Wedding and Event Catering

Find a caterer near Monterey, CA

Find a caterer near Monterey, CA

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Top 5 Caterers near Monterey, CA

Q & A

Answers to commonly asked questions from the experts on Thumbtack.

How do you find a good caterer?

Reviews, interviews and menu tastings will help you find the right catering choice for your big day. Start by screening possible wedding caterers based on past reviews. If a caterer you are interested in has a review that concerns you, ask them about it; how they respond will be very telling. Next, ask about their availability for your wedding date.

If the wedding caterer is available on your date, it’s time to talk about menus and prices. Be clear about what your maximum budget is find out what choices this will allow you. Caterers may custom-create a menu for your event, or they may have menu templates within different price ranges that can guide your decision. A clear budget gives the caterer clear parameters within which to work and offer creative suggestions. Schedule a menu tasting to confirm you love your wedding menu. Once you have a menu and date, and have paid a deposit to reserve the caterer’s services, confirm additional details including when the food will be delivered to the site, what kind of service will be provided, how many servers will be onsite and for how long, and who is responsible for setup and cleanup. The more specific your contract, the fewer worries you’ll have on your wedding day. Get more smart hiring tips here.

How much does it cost to hire a caterer?

Catering prices depend mainly on how fancy you want the food and service to be and how many guests you’ll have. When you’re first looking to hire a caterer for your event, consider how many guests you’ll have and your total food and drink budget. The national average for event catering is $340, but catering prices can range into the thousands depending on your menu, guest count, and service.

Event catering is a broad term that covers everything from fully prepared, ready-to-eat food that the hosts plate and serve themselves to full-service, multicourse meals, including rental of linens, glassware and other items, with service staff organized by the catering company. Usually a caterer will determine cost based on the type of event you’re having, how many guests will attend, the level of service you desire, and what type of menu you’d like to have. For example, if you have a set catering budget, say $1,500, and you plan to have 50 people attend, that means you have $30 per person for food. If you have the same budget with 100 people, you have $15 per person for food. In this way, the number of people you want to attend your event and the level of food you want to serve them determines how much catering will cost.

How much should catering cost per person?

Catering prices can range from about $10 per guest on the low end to $150 or more per person on the high end. Catering costs represent the quality of food, presentation, variety, ingredients and service. But catering prices are more than the cost to cook the food that will be at your party; they also include the cost for the company to do business. Here is a simple breakdown of catering prices:

  • Menu: The food you serve your guests will directly affect the price per person. Organic ingredients, complex recipes, elaborate presentations, or high-ticket items like lobster or filet mignon all add to the cost.
  • Service: Buffet, family style, plated dinners — how you serve the food affects the cost per person. For example, a true plated meal can cost about twice the price of a staff-assisted buffet because of staffing costs. Hiring waiters, bartenders and cleanup crew will all be calculated into the per-person catering price.
  • Drinks: Providing beverages and alcoholic drinks for guests greatly increases your catering budget. Hosting an open bar can cost as much per person as the meal.
  • Rentals: Seating, plates, glassware, etc., will all have an effect on the cost per person for catering. For example, a plastic conference table that seats 10 costs about $6 to rent on average, while a wooden farmhouse table is about $80 to rent on average.
  • Business costs: Any catering cost will also include the cost for the company to do business such as insurance, employee wages, commercial kitchen space and more.

How much does wedding catering cost per person?

Wedding catering costs will always vary based on the number of guests you’re inviting, the menu you want to serve, and the way the food will be served to your guests. As you interview wedding catering companies, you’ll be presented with a cost per person for various menus. On the low end, wedding catering may cost approximately $15-$18 per person. This would include prepared food only, with no setup or service of any kind. The starting price for a simple buffet meal with minimal service typically averages $22 per person. Opting for the same menu with all organic ingredients could raise your costs to about $33 per person. A moderately upscale menu (finer ingredients, more elaborate presentation) could range from $24 to $34 per person. High-end wedding catering cost truly has no limit. Lobster, filet mignon, specialty seafood, organic ingredients — menu choices like these can boost your cost per person up to $150 and more.

What should you look for in a caterer?

A delicious meal is a critical element of a successful wedding, with happy guests fondly remembering your fabulous wedding food. The right caterer for you will be:

  • Available: Even the best caterer is no good if they aren’t available on your wedding date. Ask early before you get your heart set on someone.
  • Affordable for you: Find a caterer that you can afford. Having a spending plan ahead of time will mean you won’t overspend on food.
  • A good personality fit: Wedding planning is stressful, so work with someone that you can get along with and communicate with easily.
  • Experienced and recommended: Ensure the company has a proven track record with events of your size and the references to back it up.
  • Transparent about money: Steer clear of shady pricing. Find a caterer who is very clear about costs and is happy to talk you through budgets and pricing options.
  • Transparent about food: Find someone who is clear about where they source their food from and where it is prepared.

