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Full service versus partial service caterer

Caterers generally fall into one of two categories: “full” or “partial” service. A full service caterer handles all aspects of your food service, everything from serving the menu to setting up the dining space to cleaning up after the event. On the other hand a partial caterer generally only provides the food. Some partial caterers may set up the food table but they do not serve or clean up the space, unless you buy that separate service from them. Said another way, a full service caterer is probably the company that you would hire for a 500 person wedding and a partial caterer is probably the company you would hire for a casual family backyard BBQ.

Of course, if you were planning a 500 person wedding or a casual backyard BBQ, the choice of full versus partial service may be clear. However, what if you are planning an event that falls somewhere in between like a formal dinner party for your father’s 75th birthday or a lunch in your office for your top clients? When planning these gray area events the key is to determine what type of feel you want the event to have. Do you want a casual or more formal feel? Even when a professional caterer decorates the event space in a casual theme, there is an air of formality because (if you hired a good caterer) every detail will be executed perfectly.

The second item to consider is your budget. Hiring a full service caterer will be more expensive than the partial service caterer (assuming that the menus are about the same). For instance, if you have a small budget, you may decide that you prefer to spend your budget on an extravagant menu and you will set the room, serve the food and clean up yourself (or recruit others to help).

Tell us about your experience of using a full or partial service caterer.

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