Welcome to your guide to pricing catering services. Here we cover the factors that impact costs, pricing structures, and market conditions. From our experience we share how caterers determine prices.

Whether you’re looking tp cater a wedding, office party or a private event, this guide will clarify how catering companies price their services.

There’s plenty of local catering companies. Many caterers have good websites and positive customer reviews. But how do you choose your caterer? And more importantly, how do you know which price is right?

So, let’s get started!

Average price of catering services in Calgary

The average catering cost per person in Calgary, Alberta, Canada can vary widely from $20 to $100 or more. The average cost depends on several factors, such as the type of event, the number of guests, the menu selection, and the level of service required.

For example, a casual office luncheon or a simple breakfast catering may cost around $20 to $30 per person, while a high-end special event like a wedding reception or a corporate catering event with hors d’oeuvres and a multi-course meal and full-service staff can cost upwards of $100 per person or more.

Factors affecting cost of catering

Let’s start by looking at what factors affect the cost of catering services. The cost varies based on event size, type of food and drinks, level of service, location, and preparation and delivery effort. Complex events tend to be more expensive.

Size and scope of the event
Event size and complexity impact catering prices. More guests at large events require more food, beverages, and staff, driving up the cost. A complex setup, such as multiple food stations or food trucks, also increases catering costs.

Type of catering
Cost of catering varies based on the type of catering. Buffet is typically less expensive than plated dinners since fewer staff members are required. Boxed lunches are often more affordable as it involves pre-packaged meals that are easy to transport.

Common types of catering include:

  • Buffet
  • Plated meal
  • Cocktail reception
  • Boxed lunch
  • Family-style
  • Dessert
  • Station catering (e.g. carving stations, pasta stations)
  • Barbecue

Check this event catering price table by party size and type of caterer by Roaming Hunger.

Catering price table by party size and type of caterer

Type of food and beverages
Good food costs. Food and beverage types affect the prices. Gourmet or specialty dishes may require expensive ingredients, while premium drinks or cocktails will increase costs.

Level of service required
Service level impacts prices. Full-service catering adds to the cost by including staff for set up, serving, and cleaning up. Drop-off or delivery-only service may cost less since they require fewer staff.

Location of the event
Location impacts catering prices. Remote events may incur transportation costs, and venues lacking facilities may require additional rentals or setup time.

Preparation and delivery time
Time and effort to prepare and deliver delicious food affect catering prices. Preparing off-site and transporting food requires more resources than cooking on-site. Also, specific serving hours may require more staff, increasing the cost.

Types of pricing structures

Guide to Catering prices in Calgary - a chef is finalizing a dinner main course

Catering companies use different pricing structures. A fixed price per person is common for events like weddings or corporate parties, while a customized price is based on the client’s needs and details.

Fixed price per person
Fixed catering pricing per person is a common catering pricing structure for events with a known number of guests, such as weddings or corporate events. It includes a set menu and service level and provides clients with an upfront understanding of the total cost.

Customized pricing
Catering companies commonly use a customized pricing structure, where the caterer works with the client to create a catering menu and services based on their specific needs. The final price is determined after all the details have been finalized, making it ideal for events that require a more customized approach.

Tiered pricing
Some companies offer a tiered pricing structure where clients can choose from different service levels and menus at varying price points. This option allows clients to manage their costs while still having some menu and service flexibility.

À la Carte pricing
Companies may also offer an à la carte pricing structure, which lets clients choose the perfect menu items or services for their event, with catering prices based on each item. It’s suitable for clients who want complete control over their event’s menu and services.

Cost of ingredients

Food cost affects catering prices, including food, beverages, and specialty items like gluten-free or vegan options on their catering menus. Caterers may also need to source from specialty suppliers, increasing the cost.

Ingredient prices vary by season; some are only available during specific seasons, and catering prices may be higher when they’re out of season. For instance, fresh berries are more expensive in winter.

High-quality ingredients are pricier but preferred by catering companies to provide the best taste and presentation.

Menu options
Catering menu choices can impact ingredient costs. Some items, such as seafood or premium meats, can be expensive and drive up the event’s total cost.

Dietary restrictions
Dietary restrictions can increase ingredient costs; gluten-free or vegan options often require pricier ingredients.

Local sourcing
Your local caterers prioritize local sourcing, despite higher costs, for fresher and higher-quality ingredients. Caterers support local farmers due to increase in demand from the public.

