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6 top tips for catering on a budget

Aug 10, 2018
Catering on a budget
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Catering on a budget


Written for Bristol Bites by Jessica Foreman


Are you planning a party on a budget? After you have figured out funds for the venue, entertainment and the decorations, food and drink can soon eat up your budget. But nobody wants hungry guests, so how do you put on a great spread, for a reduced price?

Understanding the components that make up your catering cost is key and is your very first step to building an effective budget. We understand how overwhelming this can be, especially if the event is personal to you, which is why we’ve put together six of the best top tips for catering on a budget.

Event format

If you don’t have the budget to splash out on catering, it would make sense for you not to organise a formal three-course meal. Instead, opt for canapés, bowl foods or food stations and a casual drinks reception.

Pedestal tables are great, as they allow guests to network and nibble amongst one another. While you’ll be making savings on a traditional sit-down dinner, your event will benefit from people being able to mingle – perfect for a business event with those wanting to make contacts.

Make it self serve

This tip essentially goes hand in hand with the above, opting for a self-service buffet eliminates staff costs. Chat with your caterer about finger foods and food that can be cut up into portions and laid out, or plated ready to be served.

Avoid messy foods that are likely to get dropped all over the table and on the floor. Keep it fresh and appealing. An unstaffed buffet will be more work for the organiser, but consider having a couple of staff members serving lots of different tables instead of a table service, as this can really put a dent in your budget.

Have a dessert station

If, however, you do decide to have a sit-down meal plan, rather than serving the deserts plated at the table, have your guests get up and go to a dessert station. Have a selection of cake bites that can be easily picked up and eaten with their fingers.

Serve these on a trolley that can be easily wheeled in and out of the room. You can pick these up second hand for a really affordable price. Don’t worry if they have a little wear and tear or a couple of wheels missing, they can be spruced up with a lick of paint and a company Tente can sort any broken castor wheels for you just in time for the event.

Choose simple dishes

Simple yet hearty foods can fill a tummy without putting a dent in your pocket. Braised meats, salads, pasta and pastries can provide a homely taste for everyone to enjoy.

When planning a reception, you should consider a food theme that will save your money while giving your guests a more entertaining experience. For example, consider an Italian themed menu, pasta dishes often cost less than others too. Adding salad and bread will make sure your guest is full and happy.

Use smaller plates

Keeping the plates small will help prevent guests from taking more food than they will eat from a buffet. Serving on smaller plates and bowls helps to control the portion sizes on food and is especially useful for those higher value foods you want to ensure go further.

Bring your own wine

Try and choose a caterer or venue who allows you to supply your own wine for the event, this will result in some big savings. When searching for wine merchants, look for ones that offer you a ‘buyback policy’, which is an agreement for them to buy back any unopened bottles from you. Make sure you are also offering soft drinks so people can have something refreshing and balance it out for those who want to limit their alcohol intake during the day.


While catering is a hugely important part of your event budget, adopting some of our tips can ensure it won’t eat up too much of it.





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