6 Reasons Why Mitzvah Catering is So Expensive

6 Reasons Why Mitzvah Catering is so Expensive | Pop Color Events | Adding a Pop of Color to Bar & Bat Mitzvahs in DC, MD & VAA long time ago I read a blog post about the Olive Garden Rule and it stuck with me. I wish I could remember where I found it, but it’s the easiest to understand reason why Mitzvah catering costs will likely be your highest event expense, especially in the DC-area.

Let’s walk through 6 typical catering expenses.


Imagine with me for a minute… You’re going to a moderately priced sit down restaurant, say, the Olive Garden. You go in expecting a nice meal. You’ll have one of everything! You order an appetizer ($10 for a delicious sampler platter with a few different options), salad ($6), main dish ($17.50 for chicken carbonara), dessert ($6.25 for a slice of cake). You have a glass of the house wine ($5) and a soda ($2.50), plus a coffee with your dessert ($2.50). Nothing too crazy or extravagant, right? Well that adds up to $49.75. Multiply that number by 100 guests and you’re already at $4,975 for just the food!

However, not only do you have the cost of the food itself and preparing it, but you likely have the cost of transporting or delivering that food to your event venue (unless you’re having your event at a restaurant, hotel or other place with an onsite caterer).


Don’t forget the tax! For our example meal, the tax on $4,975 in DC is 10%. That’s almost $500 in tax alone!


Many places have an 18-20% gratuity that is part of the fee that you pay. Again, on our example meal, that’s nearly $1,000.


You’re going to need someone to serve that food. Even if you’re planning on having a buffet meal (which requires less staffing) you’ll need a few waiters to put out the food, keep an eye on the buffet to refill food and clean up the dirty dishes. You’ll need a bartender who is TIPS certified (trained in responsible service, sale, and consumption of alcohol) because you do not want the liability if someone drinks too much and there are problems. A reputable caterer will have a TIPS certified bartender. Unlike at the Olive Garden, where the staffing fee is shared among many diners, you’re paying for it all by yourself. Say you have 5 waiters/bartenders total for a buffet meal. They’ll work for a minimum of 6 hours (1 hour set up, 1 hour breakdown plus a typical 4 hour party) and cost $15/hour each (and that’s a low figure for the DC area). That adds up to $450 in staffing fees.

Rental Items

Now what if your party is at the synagogue social hall or at a community center or some other place that doesn’t have an onsite caterer? You need to put that food on something and eat it with something and put your drink in something. Say you want to go with the most basic china, glassware and utensils. You don’t need anything particularly fancy, right? For plates you’re looking at a cost of $1 each and you’ll need 3-4 plates per person (appetizer, salad, dinner and dessert). For glasses, you’ll need a minimum of 4 glasses per person (water, wine and 2 other beverages is the standard) at $1 each. Then you’ll need utensils (a minimum of a salad fork, dinner fork, knife and dessert fork) at about $.50 each. Serving coffee? Coffee cups and plates, plus spoons will be another $3 or so). That’s another $13 per person and I haven’t included the prices for renting chafing dishes for the buffet or plates for passed or stationary hors d’oeuvres or table linens or napkins.

Food and Beverage Minimum

So you’re thinking to yourself, “Self, I’ll just have my event at a place with a onsite food service like a restaurant or hotel. I can save money that way!” Nope. At a restaurant or hotel you’ll run into food and beverage minimums. If you’re using space at a restaurant or hotel, it means someone else can’t and your party is their main source of money for the night. Reasonable right? However, that means that the venue needs to make a certain amount of revenue from your party to offset the income that they would make if you weren’t there (for a restaurant) or to keep a giant kitchen and building running (for a hotel). If your event is during prime time (think: Saturday night) that number can be pretty high.

In Summary

Let’s add up the lower end priced catering example we went through above.

Olive Garden meal ($4,975) + Tax ($500) + Gratuity ($1,000) + Labor ($450) + Rental Items ($130) = $7,055 for an estimated 100 people. Add in more people and your costs will go up even further.

