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final count....really

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 
For the past 4 years I've catered a holiday party for a non-profit, the 3 previous ones have been in a private loft with an open kitchen.....2-3 stations plus a stationary fingerfood buffet (brisket 2-3" sandwiches, veg, salmon side, feta torte, dips couple more things) passed desserts. They did the liquor. The head count was not that important when there was no seatting....the arrangement we had was a set price pp that included staff....+a $1500 budget for rentals. In the past head count was difficult, last year my staff thought they were 30 over but hard to say.

This year the venue changed, as well as the format.....stationary/passed hodos with buffet dinner/dessert, coffee and tea service. The venue provides the beverages.
So again LOW BUDGET with staff included in the pp charge. I used my chafers, platters,coffee pots decorated with eggplant, parsley, pears and lemons.....all things that can be consumed later....lemon curd today. Final count came in at 150. I confirmed again 2 days prior to the event. Linens, plates, silverware were from a rental company.....so I ordered 150.

*menu: stationary hodos, baba ganoush, hummos, caponata, dolmas, feta torte, pita chips.....passed morel tarts, greek lamb quesadillas, asian chicken skewers.


Buffet: baby greens with hearts of palm/mandrian oranges/pecans/red onions
roasted veg: potatoes/asparagus/red peppers/parsnips/carrots/zucchini
basmati rice
rolls
salmon with dillweed/capers/lemons
brisket with makers mark onions (YUM)

cheesecake with raspberry sauce

Early on I asked if the band was to eat...."NO", I said well you might want to mention that to them.
20 minutes into the buffet I got an urgent request to see the coordinator.....gee we have more guests that showed....ok how many more...after hedging, and my saying "give me a number!", they said 10 more...so my staff started bussing and washing.....head count by my guys was 172, and that was after the band had gotten plates and left. So, at the end of the night I caught up with the head of the non-profit and said head count was 172 that included 22 additional placesettings coming from the kitchen. The contract states 7days prior to the event is $32, after that $39.50.....so I invoiced them 22 x $39.50....the questions came back about why I was charging them for additional rentals!!!! UNREAL. I just said there were additional staffing charges because of the additional guests. We were scrambling for 10-15 minutes.


It was an interesting evening, I learned to add 15-20% tableware for events and work that cost into the bid. So it's there is necessary. I always go heavy with food even for a budget event.....there's a 1/2 pan of brisket and onions that is in my fridge that didn't get warmed that night. Any of you experience more guests than the final count?

Wonder what next year's event will bring....
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #2 of 27
Brisket with Maker's Mark Onions?!?! Sounds fabulous.

Recipe? PLEASE?
post #3 of 27
Thread Starter 
very simple.....salt/pepper/thyme slow cook your brisket for 6 hours
on the stove cookdown your sliced yellow onions add salt, rosemary and toward the end a HEALTHY glug of Maker's Mark....
To serve chill then slice on a slicer, put the onions on top and reheat.
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #4 of 27
Thanks. I'll give it a try.
post #5 of 27
Used to happen to me all the time. Our general "rule of thumb" for off site catering was to take an extra 10%, on site, it was 5 percent over. This was hidden into the cost of the food. Contacts were told they would be charged for each and every person (though we didn't "upcharge", I do know of many that do). Beyond the 5-10% I couldn't guarantee that everyone got fed, or that every one would recieve what they ordered (for dinners with multiple entrees). Guests would get irate, especially if they had RSVP'ed early, but the catering manager would just send them along to see the host of the party. People can't expect us to prepare vasts amounts of overage, these are our profit margins. And as long as it states that in the contract, it's their tough luck. No reason you should take a loss for thier mistake.
post #6 of 27
Thread Starter 
For the past few years my waitstaff has said the number of guests at their events is higher than they reserved......at that time it didn't matter as much...but with a low budget event I've never wanted to hire more staff nor rentals than absolutely necessary. When they've been caught trying to feed more it's like they've played a shell game....it's ok to take $125 from guests and not paid the caterer to guarantee that everyone gets a plate. Aw well, it just reflects on me and my business.....of course you know we'll be the scapegoats.
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #7 of 27
shroomgirl,

