.

Thanks! Gail
post #2 of 17
Could be done. .inexpensive apps. Pasta entree, cheap salad, her wedding cake/ coffee, Grat , tax not included. She wont find cheaper, well maybe Denny"s in back room. But asside from food cost you must figure your time, gas, overhead etc. I mean lets be realistic. A cheeseburger deluxe, fries l&t onion and a coke in Dennys is $6.45 and 1.50 for coke, $7.95 total add tax and tip 2.02 is 9.97 ???????
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post #3 of 17

Cheap Wedding

I don't know where you are located but in my neck of the woods, it is impossible to cater a wedding with staffing for $10.00 pp. Especially a cocktail reception at dinnertime. That's an awful lot of little bites to make a meal. And most of the things we prepare are hand made and labor intensive.

Not all business is good business. Gina
post #4 of 17
An eastern Mediterranean mezze with dolmas, taramosalata, baba ganoush (melitzosalata), grilled little fish, tzatziki, feta, kasseri, olives, and so on, might be the only way you can get close to her highly unrealistic budget. She's really asking for "dollar menu;" but I don't know how you can explain that to her other than by saying you can't make a festive dinner for four anymore for $40 -- and that doesn't include paying for a caterer and small staff. I've been out of the game for awhile, but I'd tell her in the nicest way that unless she can find more money her budget isn't big enough for a caterer. If she wants the relatives to bring spaghetti and garlic bread, she won't need one.

BDL
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http://www.cookfoodgood.com
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What were we talking about?
 
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post #5 of 17
why dont you suggest to her that you provide the cocktail type foods and a few items for dessert and to tell her guests in the nicest possible ways that instead of them buying presents to each contribute a dish for the main part of the meal even if its only a side dish if the guest cant afford too much
its done a lot here especially if its a slightly older bride and groom , or if its a repeat wedding offender:crazy:
it makes it a bit more casual and relaxed
when life hands you lemons, make lemon gelee, lemon meringue pie, or any other dessert your heart desires

www.theunknownchef.com
www.theunknownchef.co.nz
www.shoebridge.co.nz
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when life hands you lemons, make lemon gelee, lemon meringue pie, or any other dessert your heart desires

www.theunknownchef.com
www.theunknownchef.co.nz
www.shoebridge.co.nz
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post #6 of 17
I run into the budget wedding thing all the time! Around here there are high end on site caterers and Sam's Club "caterers"; I'm somewhere in between. People want my good and somewhat different food, but the Sam's Club price. It's really difficult.

First off, I'd suggest that what she really does want, as you stated, was dinner. It would probably be more cost effective to do a 1 entree dinner than apps for 80 hungry people at dinnertime. If she's still into the apps thing, I agree that the Mid-Eastern thing would be good and cost effective. The problem there is that with 60-80 guests, will everyone enjoy it or will they be standing at the buffet with that "what on earth is this" look on their faces?

If she's into Italian, what about meatballs in a sauce-Sam's club would be fine
if your sauce is good, tortellini on short skewers with a small chunk of fresh mozz, a grape tomato, and basil leaf; Sam's Club has some great mini tri color peppers that could be stuffed with a vegetarian filling along with mushrooms and other stuffed or roasted veggies; and maybe some interesting dip/spread with crackers and a few vegetables. Cheese and crackers and fruit always look pretty and people like it. I'm finding that veggie platters tend to look beautiful, but when people are out, they don't necessarily want to eat something they feel they "should" be eating. Anyone else notice this?

The thing with Sam's club stuff is that you can doctor it up to make it look fine. The mini quiche are cheaper to buy than to take the time to make, and can be disguised with a little of diced roasted red pepper, sour cream, or other small topping. I just bought a gross of votive candle holders for around $65 to use for soup shooters. I'm looking forward to using them as they look really nice and are very cheap to fill.

Keep us posted re; your menu. Good luck!
post #7 of 17
Tessa! A repeat wedding offender? That's great!:lol:
post #8 of 17
Less work for you.....
large salad, put a ton of various toppings.....
Bread
Chicken pasta with Sauce

her cake etc.....

BDL was right on, stationary meze, dolmas, cuke sauce, caponata, I use local chevre with pesto and pinenuts ringed with olives, hummos, peppers, assorted olives.....pitas....chips, fresh hot from wholesaler pita bread wedges
If you are feeling generous, rosemary garlic lemon chicken skewers....

hard plastic small plates, forks if you are so inclined, napkins.....loads of lemons for decoration.....

Last budget wedding had a preconception of what they wanted to spend on food, when I told them staff was separate they came up with the extra money......which was 2/3 the price of the food.

She is saving money if it's a cocktail reception and there are few tables only for food/bar/cake/presents....few chairs as this is a cocktail reception, glasses can be plastic, bar can be minimalized to beer/wine/something non-alcoholic.....
If you talk her through everything you may be able to shift it around to where food budget has expanded.
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #9 of 17

Who's running your business?

