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Pricing question

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
I'm submitting a proposal for a holiday party for 40 ppl, but I know I have some competion and want to come in under the other guy. Here's the menu for which I've tentatively come up with a pp price, but would like your opinions. I realize that there are many factors- city/rural, local prices etc, but still I'd like to get your ideas.

fruit and cheese and crackers
shrimp cocktail
prosciutto wrapped asparagus (I'm suggesting pros wrapped something else since asp will be pricy then)
stuffed mushrooms
finger sandwiches-1 kind (?!)

2 servers
flatware, china, wineglasses

I'm not happy with the menu, but this is what was chosen by the admin ***'t. If I get the job, I'll work on them to make a few changes.

Thanks in advance.
post #2 of 18
what cheeses?
do you have your own supplies/ glassware, plates, napkins etc for 40 guests?
Are you doing a package.....something I've done for last minute parties where a final count is too far gone, ie within a week of the package it as
up to 40 guests, that way you are not out on cooking labor....

Are the shrimp out or passed, size.....that's going to be your biggest cost....well and if you buy good cheese.

When in doubt ask what their budget is....
cooking with all your senses.....
cooking with all your senses.....
post #3 of 18
Thread Starter 
I knew as soon as I hit send that I'd left off some important info.

Timing- 4-7pm

Cheeses- brie, swiss, cheddar

No decorating.

Passed shrimp 21-25's approx $8/# I was thinking 8# ought to be enough.

I have wine glasses- no other bev glasses. I also have plates and flatware and we'll use paper napkins.

This is an investment company, so I don't think $$ are a problem, but the admn assistant is handling the booking and she's being pretty frugal.

I was hoping you'd be on to answer me. Thanks!
post #4 of 18
Thread Starter 


Oh yes, would you explain your "package" to me? Do you have a set menu? Price?
post #5 of 18
Without labour.... $10-13 with labour $13-15.

This weekend for my software company (as a favour), I am doing some quite elaborate appetizers for $12 per person, and about 7-8 appetizers for the event.. and I am still able to make decent profit.

post #6 of 18

same here

I agree with shroom, and I am usually less expensive than her (live in a lower cost of living area).
post #7 of 18
Thread Starter 
I"m in a lower income area, also. So tell me, what do you and shroom think I should charge? alongcame suggested a number. Is he on the mark? I was charging $18/hr for 2 servers for 3 hours.
post #8 of 18
3 dinner time, they will hit the shrimp hard.
I'd make sure that sandwich is substantial.

mid twenties, initially I put low-mid then remembered that third hour....that means a change out of food.
add staff, figure out glassware.....many times I use the same glass for everything.

staff for parties $15-25 per hour per staff.....pretty industry standard around here. Some add 18-20% service fee on top of staff wages, which is not a gratuity....which is another 15-20%....
I do not.

Got a doozy meeting today, the menu has been written prior to talking to me....Prime meat heavy....pick a fancy meat any meat and it's on this menu, along with an outragous amount of hot food, some fried. Definately not my menu....desserts sound Sam "ish" is that even a word? Will be an interesting meeting. When all is said and deposit is paid or not I'll post.
cooking with all your senses.....
cooking with all your senses.....
post #9 of 18


I don't have the flatware, etc so charge rental + % for that. I would be at about $15/person for the food. Staff - are you saying $18/hour EACH? That is ok.. I would be at $15-20/person for staff. 2 should be ok... just be sure you include set up & clean up time.
post #10 of 18
Thread Starter 
Shroom and pgr, Thanks for your help! I just sent off the proposal- $26pp including 2 servers, china and glassware, and their menu. I did include some ideas for changes to their menu since I thought it was a little wimpy for 3 hours around dinnertime. We'll see...

