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I am a pro baker, not a caterer, but my friend wants me to cater her wedding!

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 
I have never catered, though I love throwing outrageously large parties with lots of food. My friend's daughter is getting married. It would be one thing if it were only 20 or 30 people and I got to choose the menu, but she has 200 and a large, bland menu! How do I figure out how much to make? It's an evening wedding and reception but she has the whole buffet happenin' cuz that's what her family does, she says! She wants pigs in blankets, cheese tray w/3 cheeses, sausage balls, 2 types of veggie tray w/2 dips, finger sandwiches (3 kinds), tortillas w/salsa, chicken tenders w/3 sauces, chips & dip, punch, wedding cookies and bite-size brownies. She also has a cake that serves over 250 and a groom's cake that will serve over 80 and is covered in chocolate covered strawberries. I thought I had this figured out easily, but once I started pricing stuff... LORDY! How do I know how much to get? HELP!!!!!!!!!!! I have 5 weeks til the wedding, but just a week until I go over the final details of the menu and cost with her, get the deposit, and sign the contract. HELP!!!
post #2 of 6
Give some thought to your kitchen and wedding site facilities. Where or how are you going to cook and prep? Cooking for a crowd isn't always the problem, it's the refrigeration for the ingredients and the prepared trays, foods etc. that becomes the issue. My guess is the chicken tenders will be hit more heavily than all of the finger sandwiches combined, and it will be noticed if you run out. You said an evening wedding, but didn't provide the time. Will the guests have rushed around getting ready and attending the ceremony through dinner time? Then they will be hungry.

And will you have the serving pieces to present the buffet attractively? Although the food is pretty casual, people have expectations for an attractive display of the menu items, especially at a wedding. The cost to obtain serving pieces can make a single project very unprofitable. But here is a hint, start prowling through the thrift stores for serving pieces, you will be surprised at what you find.

200 is a lot of people, we just did 250 for my daughters wedding. Not at our location, it was a lot of organization; and the prep since the event was off-site was a real chore. I don't off-site cater much, but was otherwise set up, with a commercial kitchen (still not enough refrigeration under the circumstance) and equipment.

Don't be so flattered that you were asked to do the event that you put blinders on, most important in this project, can you do it well and at a profit? If not.......
post #3 of 6
Thread Starter 
The reception is in a banquet hall, so I will have the kitchen available and the venue can comfortably cater & host up to 400, so I'm not worried about the kitchen at all... but I'm touring the place next week anyway! :) Most of the items are premade items... like the meatballs are premade I just need to warm them in the sauce; the chicken tenders are from Tyson. The only real work work I have to do is the finger sandwiches, sausage balls, and the cakes (I own a bakery, so the cakes aren't a problem!)

My problem really is... how do I figure how much to make of this stuff? I found some helpful charts from other inquirers, like 30 pounds of meatballs serves 100 people. I get that--I need 60 pounds of meatballs. At $11 for a 6# bag, I will need 10 bags totaling $110. That's 1500 meatballs! Do I really need 1500 meatballs if I'm also serving Boston Butts w/breads and sausage balls and chicken tenders and finger sandwiches? The chicken tender calculation I found was 4# for every 12 people...that's 17 bags at $12.62 or $218. Not including the sauces or the chafing dishes or the sterno, that's already $328 just in meatballs and chicken!

Another caterer told her she should calculate the cost per head like if you went to a restaurant and ordered an appetizer...it would cost about $7 or 8 per person. How on earth do I make that much food at that cost.... she's insane! Do I make 1500 meatballs or since I have 4 meats on the table, so I merely make one-fourth of each?

Thanks for the help! Any suggestions on pricing and quantities will be appreciated!!!!!!!!!!!!

And I am VERY flattered, but I do plan on making a profit on this! heehee!
post #4 of 6
There are some good rules of thumb to follow when you estimate quantity. Here are a few:

How old are the guests going to be? The older the group, the less they tend to eat. Are they single or couples? Singles tend to eat more than couples.

For finger foods (like the meatballs), plan on 6 to 8 pieces per guest, if they're going to be h'ors d'oeuvres - that's total pieces, not 6 - 8 pieces per item. If finger foods will be your staple, then plan on 10 - 12 pieces per guest.

For cheeses, plan on about 2 ounces per guest, fruits & veggies - 4 ounces per guest and bread sticks - 3 pieces. I've read that, for dips, you should plan on 1 ounce per guest but I usually estimate 2 ounces per guest and I rarely have many left overs.

Someone else will probably have better, more detailed information but I believe the most general rule of thumb is to plan on 1.5 pounds of food per guest and be prepared for surprises with an extra 10% supply.

Hope that helps some!
post #5 of 6
Your friend has 5 weeks to hire an experienced caterer. If this doesn't turn out well, you'll be the goat. Be honest and tell her you have no idea what quantities to make and what to charge her. How secure do you think she'd feel if she knew that you were turning to an internet forum to ask how much food to prepare?

My guess is that your "friend" thinks that by hiring you, she'll get off cheap. She may even suggest that she pay for all the supplies directly and have you bill her for your labor costs. Three weeks later, when you haven't been paid, she'll apologize and say she's short of money. If you intend on catering this wedding, be certain that you get paid in advance for everything. When she says, "Don't worry, we've been very busy. Just bill me after the wedding and I'll write you a check," Run away!!!

You write that the menu is "bland." I wouldn't use bland; perhaps, dreadful.
Is this the kind of menu you want associated with your first catering job, if you take it? Have you presented an alternative menu? Believe me, I'm 100% for providing what the client wants, but sometimes you have to tell Great Grandma that dying her hair bright red isn't a good idea.

Prefab pigs in a blanket, sausage balls, and Boston butt. Where are the salads and starches? Does this woman want presliced cheeses from Sam's Club?:lol:

If you're taking this job, work on the menu and get paid in advance. Make sure you have enough prep, serving, and cleaning help.

The most noble thing you might do for your friend is to gift the wedding cake and decline the catering job. You're a friend. Certainly you'd like to enjoy yourself at the wedding.

Incidently, if catering this wedding was your idea and you've never done it before, as an associate with another firm, you're doing your friend a disservice.
post #6 of 6

been there

One of my earliest catering jobs was for someone who wanted those types of foods. I wanted the job, so I had them go to BJ's and buy the number of boxes of premade stuff they wantedm then I took responsibility for the pastries and food i made. I chargd them my regular fee for what I made, plus an hourly rate the night of the event when I warmed their stuff. It worked ok...

HOWEVER: it was NOY a wedding which comes with high expectations NOR for 200 people. I agree with the others that you might want to rething the whole event.

Good luck whatever you decide!
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