Of course it'll be your fault!:D

I did a Mother's Day brunch this past year, on the invitations I gave the guests three ways to RSVP; by phone, e-mail or regular mail. I got 7 RSVPs, but, 50+ showed up. Ten of which weren't even invited, but, of course it was my fault that food for 50 wasn't ready in a timely fashion. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, I'd bought food for 35, figuring that people would show who didn't RSVP, but as you stated, I didn't have the staff and I couldn't work the dining room as I was in the kitchen working double time.
post #8 of 27
The one thing I've learned: NEVER rely on RSVP's!!! Ask for the number of invitiations sent and plan on that number. People now a days don't show the courtesy to respond. So to go by RSVP's only is the kiss of death.
Pam Gram
The Pit Stop BBQ
"Catering to Your Needs!"
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Pam Gram
The Pit Stop BBQ
"Catering to Your Needs!"
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post #9 of 27
Thread Starter 
When you cater a party and charge a per person rate you need a head count...most caterers have 1-2 week final count dates....the count may go up (at a surcharge) but may not go down after that point. That's the difference between catering and having a restaurant.
Big taboo for catering is running out of food.....though many restaurants have 86's.....
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #10 of 27
I was hired 3 weeks to to a spur of the moment wedding on New Year's Eve for 30. No problem- the menu was very simple as the wedding is on a lake and they wanted it to be very casual. The guests are skating and sledding during the reception.

Last week, the mother of the bride called to tell me the count had gone from 20 to 60. I had already told her $12/pp so the total cost doubled plus the tax and delivery charges. She just called me at home to tell me she only had enough money for the original 30 guests and that I should cut back on the food. We discussed how that would reflect poorly on me as the caterer and her as the host, but she said "too bad". She's very nice and I suspect the wedding is as much of a surprise to her as it was to me, so I'm going to do what she asks, but I really don't feel good about it. I've told her to return all the paper goods she's bought in favor of smaller ones. I'll use 4oz ladles for the soups and chili and will have to find a way to make the hors look like a lot more.

At least it's a drop off so I don't have to hang around and have a stroke when the food runs out.:eek:
post #11 of 27
At least you won't have to budget ice!
post #12 of 27
Well, at least there's that....:D
post #13 of 27
Thread Starter 
oh my....$360 for 60 guests....including you staying and serving.

My staff walks away from a holiday gig (New Years, Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving) with $200 + each.

I've found if you have a btm price and $12pp is low.....$6 is a sandwich and chips dropped off in a box. They'll come up with the difference. At the end of the day you're going in the hole. Rent, insurence, food, transportation, labor, AND PROFIT.

Good luck, I'd make it so you're not hanging out all night at least.
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #14 of 27
No, shroomgirl, I'm dropping off and getting the heck out of Dodge before the guests realize there may not be enough food for 60. Mom called again today and told me not to exceed $400, and I was very clear that she would be getting food that would serve around 30. I'm just going to make darn sure that the food is beautiful and tasty so those who appreciate such things will at least be impressed. I just hope they're in the front of the line!

Needless to say, I am NOT leaving a little stack of business cards!
post #15 of 27
At least not YOUR business cards. ;)
post #16 of 27

Flip Side

How about the non-profit that guarantees 140, then claims only 100 came and sends the check for that? This is complete with little old lady smuggling plates back to her Mercedes for ''later''.

Meanwhile the guests that were there, including the band, the invited politicians, the venue maintenance guys all came through for seconds.....some even before people had firsts, and ate like 140.

This was a BBQ for an upscale property owners' group. We have learned enough to actually number the (paper) plates, and have two stacks.....the crew subtly hands a separate numbered plate for seconds. This year I just handed the treasurer the last plate. Turn it over for a special message!

Jeez, who needs this ^%@#? Just pay the 140 and shut up......
post #17 of 27
Now THAT'S an idea!
post #18 of 27
Thread Starter 
So, my impression is that you're getting paid after the event.
Chanterelle Catering SOP
50% estimate books your party
final count 1-2 weeks prior
balance is due prior to event....any overages will be due within 5 working days.

I decided a while ago to not be angry about someone not paying what was agreed upon so the rules are set up (like many other's in town).
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #19 of 27

SOP's

Shroomgrl
Boy I would love to have the clientelle that follow those rules. We usually get 50-75% up front. I need a final garauntee 3 working days prior to the event. Sometimes this doesn't happen until the day before. Whatever, I can roll with the best of them unless it is on a Sunday (no deliveries). Balance is due hopefully prior but usually at the conclusion unless it is a drop off. Overages are expected to be paid upfront or within a week.
As far as Lentil is concerned about her wedding, I think she is playing it right. Usually people on small budgets know that catered food won't last especially if they have been told by the caterer, so I'll bet that she has a few bags of chips, pretzels or nachos that will help fill these people up. If not that would be a good suggestion to give her.
ciao,
David
Hard work never killed anybody but it sure has scared a lot of them.
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Hard work never killed anybody but it sure has scared a lot of them.
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post #20 of 27
DAvid, Good idea about the chips and nachos. Since it's so casual-soup and apps- I had planned to put out crackers (oyster, butter, and break up some tortilla chips for the chili), but a bag or two of chips would fill up the table as well as the guests. They asked for cornbread, but I am subbing mini muffins- easier to serve and I add in green chilis, blueberries, and whatever else is in the fridge. I'll spread these out in a few baskets too, to fill things up.

