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Find a caterer near Palo Alto, CA

Find a caterer near Palo Alto, CA

46 near you

Find a caterer near Palo Alto, CA

46 near you

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Top 10 Caterers near Palo Alto, 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.

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.

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.

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.

Reviews for Palo Alto caterers
Andrea F.
Urban Fields is a terrific caterer. Martin and his team prepared delicious food for my Christmas party. Everything was fresh and home-made from the best ingredients. They arrived early, made themselves at home in my kitchen, served a delicious meal, cleaned up and left it spotless. Martin is a very friendly and professional caterer.
Urban Fields CateringUrban Fields Catering
Beth B.
Really an excellent, caring, expert catering experience. The pancake breakfast was a big hit. We'll use them again for something special!
A Plus CateringA Plus Catering
Thumbtack Customer
They catered the appetizers and dinner and provided servers, tables and linens. The food was delicious and competitively priced. Evan was very responsive and made planning quick and easy.
CAZADORES CATERING  YelpCAZADORES CATERING Yelp
Thumbtack Customer
We hired Aurora Catering for a milestone birthday party in our back yard for 20 people. They were great to work with, and the food was fabulous. Nearly every guest at the party left with their business card. Our only complaint - there weren't enough leftovers for us to keep the party going for the rest of the weekend. ;-)
Aurora CateringAurora Catering
Thumbtack Customer
Dawn helped us cater a graduation party for our daughter in Palo Slto. Since we live on the east coast, this was z gamble in trust. Dawn and her husband Marty exceeded every expectation: excellent planning, great staff, outstanding food. I wish they would move to our hometown!
Aurora CateringAurora Catering
Joy H.
Chet was absolutely amazing to work with from start to finish. He was very responsiveness to my initial inquiries, answered my questions, and worked within the budget we requested (and was very transparent if there were any changes and why). The food was amazing - healthy and delicious. We received rave reviews from our guests on the appetizers, food, and cupcakes (yes, we asked Chet to cater EVERYTHING). His staff was not only very prompt and professional, they were so friendly and accommodating!
Celebrations by Chet ChaseCelebrations by Chet Chase
Bonnie L.
I found Albert on Thumbtack and was very impressed by his great and friendly personality. This was for a party of 60 people in a tennis club in Palo Alto on Dec 15. We first had him over at our Tennis Club President's home and Albert and his wife cooked for us for a delicious full course tasting menu. Every board member was extremely impressed by his food and we decided to engage him to be our caterer for a party of 60 people. There was a commercial kitchen at the venue, and Albert and his wife arrived even before I did to get everything organized! The food was fabulous and his service was wonderful. Everyone at the party had a great time and enjoyed his food very much. They said that it was the greatest party that they have ever had! I received so many compliments from our Club members and guests for this successful event. I even got the rookie volunteer of the year award to organize this event! I will hire Albert again and again!
Albert J. Hernandez The Untamed ChefAlbert J. Hernandez The Untamed Chef
Linell R.
At first We felt like we made the right choice with this vendor. Very accommodating to our special request, very communicative. A couple days before the wedding, we checked in to make sure everything was fine, we were confirmed that all was well. Then we were told that the vendor would need to cook at the site. That wasn’t going to work as the ceremony was outside. We scrambled to see how this would be accommodated. Then we were told it was figured out. The evening before the wedding, as We are on our way to rehearsal, I ask If we can add 3 more plates. We are told yes. Then were sent an invoice for $240+. I informed the vendor that is not what was agreed to. We were met with “it’s a flat rate and this is what is owed.” We went back and forth, as we tried to state that was not what was agreed to on the contract. We were told (via email) that the pricing was for delivery, and the to-go boxes and things that were never told to us when we initially agreed to hiring this vendor or when we signed the contract. Then we sent the contract. The vendor then told me that they had two different contracts one under each of our names. Which (1) another price was never discussed from either of us. (2) there was no contract agreed to from my fiancé, and (3) all information given, with the exception of my fiancé’s name, was all my info. Not to mention, this is all done the evening before the wedding. Which put me in complete stress mode. The caterer almost hit my fiancé when pulling and was late. Then forgot to add some things to a few plates, and did not label the veggie plates (or so I was told). I sent the payment, then read an email stating it was to be less since items were missing, when I sent a follow-up email stating I sent the full amount before seeing the email, I received no response or refund for the difference. The food wasn’t that great, it wasn’t bad, but wasn’t what we were expecting it to taste like. The asparagus was good. The salad was wilted, being in the same container as the heated food. Loved that we were able to do two meats and two sides and an appetizer. The meat sizes were all different and some of the guest thought that they were for the kids. Sizing could have been due to Covid-19 and the selections available. We appreciated the established relationship in the beginning and accommodating nature to our needs. But literally everything declined the week before our wedding. I would encourage people to use them as our initial experience was great. They just weren’t for us.
Starrtenders and cateringStarrtenders and catering
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