Please understand that this is not a comprehensive estimate and does not include items that I’ve found my clients want such as open bar, several entree or dessert options, different food options for kids and more. This article is simply meant to serve as a realistic starting point for understanding catering costs and creating your budget.

Start Your Week With A Pop!


Start Your Week With A Pop! Mitzvah Links | Pop Color Events | Adding a Pop of Color to Bar & Bat Mitzvahs in DC, MD & VA
A few Mitzvah-related links to start your week with a pop!

Yes, it’s a lot of money for a Bat Mitzvah, but isn’t your child worth a 1 million dollars? Via Kveller. We’ll talk budgets here later this week!

Ethan’s stunning Bar Mitzvah party decor with images by the talented Rachael Spiegel.

Tips for a great Mitzvah toast via Mitzvah List.

Ever considered making your own tallit? Magical Mitzvah shows you how.

Are you a member of Mitzvah Maestro Facebook Group yet? If not, get on that!

Have a great week and Happy Sukkot!


Have a link you’d like featured in a future Start Your Week With A Pop? Contact Brynne!

Top 5 Reasons to Hire an Event Planner for Your Child’s Bar or Bat Mitzvah

Top 5 Reasons to Hire an Event Planner for Your Child's Bar or Bat Mitzvah | Pop Color Events | Adding a Pop of Color to Bar & Bat Mitzvahs in DC, MD & VA

Hiring an event planner for your child’s Bar or Bat Mitzvah party is totally worth it!

It’s likely been at least 13 years since you got married and that was probably the last large party that you’ve ever planned. I’m sure it’s no surprise, but a lot of things have changed in 13 years. For one thing, you aren’t a young, soon-to-be newlywed; you have an almost 13 year-old and lots of responsibilities. Yes, you could do it yourself, but why would you? A good planner is worth their weight in gold for the 5 reasons below (and so many more!).

1. Save you money

Yes, it’s counterintuitive to spend $1,500+ on a planner, but we can save you money in the long run. Unlike a Mitzvah family who is planning just one or two celebrations over the course of a few years, planners have one or two (or more!) celebrations each month. Because of this, we have have relationships with vendors who are more likely to offer us discounts for repeat business which are then passed on to you. Planners know the questions to ask to save $100 here and $400 there, which add up! Planners know when orders need to be placed and contracts need to be in place so you don’t have to pay late fees or rush charges. The list goes on (and on and on…).

2. Save you time

You are busy. You have a life and all of the day-to-day grind–work, shlepping the kid(s) to activities, Bar or Bat Mitzvah lessons, making sure that everyone is fed, clothed and relatively happy. Then add on hour and hours and HOURS of researching, contacting vendors, going back and forth on details, thinking of those little things (Who is bringing the Kiddush cup? Do we provide the challah or will the caterer?…) and all of a sudden you have no time for yourself. A planner will cut down the time every single step in the planning process will take you. A planner will keep you on track and make sure that tasks are being completed, nothing is overlooked and that you still have time to actually spend with your family (or, if you hire a full service planner, they’ll just do all of the work for you.)

3. Save your sanity

You have a nearly 13 year-old who probably has some opinions about what they want for their party. A planner can be the voice of reason about why it doesn’t make sense to rent a helicopter to land on the top of the venue for the grand entrance, so you don’t have to be the bad guy. You’ll never wake up in the middle of the night panicking that something was forgotten because your planner will remember.

4. Think of the things you never would

There are hundreds of details, large and small that go into a Bar or Bat Mitzvah and your planner knows every single one of them. You can rest assured that nothing will be overlooked.

5. Make sure you can relax and enjoy your party

The best part of having a planner is that the day and night of your event are totally taken care of. You get to spend time with friends and family who have traveled from near and far to celebrate with you. You get to kvell over your child who has worked so hard to get to this point. Relax, we’ve got you covered!

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