How much should catering cost for a wedding?

The cost of wedding catering will reflect the level of service, the menu you choose, the luxury you desire and the number of guests you invite. Where you live also plays a major role in your wedding catering costs. The regional cost to do business and local cost of food will affect your catering bill. There is no set price for wedding catering, because each wedding and each menu is different. This is why many caterers provide a per-person price. This allows you to break down what it costs to feed each person based on the menu you want. Working with your caterer, you can adjust menu items, service level and more to accommodate your budget and guest count. Keep in mind that wedding catering costs are not just for the food. The bill reflects all the components that go into commercial food catering: a commercial kitchen, ingredients, staff, insurance, marketing and more. Here are some examples of average costs:

  • Three-course plated meal, moderately upscale, for 125 in Los Angeles: $14,000. Because of staffing costs, a true plated meal costs about twice as much as a staff-assisted buffet.
  • Buffet meal, standard menu, for 100 in Los Angeles: $5,000.
  • Per-person cost for hors d'oeuvres, dinner and nonalcoholic beverages: $24–$37, depending on menu selection, in Southern California.
  • Drop off prepared food for 50: $1,000 in North Carolina. Price does not include any service, setup or breakdown.

How do you serve food at a wedding?

Food service at your wedding will affect your catering costs and influence the atmosphere of the reception. Buffet style is more informal; plated meals are a bit fancier; family style encourages sharing. Read about the different food service styles to select your preferred wedding catering choice.

  • Buffet: Caterers can drop off prepared foods for a DIY and budget-friendly buffet option where you set everything up and food is entirely self-service. For a fuller-service buffet, the caterers set up food, oversee the buffet throughout the event, and clean up afterwards. For food only, prices per person might average $16-$18, while a service buffet may start around $20-$22 per person. Adding food stations can increase per-person costs by at least $3-$5.
  • Family style: Servers bring large platters of food to guest tables in courses. It’s less formal (and less expensive) than a plated meal, but more formal and higher-cost than a buffet. You’ll need large tables to accommodate the platters, so plan accordingly when renting furniture for the event.
  • Plated: A plated event is a formal dining experience; waitstaff serve your seated guests for each course, fill their drinks, and attend to them throughout the dinner. A plated dinner is typically the most expensive option for both food and service.
  • Food trucks: Similar to buffets, with food trucks your guests get their own food and bring it to their table. A food truck gives a relaxed and playful vibe to your reception.
  • Cocktail reception: If you don’t want a formal seated dinner, you can opt for a wide assortment of passed appetizers at an extended cocktail hour reception.

Do you tip a wedding caterer?

Tipping 15 percent to 20 percent on a $3,000 catering bill can feel daunting — especially in light of all the other costs of throwing a wedding — but tipping your wedding caterer is standard practice. Be sure to ask your caterer about their specific policies. Many catering companies include gratuity as a line item on their bill. If tipping is not automatically included in your total, a good approach is to tip all the people involved the day of the event rather than paying one lump sum to the catering company. For each server and bartender, you can tip $20-$50, depending on how long they were onsite and whether they did exceptional work. You can also tip the chef; experts suggest $50. It’s also a good idea to tip the catering manager, the point-of-contact person who keeps the catering service running smoothly the day of your wedding, ensures all the food looks beautiful and is plentiful, and resolves any mishaps. Industry pros recommend tipping the catering manager $100-$200. If gratuity is not included and you’re tipping individuals, set aside $200-$500 in cash to be safe.

