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  • Writer's pictureLorna I. Robins

A bad plan or the caterer's fault? When there is a wedding planning disaster you have to avoid.

Weddings in Stockport, Manchester & Cheshire

For the love of God and all things holy what on earth is this about? Is this for real? This was my first reaction to this quote request.

My second reaction can’t be printed but now I’ve calmed down a bit I can think more reasonably and somewhat organise my thoughts and tell you what I’m thinking about this in the hope that I can shed some light on the value of a quality service professional or company. Not only am I analysing this from a caterer’s perspective, but I also used to be an event planner and wedding coordinator so I know how a wedding works, how it should work and when it won’t work and this request is a wedding disaster waiting to happen, who wants that on such an important day? The biggest thing that I don’t understand is why would you sell your own wedding so short of ‘the best day ever’ mark, it should hit.

Let’s dive into the request.

The first thing that strikes me is that the host stated (let’s call him John) that the caterer dropped out. I’m going to give my opinion on the statement assuming it's true first. I understand how stressful it is for such an important service provider like your caterer to cancel at such short notice, it can put you in panic mode and really get you upset. However, the problem with the caterer dropping out is very unfortunately John’s problem and not any prospective caterer that may save the day and bring a buffet.

I have a real problem with the statement the caterer dropped out, why would a caterer drop out of someone’s wedding? If a caterer has a good reputation and built or building a trustworthy business they wouldn’t just drop out unless they are very ill, suddenly hospitalised or a life-or-death emergency has occurred in which case the caterer had an urgent situation and had to cancel. Although a cheap and seedy caterer with no work ethic would possibly drop out just because they couldn’t be bothered, you get what you pay for after all, the cheaper the service provider the poorer the service.

Is the caterer dropping out a likely story? It could be absolutely true but now I'm going to give my opinion on the assumption that it was just the excuse used because John didn’t budget or plan properly or the caterer advised him to cancel because he couldn't pay the unpaid balance.

Wedding Budgeting

Was this wedding budgeted and planned properly? After the venue, you book your caterer, the catering is by far the largest bill for any event but especially for a wedding. Did you know this John? If you go on any wedding planning websites you would have been informed of this, even couples planning weddings on a shoestring budget would forgo any other services in order to provide a decent meal for guests, some of which have travelled, even booked a hotel, this means that cheap food or worse no food is just flat out rude, your guests are celebrating with you all day, they have to be fed.

Or John did know this and had booked a quality caterer but then had to cancel the caterer due to poor planning and budgeting as he likely hasn’t planned an event before, he hadn’t asked any advice from a professional and therefore he'd run out of money and had to cancel the caterer and then panicked as he had to buy food with the money left in his bank account. Rookie mistake.

Tip: The easiest way to make sure you get your catering paid off is to set up a payment plan with the caterer

Either way, asking a caterer to provide a food service for 90 people for £1.11 per person is offensive to all professional caterers. You're basically asking a caterer to provide a free service or give a charitable donation to your wedding. At the end of the day catering costs money, it’s not just the food you are paying for, you’re paying for a service of safely prepared food from someone who has spent a lot of years honing their craft and getting food qualifications, licenses, insurances, kitchen inspections etc. Despite popular belief not everyone can hack it as a caterer, it’s hard work and we are worth our hourly rate just like you are at your job.

If the shoe was on the other foot would you rethink?

Let’s say you go to work tomorrow and your boss says to the whole team “due to financial constraints I won’t be able to pay you any wages for the rest of the week, I do still need you to fulfil your job role regardless and make the deadline”. What do you do? Say “ok sure”, for fear of losing your job or “Sorry boss I come to work for an income so if there is no income, I provide no work”. You should do the latter, no one should have to work hard for free, ever! Let me show you why what John is asking doesn’t work.

The low down on producing a buffet

The following is a rough breakdown of what it could cost the caterer to produce the buffet specified by the quote request for 90 people, this estimate does not include a full buffet which is absolutely recommended for a wedding. It also doesn’t include any profit margins, other staff including delivery driver, electricity used to produce, petrol in car to deliver, set up or clean up services, food presentation or embellishments that catering brands display with their food, or any other overheads. This calculation only includes the basics needed to fulfil the quote request with one food item added for the “etc.”

Firstly, the time it takes to cater for 90 people, which is including time for quoting, writing invoices, shopping for ingredients, prepping and finishing food on platters and delivering food to venue would be on average 11+ hours. If these tasks were performed by one staff member and was paid the national living wage of £10.42ph the cost of producing this food spread in time alone would be £114.62* (*estimated roughly)

Secondly, we need to factor in the delivery charge from our kitchen in Stockport to the venue in Huddersfield which is 39.4 miles (so says Google), we charge £3 for the first 5 miles then for the remaining 34.5 miles at 60p per mile return this would be a total of £44.40.

Thirdly, let’s tally the cost of the food, this is a rough estimate as the cost of food goes up and down according to the market prices. This will include the ingredients for sandwiches for 90 people including the bread, butter, 3 fillings such as ham, cheese and egg mayo, quiche, our homemade pizza and as it says “etc”. on the request, I have priced the “etc” as a coleslaw salad. The cost of this food is £90.57* and this is only a third of what should be on a full food spread. You wouldn’t serve such a small amount to so many people, hungry people would take more of it than what would be a normal portion, so you're risking running out of food too as it wouldn’t be classed as a meal, you could end up with guests leaving early due to hunger if this is all that’s served. It would be such a shame if there was no one watching the first dance, cake cutting, etc, it would be very upsetting and I've seen this very thing happen see this blog post here >>>>

Disposable platters for presenting food, disposable plates, napkins and forks. approx £40.78*.

This total is already £290.37* and as stated there are still costs that haven’t been calculated into the actual cost of producing the buffet as the list is long. The only thing John could possibly do is be more flexible, borrow money, pay for quality or send a friend to the shops to buy as much food as they can and prepare it for free. BUT the reason why caterers have jobs and you should pay for their services are all the reasons why a friend with good intentions that has no qualifications in safe food preparation should not take on the task of being responsible for the health of 90 people and why you shouldn’t even ask it of them.

This whole scenario bothers me because…

When you are getting married you buy the services of many, such as a D.J. with a full light show, a photographer and selfie mirror or photo booth, a car, flowers and of course wedding attire. Most couples buy the things that make them look the coolest and most on-trend and not realise that if they don’t provide fab food along with all of that they don’t look cool at all. Hungry people don’t give a flying biscuit what selfie mirror you got or which candy is on the buffet. At all celebrations, food is by far the most important service required. There isn’t a D.J or light show on this planet impressive enough to stave off hunger, and yet the food continues to be an afterthought or something to cut costs on even though it's supposed to be the life and soul of the party. If you want a buffet to present to your family and friends, that is impressive, freshly prepared, food that is quality, tasty, filling and presented well, food that people will talk about from a quality caterer you have to pay for that.

To John I say, whether your situation was created by your caterer or yourself I hope it went ok. I wish you had asked for advice from the beginning of the planning instead of a plea for help at crunch time. I do hope you borrowed some money and paid for something that your wedding celebration deserved.

Blog post written by Lorna Robins owner of Buffet Heroes in Stockport.

Servicing the Stockport, Manchester and Cheshire area of the North West.

For party catering requests please email

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