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  • Writer's pictureEvie West

Top Tips for Catering in a Marquee or DIY Venue: An interview with SPACE + THYME

Updated: Feb 17, 2023

Today’s blog post is all about SPACE + THYME – an amazing events company based in Brighton. SPACE + THYME was created by husband and wife duo, Chris and Penny, after they planned their own wedding and were shocked at how much suppliers were charging when the ‘w’ word was mentioned. So they decided to use their expertise in running successful Brighton pubs and kitchens to start up their own event catering business – whilst making sure that they offered their clients the same fair pricing they had been looking for themselves

Unfortunately, you can't taste how delicious their food is in this blog (you’ll have to trust me on that one!!), but we have the next best thing – top tips and advice from Robert, the Sales and Marketing Manager at SPACE + THYME. Rob has years of experience in the industry, and despite his job title, is still very hands on at weddings and events. It was at a wedding earlier on this summer where I had the opportunity to work alongside Rob and his great team!

Welcome drinks, reception drinks, prosecco, sparkling wine

5 quick facts about SPACE + THYME

1. SPACE + THYME are based in Brighton and cover the whole of Sussex and the South. They can also travel further afield if the client understands that there will be additional travel costs. They even catered a 40th birthday in Cornwall a few years ago as the client just loved their food so much!

2. They don’t just cater events such as weddings, festivals, corporate or celebrations; they also operate and run several pubs, bars and restaurants in Brighton. Be sure to check out The Black Lion pub, The Mesmerist bar, Post House Café or The Watershed bar and restaurant (at Brighton Marina Yacht Club) next time you're visiting the city!

3. They cater for a range of size of events; from private dinners for 6 guests through to tens of thousands of people at large sporting events and festivals. You may have seen SPACE + THYME at The Brighton Marathon or in the Spiegel Kitchen during the Brighton Fringe Festival.

4. The most popular catering style requested recently for weddings has been relaxed – buffets and sharing/banqueting style (where food is served to the table and guests share it amongst themselves). People aren’t choosing formal catering as much as they used to; post-lockdown couples are looking to have a relaxed, fun day and want the same for their guests. Choosing a relaxed style of catering over a more formal style is the perfect way to achieve this.

5. SPACE + THYME are preferred caterers for several well known venues including The Royal Pavilion, Fabrica, Montague Farm, Firle Place and The Spire. They even have well known clients such as a popular Brighton-based Youtuber and vlogger (they signed an NDA so can’t say any more!) as well as the Mayor of Brighton! How cool is that?!

event catering, outdoor events, live cooking, wedding caterers


1. What catering options do people have at a dry hire venue or a marquee?

Our clients are not limited by their choice of menu when dry hiring a venue. If the venue has kitchen facilities we can use them, we can create a pop-up kitchen if the venue has space, or if not, we can bring our large mobile catering unit (basically a kitchen on wheels). We can cater a wide range of food services from these set ups including canapés, multi-course set menus, buffets, banquets, grazing tables, BBQs or street food. We have catered in venues that have excellent kitchen facilities, through to venues or locations that have little or no infrastructure at all!

2. What logistics need to be considered when providing outside catering?

Many! These are just a few of the ones that we encounter regularly:

- if we are towing our large mobile catering unit in place, is the access wide enough? What are the road surfaces like etc? A perfect example of this is we catered a wedding reception recently where the venue was only accessible by a 2m wide footbridge where everything had to be carted over in barrows.

- are there any restrictions (any road closures or major events taking place) in/around the area that could affect access and timings…?

- what facilities are available onsite…? The more there is for us to use onsite the less we have to bring, so the cheaper this will be for the client.

- what do we need to bring to build a pop-up kitchen…?

- what are the timings of the event and what are the timings of the food service…? What time does the venue close and what time do suppliers have to be offsite?

- is there enough space to cook/create a pass for plating up…?

- what/where is the power source…?

- what/where is the water source…?

As mobile caterers taking our services to many new and different venues and locations every year, it is important to do a site visit well in advance to check all these things and avoid any surprises on the day when it may be too late to do anything about it.

Event catering, main meal, wedding breakfast

3. What's the number one thing that people need to remember when organising catering at a dry hire venue?

The cost of a plate of food being served at a dry hire venue will not be the same as you would expect to pay for a meal in a restaurant, for example. When we cater for any event at a dry hire venue, we are bringing an entire kitchen and team, as well as all the catering equipment and cooking ingredients to a venue of the client’s choice - all of which have cost implications. As well as the price of the menu, there are other costs to take into consideration to serving a meal at a dry hire venue including staffing costs, logistics and set up costs, equipment hire charges etc.

4. Any other tips for people looking to book catering for a dry hire venue?

The price of ingredients, staff wages, petrol, utilities etc have all increased dramatically over the past two years and look set to continue to increase over the next few years. Brexit, the COVID-19 pandemic and now the war in Ukraine are among some of the factors that are all having a major impact on prices. Some ingredients have become extremely expensive such as lamb and fish, even something as basic as cooking oil has become 4 times more expensive over the past few months. Clients should factor a healthy contingency into their budget, especially if their wedding is in a year or two’s time. There are also ongoing issues with suppliers and supply chains, so we always do our best to deliver what the client wants; but in some instances it may be necessary to have a plan B in place, just in case, and the clients should be prepared for any last minute changes that are out of the control of the caterers.

Outdoor catering, wedding catering, inclusive catering

Those are some great tips from Rob on things to consider when planning your catering at a dry hire venue or marquee – the logistics are crucial and additional budget is definitely helpful. I think a lot of people still think that a marquee wedding or a DIY venue will be cheaper – but there is so much else to consider, especially with the catering.

I just want to say a HUGE thank you to Rob for taking the time to answer my questions during such a busy wedding season. Do check out SPACE + THYME’s website if you’re looking for any event catering in the South and beyond, or pop in to one of their pubs or restaurants next time you’re in Brighton!

If you're looking for help with organising a wedding or celebration at a dry hire venue or in a marquee, get in touch via my website to see how I may be able to help you.

All images provided with permission from SPACE + THYME.

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