Reviews for Monterey caterers
Abby L.
We put out a request for Persian catering, and Nancy came back with a beautiful, well thought out menu. We were putting together a wedding celebration within only a couple months, and we were very excited to have Persian food. Since half the attendees were Persian/Persian-decent, there were a couple specifications we requested (of course there must be onion in the tomato/cucumber/onion salad!), and Nancy was very responsive and willing to do them, even when her catering expertise made her hesitate. She did it as a drop off since we were far from where she lives, and she was communicative about what serving platters, bowls, etc, we'd need. The only disappointment was that even though we'd planned set-up over two hours beforehand, she got caught in traffic and we couldn't start the reception until an hour or so anticipated. It worked out fine, but unfortunately squished given that it got dark at 5pm. The food was wonderful though - Nancy made plenty, even for our hungry families, and it made the reception more "us" to have Persian food. She also does many other types of food beyond Persian - she's cooked foods from a broad range of countries, and she uses locally-grown produce. We were very glad to have an independent caterer rather than a big chain, especially one who buys local and is as thoughtful and creative as Nancy.
Abroad Catering: chef, Nancy GerbaultAbroad Catering: chef, Nancy Gerbault
Kaitlyn W.
If you read one review today, I hope it is this one. I know it's a little long but it's only because I feel so strongly about how amazing The Astrantia is. My husband and I met when we were in second grade and had been dating for many, many years before we got engaged. We got engaged in early 2021, during the pandemic, and decided not to get married until mid-2022 - We were hoping things would be better by then. I didn't realize how many people were postponing their weddings (due to the pandemic) until 2022. For MONTHS, I tried to find a caterer but it seemed nearly impossible to do. Every caterer I contacted was either already booked or they were too expensive. Four months before our wedding date, we still had no caterer. I had exhausted all options throughout the Monterey Bay area so I decided to try and look a little farther away in San Jose. THANKFULLY, I came across Thumbtack and when I searched for caterers in San Jose, The Astrantia popped up, which I had never heard of before. I sent them a message and Karen responded right away. At this point, I was used to getting responses from vendors who were kind of rude and telling me I should have started looking earlier and that they doubted they could actually help me. Karen was the exact opposite - She was immediately so helpful and kind and was happy to set up a call to discuss options. I had reached out in February but got sick myself so we didn't end up having a conversation about the event until April, THREE MONTHS before the event. I knew this wasn't ideal for the caterer but Karen was not phased at all. She contact Chef Ivan and they quickly made an amazing menu for us to review. We only made a few tiny tweaks to it but it looked/sounded incredible! We were so impressed. We ended up asking for a tasting but since we did not live in San Jose, we rented an AirBnB in the area and invited Karen and Chef Ivan over to cook for us. They came over and were punctual, friendly, and cooked up some amazing food! We were so excited to finally have a vendor for our wedding and over the next couple of weeks, we finalized all the details with Karen who was always very responsive and took care of every single detail/issue that came up. It's clear that she cares very much about what she does and she is such a kind, helpful person to work with --- She really made the whole process a great one. The venue we got married at was an historical house that is actually part of the California State Park system. When we did a tour, we were told the caterers could use the kitchen to "heat and warm things in the oven/on the stove" but couldn't use it to fully cook all the food. There was a change in management at the venue a couple months before our event which is when we found out that "heating and warming things" basically meant warming things up for a couple of minutes and NOTHING ELSE. We found out the caterers could not even boil vegetables at the venue! This was a huge issue since our caterers were already driving from over an hour away in San Jose. Karen and Chef Ivan were, again, INCREDIBLY understanding and accommodating. Luckily, my mother-in-law had rented an AirBnB that had a huge kitchen and outdoor grill, everything they would need to cook for us. The house was four miles from the venue and I had asked Karen if they would consider cooking at the house and then bringing the food over to the venue from there. That's kind of a huge ask for a vendor. But to my surprise, Karen and Chef Ivan couldn't have been nicer about it! They could have taken that opportunity to get upset but they were 100% flexible and made things SO much easier at a time when I was already so stressed about this wedding. But in the end, it all ended up working perfectly! The food was an absolute hit at the wedding! (People still are texting us weeks later talking about how impressed they were with the caterers -- not just the food but the impressed with the people themselves and the service we all got.) We gave them basically no direction for our wedding cake (we wanted a berry shortcake instead of traditional cake) and we cannot overstate how INCREDIBLE our cake was. They even took pictures and videos of the event and sent them to us afterwards! Karen, Chef Ivan, and their entire crew are so talented, so professional, so punctual, and so respectful. And as if that all wasn't enough, they were actually affordable and didn't try to take advantage of people desperate to find a caterer months before their wedding. I truly cannot overstate how incredible The Astrantia is. Our event was not the easiest and not once did they complain or get upset. They were never anything but kind and professional and man, did they deliver! The Astrantia is truly a rare group of people that you can only hope you'll be lucky enough to find for your special day. From my husband and I, thank you all from the bottom of our hearts for making our day so special. We wish you all the best and hope people read this review and trust that they will be thanking their lucky stars they found The Astrantia! - Kaitlyn and Matthew Trudeau P.S. We were running behind during the event and didn't get the chance to take as many pictures as we had hoped. Once I get photos from friends/family, I will add photos of the INCREDIBLE food!
The AstrantiaThe Astrantia
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