Catering

It is important to consider offering some form of catering for your guests at the event. Below is a list of contacts, resources and information to keep in mind.

Internal caterers

SFU has several internal catering partners. If you are holding your event on campus, contact MECS to coordinate your event catering. SFU works with the following internal catering partners: 

  • The Lazy Gourmet
    Segal Building, Harbour Centre, Goldcorp Centre, Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue
  • Dining Services (Chartwells Canada)
    SFU's Burnaby Campus
  • Blank Canvas Catering (The Study Public House)
    SFU's Burnaby Campus 
     

More information about SFU catering partners, including service and menu selection, is available on the MECS website

External caterers

Depending on the venue, you may be required to hire an external caterer. 

First Nations Caterers:

Caterers with a relationship with SFU:

If you are planning to book an external caterer you haven't worked with before, ask your network for referrals and check references.

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Catering expenses

Request a quote from the caterer based on your catering needs and the number of expected attendees. The caterer should be able to advise on food quantities needed based on expected attendance. Make sure you have a firm understanding of what is included and not included in the catering cost (e.g. linens, service staff, dinnerware, etc.). 

  • Catering minimums
    Most venues require a minimum headcount and charge this rate, even if your total attendance numbers fall short. Be conservative with your estimate. It is easier to add guests than reduce.
  • Labour fees
    A minimum charge applied to set up your event. Often negotiable and waived if your event meets minimum fees.
  • Chef fee
    Charged if your event uses a carving station and may also be charged if you are bringing in an external caterer.
  • Staffing fee
    Charged if your event requires serving staff. Usually charged on an hourly basis for a minimum of 4 hours.
  • Bartender fee
    Charged if your event requires bartender services. Often negotiable and waived if event meets minimum food and beverage fees.
  • Room rental fee
    Often negotiable and waived if the event meets minimum fees.
  • Service charge and sales tax
    Anticipate a 15 to 18 per cent service fee, possibly more if your event is held at a high-end hotel, plus applicable taxes (seven per cent PST and five per cent GST).

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Staffing levels

Confirm the number of food and beverage staff onsite at the event for onsite set-up and take-down, and in particular ensure that there is enough service staff on hand to deliver quality catering service, without delays or disruptions.

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Tasting

For large 150+ guest sit-down three-course dinners it is recommended to schedule a tasting with the caterer prior to the event, especially if you have never used the caterer before. 

A tasting will help you determine your menu and assess the food quality, quantity and presentation. 

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Sustainable practices

Sustainability is one of SFU's institutional priorities, so it is important to enquire with the caterer whether they use sustainable catering practices, e.g. local, seasonal, sustainable, Ocean Wise, quality ingredients, sustainable tableware, composting food scraps, etc. For best practices, choose a caterer commited to sustainability. More information on Sustainability can be viewed on the Event Strategy page. 

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Catering format options and menus

When choosing a menu, consider your event theme and the season. It is also good to keep in mind your guests' preferences, as well as any cultural and dietary considerations.


Light refreshments

Usually offered at announcements and short events from 9 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. – 4 p.m.

Menu: 

  • Coffee, tea, pitchers of juice and water.
  • Fresh fruit, mini pastries and squares. Fruit will ensure that there is a gluten-free and vegan option. If fruit is too expensive, ask for gluten free baked goods.


Cocktail receptions

Can follow a late announcement or program, or act as standalone events that facilitate networking; generally from 5 p.m. – 8 p.m.

In consideration of budget and university liability, a cash bar or one to two complimentary alcoholic drink tickets per guest is recommended. As well, consider just offering one white wine option, one red wine option and one beer option. Ensure that non-alcoholic options and water are accessible to guests. 

Menu:  

  • A selection of platters set on tables and passed hors d’oeuvres is recommended. If budget is an issue, platters will be less expensive as staff are not required to pass food.
  • Ensure that there is a mix of food, with gluten free, vegetarian and vegan options; at least one-third of the order should be vegetarian. 
  • Plan for six to eight hors d’oeuvres per person or more if the reception takes place over a mealtime or if the event is longer than two hours in length. If budget is limited, offer no more than four different types of passed hors d’oeuvres. 
  • Food should be bite-sized and easy to eat standing up.


Breakfast, lunch or dinner

Can be buffets, grazing stations, plated sit-down meals or a combination of a sit-down meal with a dessert buffet. To determine what will work best for you, consider your audience, budget, programming and length of the event. 

Menu: 

  • Buffets: Ensure that there are gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian and vegan options, including a vegetarian entrée.
  • Plated sit-down dinners: It is recommended that you select two menus for all guests, one regular and one vegetarian. 

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Dietary restrictions

Dietary restrictions should be taken very seriously, especially if your guests indicate a life-threatening allergy. Most caterers can accommodate dietary requests as long as they have advance warning. Sharing any restrictions three to five business days in advance of your event with an updated list one day before the event is a good timeline to follow. 

Tips:

  • Be as accommodating as possible (within reason)
  • Collect dietary restriction information during the guest registration process 
  • Ensure catering staff are knowledgeable on the ingredients of the food being served
  • Request that buffet items are labelled with ingredients
  • Determine a process with the caterer to ensure guests receive their special meal (e.g. should they speak to catering staff? Will they be given a special dietary card at registration?, etc.)
  • Common dietary restrictions include:
    • Allergens - dairy, nuts, shellfish, wheat
    • Preferences - vegan, vegetarian, kosher, halal

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Alcoholic beverages

There are several factors to consider when deciding whether to serve alcohol at your event:

  • Time of day (e.g. most morning events do not include alcohol service)
  • Preference of honoured guest(s)
  • Cultural and religious considerations
  • Budget restraints
  • Venue permits

If you do decide to serve alcohol at your event, you will need to ensure the venue is licensed to serve alcohol. If the space you are using is not licensed for alcohol consumption, you will need to apply for a Special Event Permit at a BC Liquor Store. The person who obtains this license must have “Serving It Right” certification. 

In order to ensure safe alcohol consumption at your event for attendees, volunteers and staff, consider the following risk management guidelines:

  • Place prominent signage at the service areas indicating there is no service to anyone under age and/or to anyone who is intoxicated
  • Offer non-alcoholic alternatives
  • Restrict consumption by offering each guest one or two drink tickets
  • Serve food 
  • Schedule a time when the bar will close
  • Post 'safe ride home' signage at the bar and registration table with local taxi numbers
  • Have event staff on hand to assist guests with calling a taxi
  • Train event staff on safe alcohol consumption at events

To help you determine how many drinks to order for your event, you can use online resources like this drink calculator.

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