How Do You Price When You Are Asked To Cater An Event

Business By live2create Updated 22 Jan 2009 , 4:53am by indydebi

live2create Posted 22 Jan 2009 , 2:41am
post #1 of 5

I am hoping someone will be able to help me, I have just started to get into some catering. I know some of you must also do this along with your cakes. I want to be fair, but still I really want to make this worth my time.
Do you have a formula you use to come up with your prices, I know some charge per person, and I have been told to add in my fixed cost such as electrical heating of my kitchen, this seems so compilcated.
I have a friend who has done some catering she told me she gives all rec to the customer and allows them to add on what they think is fare, I not so sure about this
Since I am small I do not buy wholesale, items are bought at my local store.
Please help me with this any ideas and suggestions would be greatly appreicated icon_smile.gif

4 replies
FlowerGirlMN Posted 22 Jan 2009 , 3:03am
post #2 of 5

Are you legal?

Size isn't really the point when it comes to buying wholesale, legality is. As long as you have your papers, you should be able to buy the supplies at any restaurant wholesaler.

indydebi Posted 22 Jan 2009 , 4:05am
post #3 of 5
Originally Posted by live2create

I have a friend who has done some catering she told me she gives all rec to the customer and allows them to add on what they think is fair....


Ok, obviously your friend doesnt' do this for a business, does she?! icon_eek.gif

This is going to be long, so bear with me. If I give advice on things you are already aware of, I will ask your forgiveness now, as I'm not sure what level you are at in the catering side, so I'm just throwing it all out there .....

First and foremost, as already mentioned .... are you legal? Liabilities and legal issues aside, many venues require (!) proof of health licensing and a minimum of liability insurance, such as one million dollars or more, before they even let you in the door.

Do you have the proper equipment, such as chafer pans, serving utensils, insulated food containers (to keep foods at a food safe temp to prevent food poisoning), a van for delivery, a crew available to help you? What kind of plates/forks are you planning on using .... disposable? real china? if real china, will you purchase or rent? is there a local rental place you can get these? Will they deliver or will you have to pick them up? (Do you know how heavy these are? icon_eek.gif )

Have you taken the Food Safety Class? Even tho' the bulk of the class is common sense, you will be amazed at how much you learn (and the little things you'll NEED to know).

The reason we charge per person for food is because that's our measuring stick. Paint is sold by the gallon (not by "2 rooms worth of paint, please"); concrete is sold by the cubic yard (not by "enough for a patio ... a medium size patio ... not real big, not real small ... you know, regular size"). If you booked a catering job and told them $500, the first thing they are going to ask is "how many people will that feed?"

Pricing IS complicated ... that's why we all hate it. icon_eek.gif Your pricing has to cover NOT JUST your food supplies, but your gas to pick up all of the supplies, your time to pick up all supplies, food prep time, packing the van, unloading the van at the venue, setting up the food, cleaning up, packing the van, unloading the van, table linen rental, what you pay your helpers, the chafer fuels, etc. It has to cover your rent, insurance, utilities, office support costs, advertising costs, cleaning supplies, equipment purchases/rentals, and more.

(Hot) food, unlike cakes, cannot be made a day or two ahead of time, so be aware that you'll likely put in a 10-15 hour day for a hot buffet catering, and that's after putting in about 2 full days of preliminary work. You are going to be dog-meat-tired before the guests even arrive at the reception...... and you've got at least 4-6 more hours in front of you before you can crash for the night. (And that's with a staff of 3 or 4 helping me!)

You need to be sure (!) to be compensated for all of that.

How do you price? Just like cakes .... add up your expenses, check the local market/competition, figure what kind of mark-up and margin (these are two different things) you want, and do the math.

I would recommend you take a clipboard with a pad of paper and start now doing price checks. Go into the local grocery, Sam's, GFS, Costco, whatever is near you and start making a list. You will need to know the package size, number of servings per package, cost of package, then break it down to price per serving.

Skinless Chicken ..... 10 lbs .... 40 servings .... $45.00 .... $1.125 per serving.

I keep all of this on a spreadsheet with formulas to automatically compute my margin and projected selling price.

I'll stop here ... obviously I could go on for hours and don't want to make you brain dead ...... but if you have any other questions, please feel free to ask. I'm more than happy to help.

janelwaters Posted 22 Jan 2009 , 4:25am
post #4 of 5

Indy! you are amazing!! holy cow!! I am in the process of looking for a kitchen to rent (I've been 'in the process' for about a year now....can't find anything) - anyway - I'm trying to decided if I just want to do cookies/cakes or if I want to get into small catering jobs.

How do you plan a menu? If someone were to say - I'm having a baby shower/tea for 20 women and I want to spend 12.50 a head including a small dessert (not a full cake) - what would you suggest, where would you even start???

I have people ask me all the time to do stuff like this for them and I usually have to say, sorry - I'm not legal - which sux! This was for a high profile person and luckily I was able to just say - I won't be in town (which is the truth)...hopefully I can get legal before she wants anything else, if she calls again.

I really appreciate all your help!!

indydebi Posted 22 Jan 2009 , 4:53am
post #5 of 5
Originally Posted by janelwaters

How do you plan a menu?

You would probably need to decide ahead of time what foods you are capable of cooking, what is available to you, and what price range they are in. With my pricing structure, there is a specific price range that my entrees need to fall in or I can't afford to sell them at the standard price.

Have a list of those food items that they can choose from. See my website for all of my menus, just to give you an idea of what I mean. Clients actually like that ... I picked up a corporate catering simply because they could very easily go thru my menus and pick out what they wanted. They didn't have to think about it or start from scratch.

I didn't reinvent the wheel. I checked caterer websites from all over the country to see what combo's and price ranges (when available) worked for them.

With these predetermined menus, if someone said, "What can I get for $12.50?", it's easy for me to suggest my Sandwich/Salad bar or my Appetizer Table. It's already priced out, food selections already made ... quick, simple and easy. thumbs_up.gif

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