Many of my awesome caterer friends have felt a little frustrated lately. You see, a lot of couples are asking them if they can provide catering for their wedding at $50 per person. They said they just can’t do it. So, I decided to go on a mission to find a Chicago caterer that could provide food for your wedding at $50 per person or less.

Annnnd … I found one! It’s a place that I hold very near and dear to my heart. Are you ready to hear who it is?

(drumroll, please …)

It’s Portillo’s!


Of course, there are some hoops you’ll have to jump through to make this work, but let’s see if we can do it:

Step 1: Check With Your Venue

If you’ve already booked a venue, your hands might be tied here. Most venues have either an exclusive caterer or a preapproved list of a few caterers you have to choose from when you book your wedding there. You’ll need to get the green light from them first.

Step Two: Plan Your Menu

If you get the A-OK from your venue, awesome! Now you’ll need to plan your menu. Below is a sample menu that I put together and priced out for 200 people. Here’s what I would suggest:


Veggie Tray (serves 200)………………….. $399.99

Cheese & Sausage Tray (serves 150)…. $399.99

Fruit Tray (serves 200)………………………. $459.90


Caesar Salad (serves 200)…………………….. $359.90


Hot Dogs, Hamburgers, Cheeseburgers

Italian Beef Sausage (Total of 250 Servings) $5,474.00

Mostaccioli (serves 200) …………………………  $221.94


Chocolate Cake (serves 200)…………………………… $389.80


Disposable Plates, Knives & Forks for 200…………….. $800

Bottled Water for 200 (3 bottles per guest)………………. $225

Total = $8730.52

Per Person = $43.65

Step Three: Figure Out Who Is Going To Pick Up All This Food

Portillo’s doesn’t deliver, but there are quite a few locations. Hopefully there is one near your venue to help make this easier on whoever will be doing the pickup on your wedding day.

Step Four: Be OK With Having a Dry Wedding

Yeah, this per-person cost doesn’t include booze. It includes three water bottles per guest.

Step Five: Familiarize Yourself With All the Drawbacks and Make Sure You’re OK With Them


  • A bunch of delicious food.


  • French Fries
  • Delivery of food (you’ll need to recruit a few family members/friends to do pickup)
  • Staff to set up the food and your guest tables (this includes setting up tables/chairs according to the floor plan, figuring out the location of food stations/buffet/dessert stations and setting them up, etc.)
  • Staff to dismiss tables (if all 200 people rush the buffet at once, you’ll get a pretty hefty traffic jam), serve, clear tables, and replace empty food trays with fresh food
  • Tables for the food to be set up on
  • Table linens and napkins
  • Glassware (including water goblets and any bar glasses such as highball or wine glasses)
  • Ice and coolers
  • Garbage cans
  • Garbage bags
  • Alcoholic beverages or anything other than bottled water
  • Bartenders (even if you bring in your own alcohol, you’ll need a licensed bartender to serve it; traditional caterers usually provide bar staff, mixers, and garnishes)
  • Serving utensils for any appetizers, dinner or dessert
  • Something to keep the food warm, such as chafing dishes and sternos (those little fire things that go under the chafing dishes). Nobody wants a cold cheeseburger, amIright?
  • Salt and pepper shakers
  • End-of-the-event clean-up. (Oh yeah, those rooms don’t clean themselves!) You’ll need to have friends/family on site to throw away all of the garbage (check with your venue, because you may have to take the garbage with you if you can’t throw away food in their dumpsters), wipe down all the tables, put them away (if the venue requires it), and do a dry mop (possibly a wet mop) of the venue floor and kitchen.

Look, this joint is one of my favorite places to eat, so this article is by no means meant to poke fun at the ol’ P-to-the-ortillo’s. What it is meant to do, though, is give you a little insight into what you’re asking of Chicago caterers, who focus on large-scale weddings and events, when you ask them to cater your event for $50 per person. Perhaps you can see how difficult this is for them when it isn’t something even a fast food restaurant can properly do. And, for your wedding, do you really want to ask your dad to go pick up Portillo’s for 200 people and then ask your guests to serve themselves?

Just some food (wink, wink) for thought!

If you liked this article, may I suggest the following:

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