A comprehensive, formal full-service catering proposal is likely to include the following time-line matters:
1) Rental arrival time
2) Staff arrival time
3) Bar open time
4) Meal serve time
5) Bar close time
6) Rental pickup
7) Out-of-venue time
Each of these factors affects the catering price.
For example, a rental quote for an "anytime" weekday delivery is usually much more economical than an "exact-time" delivery.
General menu considerations: Clients may have specific dietary or religious needs to consider. these include Halal, Kosher, Vegetarian, Vegan and food allergy requests. Increasingly, clients are interested in food sustainability and food safety.
Hors d'oeuvres: it should be clear if these are passed or stationary. Most caterers agree that three or four passed items are appropriate for the one-hour period prior to a meal.
Meal Rentals: May include tables, chairs, dance floor, plants, tabletop (china, flatware, glassware, linens, chargers), bar glassware, serving equipment, salt/peppers, etc. It should be clear whether table and chair setup and take-down is included. Most rental companies do not automatically include setup and take-down in the rental charges.
Labor: varies from caterer to caterer, but generally speaking, an event will have a Lead/Captain/Event Manager, a Chef, perhaps a Sous Chef or Kitchen Assistant, Wait staff and Bartenders. The labor on a plated dinner is generally much higher than the labor on a buffet, because a plated dinner involves double the china, and usually a minimum of three served courses, plus served coffee. Simply put, there's a lot more to do. To do it properly requires roughly 10 to 50% more staff. On a large event, this can be substantial, especially if overtime or doubletime applies.
Service Charge: Sales Tax, Some quotes will include lighting,liquor permit, fire permits, draping, florals, valet and coat check. Many venues discreetly get a "cut" of the catering bill. Caterers are contractually committed to not disclose this fee specifically in their contracts with the clients. Therefore, catering will sometimes cost substantially more at one venue versus another. Also, caterers must compete with illegal operators. A legitimate caterer will have a business license and a health permit both showing the address of the place from which they do business.
In addition, many caterers will provide partial catering services in addition to full-service. Partial catering can include cooking and delivery of prepared foods, pre-cooked dishes for pickup at the caterer's location, and cooking, delivery and setup without service. In many cases partial catering can be an excellent and economical option to full-service catering.
Increasingly, restaurants are providing catering menus and services in addition to their regular menus. Restaurant catering can be either on-site or off-site, depending on the services offered.
A box lunch is a lunch consisting of a sandwich, chips, fruit and a dessert. A box lunch is typically prepared by a caterer and dropped off to a location for a client’s dining needs. Box lunches are used primarily in the corporate arena for working lunches when they do not have time to take a break from their meeting yet still need to eat. A box lunch order is placed with a caterer a couple of days before the delivery date and is a cheaper way to go instead of a full sit-down lunch. The box lunch option is strictly a drop-off service and does not offer any type of wait staff or cleanup. The caterer’s only job is to prepare and deliver the food. In some cases, the caterer can set up the food, which means placing the individual cartons on a table or another area that is easily accessible to the clients. A box lunch is prepared for each person, so that they have all of their food in one container. This makes for very quick efficient service. Caterers can offer a variety of sandwiches such as: