The main disadvantages of catering include the high costs associated with catered meals, the introduction of strangers to the event and the potential lack of variety. Catering is typically used for formal events, such as weddings and corporate parties, and involves a restaurant or caterer bringing and serving food to guests.
Since catering requires payment for food, preparation, transportation and service, the costs are a common reason for event organizers to choose other methods of feeding guests. For example, the average cost of reception food service for a wedding in 2014 was $4,339. This does not include the cake or the bar, which can increase the expenses significantly.
Additionally, a catered event means strangers will be milling around the venue and interacting with guests. For more intimate affairs, it is sometimes more practical to have friends and family prepare the food or to arrange a potluck meal.
There are several different types of catering, from plated dinners to buffets and food stations. The type of catering directly influences the variety offered; plated dinners are typically more limited because guests must choose between two or three options in advance of the event. Buffets and foot stations eliminate the variety issue, but it is more difficult to plan quantities since the organizers do not know which foods the guests will prefer.