As much as this wedding isn't what I would like it to be, it's been fun trying to stretch things and make it look good for me as well as the host. Must be the New Englander in me after all. The mom of the bride and checkwriter stopped in the shop yesterday to pay the balance and gave me a tearful hug- she's grateful that she's not spending a mint and I'm certain she'll be a good reference for me.

My area of NH is almost rural. It has a main highway that runs right by the shop, and housing developments are popping up everywhere, but it's not NYC, Boston, or even Portsmouth, NH. I'm building a name for myself one small good party at a time and charging between $10 and $20/pp. I really wish I could charge $1000 to walk out the door, but at that rate, in this area, I'd never get out!
post #21 of 27
Thread Starter 
I totally understand. If your in a low-income area serve what sells.....
BBQ with a couple of sides for 10-15pp
The problem with below cost events is that the brides mother will tell everyone what a discount caterer you are, which in the long run may hurt rather than help.
Decide who your potential clients are and what the market will bare.
I don't have lengthy contracts but my rules make running the business end so much easier.
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #22 of 27
Just returned. Mom was very happy and a number of people came up to me to tell me how pretty the buffet looked and how they were enjoying the food. Always a plus. My deal was to drop and run, but took pity on Mom who was running around organizing. (her other kids seemed to enjoy socializing...) I ended up staying to keep the buffet full and neat, served the toast, and will go back to pick up my things. More than I contracted for, but she noticed and said she'll come in this week with more $$. It's not often that the host sees the extra work that goes into a function and will come up with the $$. We'll see how well her good intentions translate into cash.

Thanks all for your help and advice.
post #23 of 27
Thread Starter 
That's great lentil! Sometimes clients have no clue what industry standards are for working holidays nor what a tip should be.......have in mind that info and don't be shy about sharing. If it's your livelihood.
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #24 of 27
shroomgirl, would you mind sharingyour contract with me? I have one, but it's so detailed and cumbersome, I've only used it twice in the last 7 months, and then didnt' even hold myself to the terms.:o

I am very small- just myself and a few part timers when necessary. I have retail space and sell "take and bake" style meals, hot soup, some pastries/snacks, and am starting a South Beach Diet Club next week- making SB dinners and breakfasts on a preorder basis only. I press my 2 teenagers into service under duress (theirs mostly), have a wonderful pastry person, and use servers and an occasional cook from my past. My husband is my web person, and my best friend helps with marketing although her vision of my business is sometimes at odds with what mine is.

It's working very well so far, but I'd like to eventually move into a bigger space and hire someone to work with me full time. Sometimes I think I'd like a partner to share the risks, responsibilities, and the work, but I really like having the final word on everything.

Thanks.

www.portablepantrynh.com It's being revamped- doing away with the focus on personal chef in favor of the retail end of the business.

PS- Sorry for the complete hijacking of this thread....
post #25 of 27
Thread Starter 
Very simple.

Date,name, phone#, address of party
Estimated number of guests
menu....list it with cost pp
staff .....per staff 4 hour minimum $20-25
rentals....10% over rental company's amount (client is aware of it)

A non-refundable 50% estimate of your event books your date. Final count is due ***, after that time your guest count may increase at (increase the amount) but may not decrease. Estimate of 50% (Amount) please make your checks out to:
Bold Company name
with my address

The balance is due by ------- (month, day, year). If there are any additional costs they are due within fisve days of the event (give the date)

Thank you for your business, if you have any questions please call me.
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #26 of 27
That looks simple and straight forward enough. I've copied it and will give it a try.

Thanks for taking the time to post it!
post #27 of 27
Thread Starter 
I was married to an atty for 15 years. It just seems if you have really simple rules then there is NO Confusion......I've seen exstensive catering contracts it just seems that they are set up for all legal contingencies. I find working directly with a client and having a handshake then written agreement is the best way to work.... I'm not hunting down monies which used to knot my stomach and waste time.

If it's a large wedding I'll work with the couple on multiple payments but essentially a large deposit books it otherwise your potentially strung along while they make up their minds........

Good luck with the diet shtuff.
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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