Market variables

Competition affects pricing. In highly competitive markets, companies may offer lower catering prices to attract customers. Company reputation and current market conditions play a role in the cost of your event catering.

Market saturation
Market saturation affects catering prices. In highly competitive areas, prices tend to be more competitive.

Caterer’s reputation
Reputation can impact catering prices; highly regarded companies can charge more than lesser-known ones.

Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
Unique services or menus can allow companies to charge higher catering prices than competitors. A company specializing in vegan or gluten-free cuisine, for example, may charge more because it is not widely available.

Location in the city
Event location affects catering prices. Affluent areas may command higher prices, while less affluent or rural areas may be priced lower.

Economic conditions
Economic conditions can affect catering prices, with catering companies potentially offering discounts or lowering prices during times of economic uncertainty to remain competitive.

Additional catering fees

Aside from the base food and service price, caterers may add charges for equipment rentals, service fees, gratuities, setup and breakdown, and travel expenses for events outside their usual service area. These are charged in addition to your catering prices per person.

Delivery fee
Caterers often charge a delivery fee for events outside their service area. The fee may vary based on distance and order size.

Service charge
Caterers may add a service charge to cover catering team costs, usually as a percentage of the total or a flat fee.

Equipment rental fee
Equipment rental fees may be charged by catering companies for specialized equipment such as chafing dishes or linens, to cover the cost of renting, setup, and removal.

Gratuities are optional fees clients can give to catering staff for outstanding service, which are commonly practiced in the industry.

Catering services are subject to taxes that vary by location and service type.

Overtime charges
Overtime fees may be charged by the catering company if the event runs longer than expected, requiring additional hours from the staff.

Questions to ask your caterer

Is there a minimum order amount for catering services?

Are there any additional fees that I should be aware of?

Can I customize my catering order to fit within my budget?

Are there any discounts or promotions available?

How much should I budget for gratuity or service charges?

What payment methods do you accept?

How far in advance should I book catering services to secure the best pricing?

Asking for a catering quote

To get a good catering package, it’s recommended to have specific information ready when requesting a quote from a caterer. This can be done through a structured form or questionnaire, or via email with the following information.

Event date and time
State specific date or give an acceptable range. Prepare for pricier options for events during the weekend. Time of the event matters too. Specify your desired start and end time. Consider setup and take down time.

Type of event
There are usually three types of events: corporate, wedding, private (social). Specify your event type as it might affect the choice of the pricing structure.

Number of guests
Provide an accurate estimate of the guest count for your catered party. Having a number helps caterers to calculate the food and service fees.

Event budget
This is usually optional. A good caterer will not use this number against you. If you don’t have a budget, that’s fine. However, a corporate event usually has a specific budget and the caterer needs to know it to ensure they can catch your expectations.

Event location
Do you have a venue booked? Are you planning a catered event outside of the city? These details will help to determine if a delivery fee is necessary.

Additional services
For many events catering is only part of the service. Some events require help with planning, decorations, venue selection, A/V equipment, flowers, etc.. Make sure to list those too. A good catering company will be able to provide you with a quote on these OR send you to their preferred vendors.

Your name
Getting a quote is not creating a legal catering contract yet, so you can use any name you’d like. However, make sure that it’s included and that it’s clear for the caterer who they communicate with.

Contact information
Ensure you double check your phone and email address. If a catering company can’t contact you (due to a spelling error in the email or misplaced digits), they won’t be able to provide you with a quote.

Details and comments
The above details will help a caterer build a quote for your. However, if you know of any other details, feel free to provide them in this last section. The more details you provide the higher the quality of the catering rates you receive.

Frequently asked questions

Is a deposit required to secure catering services?
Yes, a deposit is usually required to secure catering services.

How far in advance should I book catering services?
Ideal booking times for catering services can vary depending on factors like the time of year and type of event, but generally, it’s recommended to book catering services at least several weeks in advance, and up to several months in advance for larger events.

Is it possible to negotiate catering prices?
Yes, caterers may be open to negotiating catering prices depending on factors such as the size of the event, menu, and level of service provided. However, caterers have their own costs and profit margins to consider when setting prices. Aggressive negotiation may harm the working relationship with the caterer, so it’s important to approach negotiations respectfully and reasonably.

Contact us if you have more questions. Request a catering quote if you need catering in Calgary?