Catering ‘Service Charge’ Explained

This weeks blog, “Catering ‘Service Charge’ Explained,” comes from Chef Doug Brown with Beyond the Box Catering and Wedbites

catering service charge explained by Chef Doug Brown

It is the most commonly asked question – what DOES the service charge include? It doesn’t always mean servers, which we know can be confusing. Most catering companies (and venues) have a lot of odds and ends that cost them money to make your event happen, and in turn, will apply a percentage to your event in order to cover those costs. In lieu of sending you a 4-page breakdown of every single item they are charging you for, the end result is the service charge line on your invoice. Typically this percentage ranges between 18–20% for offsite catering, and 21–23% for exclusive catering at a venue.

Your service charge includes the following:

• Serving Items
This includes things like chafers to keep the food hot, large salad platters, bowls for dressings, large serving spoons and other items at the buffet line. Some caterers will also bring stands to elevate displayed food – not only does it look cool, but it is actually practical in making the most of the table’s space. Passed hors d’oeuvres need something to be set on when they are moving around, such as platters and trays. All of these extra items can really add up, so instead of listing every single spoon, tray, and pan, they are included under the umbrella of the service charge.

• Large Equipment & Delivery Vehicles
When your food is prepped at the catering kitchen it still has to travel to you and most times your event isn’t around the corner. Large warmers/ovens and refrigerated trucks keep your food at the appropriate temperature so it tastes just as fresh as it did the second it came out of the oven. This equipment requires purchasing and maintenance, just like your daily driver, our trucks need gas and routine oil changes/maintenance. The service charge contributes to these costs, ensuring your caterer is able to afford to properly execute your event. No one wants to eat a wilted salad or ice cold chicken parmesan!

• Behind the Scenes Staff
Before your event, operations staff prep and load the trucks with all the rentals and equipment needed to execute your event. They are loading dishes that were cleaned by dishwashers and food prepped by prep cooks. It takes 6–8 hours of pre-production before your caterer even arrives at your event. Before you, your family or your wedding planner see the caterer set foot at your venue, there have been at least 10 people already involved in the making of your event that day. Once the event is over, staff unloads the equipment, sends the dishes, silverware, and glassware to the dishwasher area and it starts all over again the next day. These staff members receive a wage just like any other job and the service charge contributes towards these pre and post event production costs.

• Event Staff – MAYBE

This one depends on the caterer and venue to the fluctuation in venue layout, dinner style etc. The floor plan/number of floors at the venue, number of event hours, travel time, style of dinner, rentals, and other extras like wine service influence the off-site labor calculation. In this scenario, they charge on the lower end for service charge. When a venue has an in-house caterer, they may only charge for EXTRA staff, such as security guards, or additional chefs, bartenders or servers if the event’s menu or special services require it. A lot of venues include a certain time frame for your event time with your rental (ie: 4 hours of the event included in rental, $250 per additional hour). This helps them balance the costs of staff with the service charge alone and they don’t need to charge anything more than the 21- 23% service charge. When they are the exclusive caterer, they are able to store things at the venue as well, which eliminates the back and forth transport of many items that your offsite caterer has to bring every time.

So there you have it, the mysterious service charge line in your quote or invoice explained. Every caterer may do things slightly different so it never hurts to ask them about all they include in their catering quote. No matter what the case, there is A LOT that goes on behind the scenes of your event. We understand you don’t do this every day, and we expect questions so don’t be afraid to ask!

About Chef Doug Brown, the author:
After graduating from New York’s renowned Culinary Institute of America, I chose to further my education at Florida International University, where I attained a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management. After finishing my education, I obtained my first Executive Chef Position at the age of 23. Since then, I have worked several Executive Chef Positions all over the United States until eventually making the decision to create my own business. In 2003, I opened Beyond the Box Café, which shortly after, was followed by Beyond the Box Catering Company. Thanks to the success of Beyond the Box Catering, I now also operate The Orion Ballroom, The Carlisle Room and The Pads at the Aloft Hotel in Dallas. These venues are used to each host hundreds of weddings a year. With over a decade of experience, I have decided to bring my knowledge to you in order to help make your wedding planning experience a little easier!

Photo credit: Rafael Serrano Photography
flourish

Hope you found this helpful.

Hearts, Joy, Love!
Jean

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Do you have a wedding dilemma or question you need answered? I’d love to help. Contact me at jean@weddingsfromtheheart.net or at 937-235-2586 or 937-581-3647!

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Wedding Planning Q & A – I’m Vegan and Really Don’t Want Meat at My Wedding

vegetarian hamburger with soy sprout radish and salad
Vegetarian Burger
Q. – I’m a vegan. I really don’t want to serve meat or other animal products at my wedding. Am I expected to?

A. – No you do not have to serve animal products. It’s your wedding and you can serve (or not serve) whatever you choose. If you want to have a vegan wedding menu, go right ahead.

Your wedding reception is to celebrate your brand new marriage, and create a wedding day that represents you and your fiancé. The choices you make – flowers, music, food, etc. – will reflect the two of you. So naturally, if your personal dietary choices lean towards or away from something specific, it is absolutely ok for you to include those choices in your wedding day meal.

mexican vegan vegetable pilaf with haricot beans and pumpkin
Mexican Vegan Vegetable Pilaf

You are not “making a statement” or trying to convert anyone. Instead you are staying true to yourself by following this dietary choice.

A good caterer will be able to create for you a delicious, flavorful vegan wedding menu that will keep your guests tummys happy, yet follow your daily dietary guidelines.

salad with tofu tomatoes arugula and sesame seeds
Tomato, Tofu, and Arugula Salad

Not your everyday . . . Food

We all know the importance food plays in any get-together. As long as you serve good food, your guests will survive. Pick foods that are colorful and full of flavor and you will have a big hit. Ok, at first some of your guests may wonder what’s on their plates, but since your caterer has whipped up something that smells amazing, and tastes great, their focus on the food will soon be back where it should be, (Mmmmm, this is good!)

Hearts, Joy, Love!
Jean

Have questions or need fun ideas for your wedding? Weddings From The Heart can help. Contact me today at jean@weddingsfromtheheart.net or at 937-235-2586 or 937-581-3647!

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Photo credits:
Vegetarian Burger & Tomato Tofu Arugula Salad – marcomayer / 123RF Stock Photo
Mexican Pilaf – timolina / 123RF Stock Photo

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A is for Appetizers

appetizers wedding reception

Appetizers or hors d’oeuvres can be as simple or as fancy as you’d like.

There is a wide selection of foods and beverages suitable to be served during the cocktail hour that can fit any taste, style, level of formality, and budget.

Not your everyday . . . Food

Offer your guests a variety – hot and cold, and sweet and savory. Try fresh fruits, international and domestic cheeses, bruschetta and crostini, or mini-pizzas. They can be stationery, where guests help themselves buffet-style, or passed or butlered.

By giving your guests something to nibble on (and something to drink), they will be happy and comfortably occupied until you, the newlyweds, make your grand entrance and the party can begin!

Hearts, Joy, Love!
Jean

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Looking for unique ideas for your wedding? Weddings From The Heart can help. Contact me today at jean@weddingsfromtheheart.net or at 937-235-2586 or 937-581-3647!

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Looks As Good As it Tastes

plate of reception food

The #1 reason brides and grooms choose specific entrees and side dishes for their reception food is taste. And for good reason too. If it doesn’t taste good, no one will eat it, and as I mentioned last week, wasted anything = wasted money.

Another important thing to remember when choosing your reception food is appearance. Do the different foods – the meat, the vegetables, and the starches – look good together on the plate?

When food is pleasing to the eye, the whole eating experience is enhanced, and is more enjoyable.

An easy way to create an appealing appearance is to inject a bit of color. Monochromatic foods just aren’t as appealing. Think about it. A plate of mashed potatoes, white corn, and pork loin in gravy may be tasty – but the overall colors of the whole meal is pale and bland.

Perk it up with a little color. Use colorful vegetables — orange carrots, green peas or beans, a colorful garden salad, red bell peppers or tomatoes — and garnishes of fresh herbs. Your caterer can suggest delicious choices that will nicely compliment your chosen entree.

Hearts, Joy, Love!
Jean

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Looking for unique ideas for your wedding? Weddings From The Heart can help. Contact me today at jean@weddingsfromtheheart.net or at 937-235-2586 or 937-581-3647!

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