Have you ever tried to place a catering order for a small group meeting—only to get a pop-up saying you haven’t reached the order minimum? Or maybe you’ve wondered what’s behind the “service fees” that push up the price of your catering order? These industry practices might be familiar, but they should also be transparent. That’s why we asked our very own Trey Lanthier, Customer Service Manager of Special Teams at ezCater, to explain why restaurants require catering order minimums and service fees. By understanding what these terms mean, you can get a handle on the cost details the next time you order catering for work.
What Is an Order Minimum?
Restaurants set order minimums for catering to ensure that your order is worth their time and effort. If an order isn’t large enough, it could eat into their razor-thin margins. Regardless of whether a restaurant works with a delivery or catering app to bring you food, it will most likely set its own order minimums, Trey says.
“Any restaurant would try to set the minimum as low as it possibly could to justify the amount of business it’s getting,” Trey explains. “Restaurants want to be able to bring in as many orders as they can. They just don’t want to be losing money on the deal.”
Ultimately, restaurants don’t want to set their order minimums too high because they want your business. At ezCater, we take the extra step of making sure that a restaurant’s order minimum is reasonable so that nothing gets in the way when you need catering for a meeting.
Trey adds that order minimums are different from a service fee or delivery fee. “A minimum is just saying, ‘Here’s the bar for which we’ll accept an order,’ but it’s not a charge to the customer,” he says.
What Is a Service Fee?
You’re already paying a delivery fee for your catering order. Do you really have to pay a service fee, too? The short answer is it depends.
Some food delivery apps charge a “service fee” to their customers, which goes back to the platform itself—not the restaurant that is preparing your catering. As you comparison shop, take note of which platforms charge service fees. Consider who cashes in—the restaurant or the platform? Is the platform providing setup and tear-down in exchange for a service fee?
Trey explains that catering service fees are relatively rare on ezCater. When they do crop up, he says, it’s at the discretion of the restaurant, which is trying to offset one of the following costs:
- labor for high-end catering services
- location-specific taxes for entertainment or food service
- catering equipment, including cans of Sterno and silver pans
“The most typical service fees are associated with a restaurant that needs to make sure that the people who are preparing the food, who are working in the restaurant itself, are being compensated fairly for their part in the operation,” explains Trey. “Sometimes it can cover a catering manager’s costs.”
While service fees aren’t industry standard, they are directly related to the amount of food you order. “Most often, service fees are on a percentage basis because a restaurant wants to ensure that the fees reflect the overall cost of the food they’re preparing,” says Trey. That percentage can be anywhere from 5–15 percent of an order total.
Why Minimums and Service Fees for Catering Are Different
You might have noticed that business catering orders tend to have higher minimums, compared to the meals delivered to your home. Why is that? Well, catering a beautiful Mexican buffet for a company lunch involves more work than simply making and delivering a single burrito to your apartment. In other words, there are far more costs associated with catering for a business, from food preparation to setup to buffet service. This adds up to higher order minimums, and, occasionally, higher service fees, according to Trey.
“In catering, you’re going to have higher minimums naturally just because larger quantities of food are being prepared,” Trey explains. “There’s more equipment that goes into that preparation and more kitchen space dedicated to a catering operation, so that drives up the minimums.”
Insider Tip: At ezCater, we want you to get the food your office craves with the least amount of hassle. If you’re experiencing difficulty with order minimums, our customer service team is always there to help you find a solution.
Whether you’re providing snacks for a hardworking team or serving a hot Italian buffet to your board, catering order minimums ensure that restaurants can afford to give you great customer service and delicious catering.
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