How to handle vendor meals? First and foremost, I always suggest that my clients provide a meal for the vendors. This is a question that comes up at almost all events. The vendors, for the most part, come earlier than the guests and stay later and for evening events that means they are there over the usual dinner hours. They need to be fed to best do what they do for you. How best to cover this issue?
Unfortunately there are no "industry standards" for this; it is a decision up to the individual client, event planner and/or catering manager. It is an expense that goes on the final bill. The other part of feeding the vendors relates to the time they have their meal.
Here are the options I usually suggest to my clients.
It's a good idea for either of these suggestions to find out if any of the vendors have dietary restrictions. You wouldn't want to have a meal prepared for them, the price go on the client's bill and then find out they couldn't eat it!
Order specific Vendor Meals: The client can ask about what there caterer provides in the way of a "vendor meal. This is usually a meal at a lower price point per person than the plated dinner/ buffet meal/ or stations meal provided for the guests. Caterers have standard meals that they provide or the client can design one that they prefer. Either way this will be less than the person cost of the rest of the menu and can be served at a time when it is most convenient in the the flow of the event.
Include the vendors in your guest food count.
This is sometimes done when the vendors or some of the vendors are particular friends of the client and they are attending the event as well as working it. This does require that the vendor eat at the same time as the other guests and therefore not need to attend to the task for which they were hired. Sometimes the photographer will fall into this category as people rarely want their photos taken while they are eating.
In many cases, I've had clients feed some vendors from the guest count and others with specific vendor meals.
Timing: In either case, it works best if the timing of the vendor's meal coordinates with the client's timeline. For example, if there are going to be speeches at a wedding or awards event, the musicians can take that 20 min or so to eat in another area. This would not be a time when the client wanted music playing. Just make sure if the speeches are being made on the musicians sound system that it is left on! Otherwise someone has to run and get the bandleader!
If providing a specific vendor meal, ask the vendors if they would prefer to take their meal "to go". Some do prefer this and again if known ahead of time can fully utilize the meal rather than have the vendor leave it and waste it. Their meal can be packaged up by the caterer.