Yes, You Can Negotiate with Your Caterer

Negotiating with your New Orleans caterer

In any negotiations, there’s always three possible answers–yes, no or maybe. When working with a caterer, don’t be afraid to negotiate.  By asking simple questions and doing a little homework, you can negotiate the quality, quantity and budget-friendly pricing that will make your next catered event a success-both in the impression you make on your guests minds and on your bottom line.

Know what’s possible

We’ve all been guilty at some point of having “champagne tastes on a beer budget”, but when it comes to negotiating with your caterer, it also pays to be within reason with your requests.  If you insist on caviar and French champagne rather than stuffed mushrooms and a signature cocktail, know that those items come with a higher cost.  But if you are open to ideas like incorporating in-season produce, local seafood/meats or maybe just heavy Hors d’oeuvres or chic desserts, you’re likely to see a lower cost-per-person expense.  It’s also important to remember where you’re hosting your catered event.  For instance, a wedding in New York City averages $27,000, while a wedding in St. Louis averages around $21,000.  Also look for caterers, like Messina’s, who have their own venues, to avoid separate venue rental charges.

New Orleans caterer plating food

Go with experience

Sure, your Aunt Edna may be an extraordinary cook, but that doesn’t mean that you want her, and her band of neighborhood ladies to cater your event.  There are no do-overs in special events.  Things happen.  Supplies don’t get delivered.  The weather doesn’t cooperate.  Your brother’s mother-in-law has an allergic reaction because she didn’t know there was onion in the dip.  Your colleague John has too much to drink and  trips and falls into a catering display.  These are mortifying to you, but experienced caterers have seen it all and know how to pivot.  They also have liability insurance to protect against lawsuits, legal claims, and damages.  This is part of why a professional caterer costs more than Aunt Edna.

Making sure your caterer is properly insured and licensed not only provides protection for your guests, but for you as well.  Ensure your caterer has general liability, liquor liability (if serving alcohol), professional liability and proper business vehicle insurance.

Be upfront about your budget

Save yourself, and your caterer time by being up front about your budget.  With a budget in mind, the best caterers will come up with creative options to fit if they are able.  However, some luxury caterers may not be able to accommodate certain budgets, so save time and have the numbers discussion up front.

Compromise is king

Once you’ve received an overview of what your caterer has proposed, be sure to read each line item carefully.  If they’re flexible, perhaps they will be able to make adjustments to bring their costs more in line with your budget.  But this works both ways.  You, too, must be prepared to compromise to reach that magic number.  Maybe hosting your event on a Saturday night adds exponentially to the event costs?  Perhaps your guest list is simply too large to serve in the way you want to?  Maybe you’re trying to host an event at the peak of the season for that area?  If you answered “yes” to any of these scenarios, you might want to temper your expectations with the reality of the details of your event to bring it into line with your budget reality.

Once you’ve reached an agreement, don’t haggle further

Caterers with experience and lots of five-star Google reviews have them for good reason–they’re accomplished at what they do and they’re often highly sought after.  When you reach a price with such a caterer, don’t haggle further.  Remember, they are likely in demand and have already negotiated with you as far as they can and still turn a profit.  Being combative never works in any negotiation.

Award-winning New Orleans-based Messina’s Catering & Events can meet a wide variety of budgets and also has their own venues throughout the City

Since its founding in 1961 Messina’s has grown to be a leading New Orleans caterer which includes serving as exclusive and preferred caterer at local venues, operating local restaurants, providing off-site and residential catering, and managing prestigious local festivals. Messina’s co-owner Stacey Messina is also the only Certified Professional in Catering and Events (CPCE) Certified caterer in New Orleans.  Learn more by visiting MessinasCatering.com.