Catering costs for a party can be as low as $10 per person or as high as $180. If you want to determine costs, consider factors like the type of event you’re having, what type of cuisine you want, and the number of guests.
How do you calculate catering costs? Here is how much catering a party costs when broken down by event type.
Different Types of Caterers (With Average Pricing)
The caterer you hire depends on the type of event you’re putting on, and (more importantly) how you want your guests to eat and feel. For example, weddings and corporate events don’t need formal sit down catering if your guests are outside or you want them to mingle.
Here are 5 types of catering to consider for your event:
Drop Off Catering – $12-$20 per person
For small events (10-40 people), drop off catering might be the easiest option. Your local drop-off caterer will happily deliver the menu of your choice.
All you have to do is have a place to have the food picked up by your eaters. Breakfast and lunch can be quick and easy if you’re looking to have an efficient meal.
If the food is important to your guests, however, be careful. Hot food will quickly get cold, so drop-off is usually good for sandwiches and similar types of meals.
Good for: corporate meetings, small private parties
Buffet Style Catering – $25-$50 per person
Buffet catering can work well for indoor dining and can be great for larger events.
You’ll need the space to set up the buffet and consider if you need people to help serve or refill the menu items. Caterers can usually set up the buffet, man the stations, and clean up the mess.
Food can usually be kept warm, although it’s typically prepared off-site or in the venues kitchen.
Good for: corporate events, weddings, large events, indoor events
Food Truck Catering (Mobile Catering) – $20-$40 per person
Food truck catering can include a full sized truck or trailer, but also food carts or tent/table set ups. The main benefit is the food is prepared to order right in front of your guests.
For large events such as corporate conventions, multiple food trucks can accommodate a large crowd. For small parties (less than 50 people), or small spaces, a cart can do a great job.
While food can be delivered or prepared indoors, food truck catering generally happens outside. You’ll need to provide enough space for the caterer to park and set up.
Good for: outdoor events, non-formal corporate events, private parties, large events, weddings
Traditional Catering – $50-$120 per person
Traditional catering, also known as full-service catering, is what you would expect at a formal wedding or a sit-down dinner event. The food is brought to the guests and runs through the typical courses (salad, main course, and dessert).
The food is usually prepared on-site, and the caterer takes care of all set up and clean up. Traditional caterers also work with the event host to provide two or three options for anyone who has dietary restrictions.
Good for: formal events, large events, sit down dinners
Private Chefs/Custom Catering – $120+ per person
When you need custom menus, hiring a private chef can be the best option. As long as you have the budget, a private chef can run the entire operation, whether it’s a private dinner party at your home, or a black-tie event at a venue.
You’ll generally work with the chef to create the menu, so you’ll want a general idea of what you want. An exception might be if you’re hiring a world-class or famous chef and letting them surprise you.
Good for: high budget events, when everything needs to be absolutely perfect
[PRICING TABLE] Event Catering Prices by Party Size and Type of Caterer
Here are starting budgets for different types of party sizes and types of caterers:
|Number of People||Dropoff Catering||Food Trucks (carts for under 50)||Buffet||Traditional Catering|
How much does wedding catering cost?
Wedding catering will often cost more than other types of parties. The average costs are $70 per person for food and $85 per person for food and drinks, for sit down service. If your wedding has 100 guests, then it will cost you $7,000 in total, and $1,500 more with drinks.
You can save up to $5,000 with different service styles.
It will cost $20-$40 per person if you have food trucks cater your wedding. If you have a cocktail style reception the average costs are $24-$60 per person. And buffet, stations, and family style will usually come out to $25-$65 per person.
Catering Service Type
Average Cost per Person
|Sit Down Service (Traditional)||$70-$85|
|Food Truck Catering||$20-$40|
|Buffet or Stations||$25-$65|
|Private Chef (Custom Menu)||$120 and up|
Learn more about How to Get Great Wedding Catering (for Cheap).
How much does corporate catering cost?
Just like wedding catering, corporate party catering costs will vary depending on what you’re looking for. Pricing for corporate events will be similar to weddings if you’re trying to have a formal event.
If you’re trying to keep the party light and fun, you’ll probably be able to be more flexible and save money with different types of catering. If your budget is between $25-$50 per person, you’ll be able to find a great caterer.
If you want to have a fresh food experience prepared by a chef onsite, pricing will vary based on your needs. Hiring a food truck or a pop up to show up will cost between $20-$40 per person. If you have 50 employees or guests to feed, that will come out to $1,000-$2,000.
If you have fewer than 50 eaters, minimums may have to be met. An average minimum is usually $1,000.
How much does catering a birthday party cost?
Private parties (like birthdays, graduations, anniversaries, housewarming, etc.) are usually the most price sensitive.
If you have 50 guests or more, expect to pay between $20-$40 per person for regular catering. You can save on costs with food truck or pop up options, which will run between $10-$25 per person (depending on the type of food).
If you have less than 50 guests, consider food carts instead of trucks or trailers (which have minimums), or drop-off or buffet style.
Click here to get started with birthday party catering.
[PRICING TABLE] Catering Prices by Type of Cuisines
Traditional catering costs could vary greatly depending on what type of food you order. Pasta will be less expensive than lobster. The more specialized you get, the more expensive. For weddings catering can get up to $180 per person and beyond.
Food trucks and pop ups will also vary. A taco truck can range between $8-$20 per person, depending on the catering package you choose. Burgers and BBQ might start around $12-$15 per person. And lobster rolls will get you to $20 and above. Drinks will usually add $1-$3 per person.
Average cost per person by cuisine type:
Average Starting Cost per Person
|Drinks (Coffee, Smoothies)||$4-13|
These prices come from our experience with food trucks and mobile caterers. Prices can be much higher if you’re hiring a traditional caterer or a private chef who will create a custom menu.
Additional Details That Affect Catering Prices
The prices in this guide are starting and average prices. Here are a few things that can affect the total costs of catering.
Add-on menu items
If you need the caterer to bring drinks, sides or dessert, this will move the price per person anywhere from $1-$10. For special items such as hors d’oeuvres, make sure the caterer is able to prepare them.
Staff and supplies
If the caterer needs to bring extra staff or supplies such as tables and chairs, there will be a rental or hourly rate added on to the catering cost.
If your event is outside the service radius of the caterer, an extra fee will be added. These fees can vary on the caterer and are usually per extra mile.
Event date (holidays)
The timing of your event will affect catering costs. A weekend will generally be more expensive than a weekday event. Holidays will also greatly affect availability, which turns into increased pricing.
Some caterers, like food trucks, will generally be there for a set amount of time (typically 2-4 hours). If you need a caterer to stay past their normal service time, expect to pay an hourly charge.
If you need them to serve multiple meal times (breakfast and lunch), expect to pay custom pricing that takes into account the extra food, prep, and staffing costs.
Need Help Finding Catering for Your Party?
Roaming Hunger can help you find a great food truck for your party, no matter what the occasion and size. For more information just go to our Private Party Catering page.
Once you give us some basic information on when and where your event is, your dedicated catering manager will help you get the best options based on your needs. All you’ll need to do is pick the menu packages you like and we’ll handle all the logistics. We also protect every single catering with our 100% Roaming Hunger Service Guarantee.
Food trucks are an affordable catering option. Click the link to learn more.