So what does “plus-plus” mean? Plus-plus refers to service charges and/or gratuity and taxes. These fees are added on top of the base price for, say, the per person cost of the food that you are planning to serve to your guests. Menus for catering typically list the base price with the plus-plus added on. It usually looks like this: $85++.
Now that wedding season is upon us, we want discuss an important topic that we feel many of our couples are unaware of, but it is something that can definitely inflate your budget. Today, we are talking about the infamous “plus-plus” charges. We know this can be confusing to someone that is not versed in the ways of catering and party-planning and if you forget about them as you are planning your event’s food budget, they can quickly break the budget.
Many couples are amazed at how complicated that little “++” could be. It seems so easy to just plug that $85/person into your budget and know how much your banquet would cost – but you would end up with the wrong number. This is one place where couples (and those who do not usually handle catering) often get into trouble.
Service charges vary by specific company, though the different hotels, restaurants and catering companies within a city or geographical area typically have similar rates. (22% is a common rate in Key West.) Remember that service charges are taxable. Taxes are set by cities and states and are one of the few items that hotels really cannot negotiate away – after all, they still have to pay those taxes to the city or state whether they collect them from you or not (unless you are lucky enough to be tax exempt).
So, let’s look at our example banquet at $85 per person (base price) . If you are feeding 100 people and have a budget of $9,000, it looks like you are OK. However, remember that the rate is actually $85++, so you have to take service charges and tax into account to know if you are really under budget. If we assume a 22% service charge and 7.5% in state and local taxes, then the total for your dinner is not $8,500 but would be, instead, $11,447.50 – a difference of almost $3,000! That represents a huge amount to a couple on a tight budget and even large weddings with much larger food budgets can get into trouble if the couple forgets to include tax and service charges in their budgeting.
Remember, if you are unsure of a specific charge when looking at a Banquet Event Order, or BEO as they are commonly referred, be sure to ask your Wedding Planner or Sales Manager at your venue or catering company. They can help you read through the Order and answer any questions you may have about charges, fees, etc. It’s better to ask questions and be informed than to be surprised with additional charges you weren’t planning for.
Keeping an eye on your food budget can be tricky with any wedding but, if you remember to budget for the plus-plus, then at least you won’t find yourself tripped up by these charges and you will be able to relax and enjoy your big day!