I'm sorry if this sounds harsh...but I refuse to let potential customers run my business. And this potential client is being unrealistic.

Rather than trying to create a menu that will fit her budget (and probably losing money, or not making any money, which is essentially the same thing), you could educate her about costs and what's realistic.

I know that I can't leave my kitchen to do an event unless I make a certain amount of money on that event. If someone doesn't have that minimum amount to spend, they can't afford me, and I decline the business.

An example of business I turned down recently was a young man who wanted to do a "finger food" wedding reception for 100 - 150 people for $400 - 800. It was only 3 hours, but he was looking for vegetarian/vegan food, and we do everything from scratch. I could barely buy the ingredients and pay kitchen staff for that amount of money, so I was pleasant, I tried to be helpful, but I declined the business because it just wasn't worth taking on the business.

There's a danger in becoming known as a cheap caterer, which has been discussed here earlier. Sometimes the answer to a request for catering is, "I'm sorry, we can't do it for what you have in your budget."

Chef Andrea
Chef Andrea
Catering by Dinner is Served
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Chef Andrea
Catering by Dinner is Served
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post #10 of 17
Chef Andrea, while I agree with you in principle, I have to say that there are ways to service people who don't have a lot of money without making yourself look like the cheap caterer. Also, some of us don't have the luxury of turning down an $800 job if there's nothing scheduled that day.

In my shop, it would take me and one other person to do a job for 60-80 people. My weekday employee and I would chip away at the menu over the course of the week in between cafe and other catering work, and I would take one person with me to do the job. I'd refuse to have anything to do with rentals and would basically show up with the food, see that it was served, clean up my stuff and go. Food would cost would be well under $200, I'd already be paying someone during the week to do the prep, and would pay the server who goes with me around $15/hr for maybe 4 hours. That leaves me with more than $500. There are some weeks in this business that $500 would be a Godsend. Certainly much better than turning it down and not bringing in anything that day.
post #11 of 17
Thread Starter 

Thanks!

First I want to thank all of you who replied. You've been so helpful!

I agree that the budget is unrealistic and I don't work for free (OK, I did work for free on my first catering because I missed a decimal!). The $800 is just for food. The bride knows I'll be tacking on my costs when we come up with the final figure. I think she will be shell shocked. People don't see behind the scenes where we plan the menu, look for recipes, experiment with new recipes, go shopping, figure out the timeline, find servers, do a tasting dinner, etc. OK, off my soap box.

Chef Andrea and Gina, I may indeed turn this one down, at least at the price the bride has given me. She started with a higher budget so I suspect some got diverted to the honeymoon. However, when I tell her the limitations of an $800 budget she may throw in more money.

I think I will probably suggest a dinner menu rather than just appetizers. The venue is Lake Tahoe, about 3.5 hours from where I live and considering the wear and tear on me and my staff, the dinner is easier. It would definitely be a bring the food, put it out, clean it up and get out deal.

I'll let you know what we finally decide. Again, thanks for all the great ideas.
post #12 of 17
I agree with you 100%. 31/2 hours away is 7 hours round trip,prep time, all labor, wear and tear, cleanup, setup not worth it and willo not net $500.00. Like you I have a minimum. I had multible room catering facility 6 rooms each one had to take in x amount. example The gold room 100 minimum cheapest menu $14.00 per person therefore gross $1400.00. If a patron came in with 90 and wanted room divide 90 into $1400.00 that is price per person and so on. The bride and groom do not work fo nothing, and neither should you..
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post #13 of 17
SCIFIMOM.....your fuzzy. $800 is the food budget, so give her multiple priced bids....not sure what you mean by your costs.

3.5 hours is crazy. I'd only do that if it was a very very lucrative party.
Even then, my staff would have to be put up or bussed in.....I cannot imagine working all day, driving 3.5 hours, setting up, serving, breaking down, driving 3.5 hours. It'd take a whole lotta money.

One way you can do this event easily is have pick up food. Someone picks up the platters from you and gives you the money. Simple, no driving involved.....profit would be easy enough to make. Get disposable platters and make room temp save food.

Wow, ok there are many different voices on this thread. Advice is different because many of us have different overhead.
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #14 of 17
Thread Starter 
What a great idea! I think I'll tell her that the only way I'll do the event is for her to pick up the food herself.
post #15 of 17
Thread Starter 

In the end..

I told my client that I would put together her food and she could take it with her. She wasn't pleased but said she would consider it. The wedding is in April so there is time for her to check out other options. Thanks again everyone for the help. This was a toughie.
post #16 of 17
For such a sensible post, you deserve a foot and shoulder massage after a long hard day. I'm not quite certain what you could serve with food costs under $200 for 80 people, but I like your message.
post #17 of 17
Cash only, no credit card fees.

One question - do you want to be known for $800 weddings? That's the kind of word of mouth that comes from these events.
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