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Help! Upscale Open House for 70

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 
My first catering in my new business is an open house/house warming for 70 guests. The only suggestion was mini quiche. I cannot use the kitchen for heating, as she will be showing it off. Client wants one person to serve wine, etc. I'm trying to put together a proposal but to be honest, my expertise is in cakes and I don't know a) how much food per person b) how much to charge and c) how to keep the food warm in transit if I can't reheat there. I have chafing dishes but that seems "institutional" and not elegant. She also wants to use my wine glasses and I am to provide clear plastic dishes. Any help would be greatly appreciated as I start this new venture! Thanks ahead!

post #2 of 5

Open house

Hi Deb! Lots of questions need to be answered before any help can be given.
What time is the open house called for and how long will it last?
What type of food will you be doing? Butlered & stationary hors d'oeuvres?
Who will wash your glasses? How many will you be bringing?

I can tell you right now that if your client wants someone to pour the wine, you will also need someone to take care of the food and someone to wash those glasses or you will be running around like a crazy person and not providing good service.

For an open house, it is better to provide cold foods. Open houses usually last from 4-6 hours and holding hot food that long is too much of a challenge if they won't let you use their kitchen. One thing you can do if you have the equipment is to find a staging area (garage?) away from the guests to prep and/or heat your food. That means one person to do the food and another to butler it. If you are preparing hot food and transporting to the site and holding it, get yourself some Cambros. They lose about 1 degree per hour. Also get yourself some coolers to keep your cold food at temperature.

There are lots of elegant ways to present hot foods besides chaffers. I sometimes use a heat lamp (very fancy one) or small sterno and marble slab on glass risers for example. There are also lots of elegant chaffers out there. If you are doing a buffet table, you can dress your table elegantly with risers and drapes, ferns, flowers, etc. to give a wow look.

As far as pricing, you need to know what your costs are and once you do, how much you want to make (this is your profit). We bill staff at $20 per hour but that is just in my area. I don't know what your area will bear. You can upcharge on staff (for example, pay them $15.00 per hour and keep $5.00 for yourself) and anything else you provide not food related. I hope you are charging a rental charge for your glasses. If not, you should. Have to pay for wear and tear and breakage.

Hope this gives you a start. And welcome to the wonderful world of catering! Gina
post #3 of 5
Thread Starter 

Wow - so grateful for your reply Gina

Hi Gina

Would you expand on the "Cambro" reference? Are these individual pans with lids or an entire system? An online search brings up Cambro as a brand with many items to choose from. The idea of only dropping 1 degree per hour sounds like something I need to invest in.

I am thinking along the following lines for choices -

Hot - Raspberry Lime jerk chicken, mini quiches, hot crab and artichoke dip
with bread, stuffed mushrooms

Cold - Smoked salmon tray (with cucumber slices, dill cream cheese, capers,
chopped red pepper), roasted vegetable tray, raw vegetable crudites
with pesto and habenero dip, fruit display, tuxedo coated
strawberries and truffles.

I will give her 5 choices - 4 appetizers and dessert tray or 5 appetizers. I would also do some "veggie art" type display - flowers, etc. Then charge her for the rentals and server.

I'm going to charge $12 per person plus server and rental and tax. That's on the advice of the former owner.

How's this sound Gina?
Again, thanks so much for the help. Deb
post #4 of 5
Here is a link to the style of cambro containers that I use with great success. They will keep foods at temp whether it be hot or cold for at least 4 hours.
In situations where chafers are not practical I have had good results and responses by using pre-warmed satillo pavers and other types of tiles as my serving platters. I stack them on top of each other in various heights and then twist them in a spiral pattern. They won't keep things hot, but they help keep food from going cold too fast and I put out small amounts and replenish often.
Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
post #5 of 5

Open House

Hi Deb! Menu sounds nice. As far as pricing, I don't know your food costs and can't comment. Sounds low for my area though. How much would you be providing of each item and what is cost of raw materials? How much of that $12.00 is your profit? Your profit margin for catering should be around 50% or more. That means if you are charging your clients $12 per guest x 70 guests, your total is $840.00. AT LEAST $420.00 should be your profit. Whatever you do, DON'T RUN OUT OF FOOD!!!!!! Better to have too much and charge for it then to run out and ruin your reputation and embarrass yourself and your client.

As far as Cambos are concerned, I just use that as a generic name for holding boxes. I use Rubbermaid Pro Serve. They are way cheaper, lighter and do the same job. I get them through my distributer but if you go to the Rubbermaid website (do a google) I believe they will tell you the distributers in your area. Can take up to 2 weeks to get these. If you have a restaurant store near you, they usually carry some brand of these-Carlisle, Cambro, Rubbermaid, etc. and you can do cash and carry.

Hope this helps. Gina
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