How Much Does Full Service Catering Cost? (Updated for 2020)

Full Service Catering is a term that can be used to denote many different service styles, over a wide range of events.  From weddings to birthdays and everything in-between, full service catering encompasses any method of feeding guests that also includes set-up and clean-up.

What Does a Full Service Catering Package Include?

In general, a full service catering package normally includes a hard set – setting up of tables, chairs, linens, and all rentals, and service of plated meal as needed.  It also includes bartending services and cleaning up of space throughout the event.

Specific service styles can all vary, but no package can call itself full-service without adhering to what’s listed above.  So if you come across full-service catering that doesn’t include bussing or set-up and take-down (for instance), that’s not full service!

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How Much Does Full Service Catering Cost?

party catering

Prices of course vary depending on guest count, location and event type, but the average price range for full service catering typically runs about $40 a person (for a plated meal), and $28 for buffet.  For formal dining (including weddings), these are starting prices.

When it comes to corporate lunches, expect prices to typically run $35 a person (for a plated meal) and $25 for buffet.  For example, an office event of 80 people would cost around $2000 – $2800.

Naturally, none of this includes bar service, which has far more variables to consider.  Typically, bar packages range from top-shelf to mid-range open bars (calculated on a per person cost) to simpler wine and beer options.  For some events, BYOB can simply be tacked on to existing food service for a minimal upcharge (typically $8-$12 per person).

Food trucks are another great option that can cut your costs further and STILL deliver a first-rate, full service catering experience.  Typically, food truck catering evens out to $20-$25 a person, lunch or dinner.

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What’s The Alternative to Full Service Catering?

Drop-Off Catering has emerged as a popular alternative to full service catering packages, and requires minimum legwork on your end.  It works just how you’d expect it to given the name – simply get the food dropped off, ready-to-serve, and set it up for your guests’ consumption (obviously clean-up is your job, along with any other necessary maintenance, but if you’re on a budget, these are probably concerns you can live with just fine).

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In Conclusion

Full Service Catering is easy to define, but runs a large difference in price across the board, depending on a variety of factors.  If you’re in a budget crunch, a buffet goes a long way, especially if alcohol’s involved.  And if you want to save even more costs, while still delivering a dynamic experience, consider a food truck.  There’s plenty of ways to cut costs, and still give every guest the privilege of full-service catering.