Shroom, How did your meeting go? What type of group is it that wants so much meat?
post #11 of 18
someone with access to a Sysco catalog.
their kidding.....altered it dramatically

Carving Station –
Carved Beef Tenderloin with Assorted Rolls, Horseradish and Béarnaise

Passed Items

Sautéed Miniature Crab Cakes

House Smoked Salmon with Pink Peppercorn Sauce

Large Shrimp sauté’ with Garlic Butter (Scampi style)

Station # 1 – Glazed Sesame Chicken Sates with Ginger Sauce

Cocktail New Potatoes with Cheddar, Sour Cream and Chives

Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnuts

Crusted Raspberry Brie with Crackers

Station # 2 –
Thai Style Spring Rolls with Soy Dipping Sauce

Cashew Chicken Lettuce Wraps Roesti

Assorted Cheese and Crackers

Station # 3
Chocolate covered Strawberries

Chocolate éclairs

Cream Puffs

Mini Cheese Cakes with Blueberries

Assorted Italian Cookies

Went with pork loin and beef carving sandwiches with all toppings
lots and lots of shrimp remoulade
crab cocktail

cheese table

dessert table

Asian station
assorted potstickers
something else.....

Basically cleaned up the menu, lost most of the hot messy stuff.....their kitchen is like a home oven, fridge,'s about a mile from my kitchen so it'll be ok to transport.....just 2 week notice for this "special event"......some athletic thingy....STL is full of teams....Rams, Cardinals, Blues, some soccer guys...never hit this group somehow, kinda interesting. A woman came up with the menu. Funny there were NO vegetables on it.....unless you count new potatoes and lettuce wraps.
cooking with all your senses.....
cooking with all your senses.....
post #12 of 18


Shroom.. the 1st stuff is what they thought thye wanted and the bottom is ehat you changed it to? I was really cnfused by the posting
post #13 of 18
first list is what they initially asked me to bid on....
second is what I talked them into, makes a whole lot more sense if you read through it.
No passed shrimp scampi (can you imagine?!!!)
No bernaise
No many multiple hot hodos
No weird groupings of food....I've got this compulsive need to be cohesive with food stations.....kinda "everything in it's place and a place for everything" to have that compulison throughout my kitchen/house, shtuff, I've got way too much shtuff and continue bringing in more shtuff....
cooking with all your senses.....
cooking with all your senses.....
post #14 of 18
Thread Starter 

How many staff would you use for a gig like that? I ask because I seem to end up taking on most of the cooking (it's a control thing...), I supervise the packing unless I have Brenda working with me as she is the Master Packer of All Time, I'm the one in the staging area, and I'm the last person out the door after we unload. I'd like to use more staff, but it's a $$ thing. Can't seem to bring myself to charge enough, I guess.

It's really about the control, I think. I had one woman who created the most beautiful platters of fruit, veggies, cheese, what have you, but she was so meticulous (read sloooooow) that I found myself running around picking up all the balls that were being dropped while she was "creating". My Master Packer is fast!!!!, but her stuff isn't half as pretty. She's all about the speed, which I truly appreciate as you may well know. I"m somewhere in the middle, but unless I learn to write lists for everyone and delegate better, I'm going to wear myself out.

Phyl, tell me about your staffing situation. You're going from catering to more p'cheffing, right?

Sorry to get so off topic....
post #15 of 18
4 + 2 bartenders.

2 manned stations, 1 kitchen guy, one floor guy.....6 hours each for a 2.5 hour gig.....just covering bases. Read "my" menu closely, it's designed so that the food coming does not have alot of last minute fussiness.....except for cooking at the Asian Station and carving at the meat station. Well desserts go out later in the night, and there is alittle last minute assembly involved....but it's fairly nominal.
I've got a super front of the house coordinator who decorates table scapes and can do some last minute site stuff quickly.
New college hire has some OK speed not fast by any means but not so slow to be annoying.....just wasted movements that diminish with years of experience...all she usually needs is one example and she'll replicate on site.

Several years ago I was contracted to cook a couple of hodos for a benefit with 2 other catering companies....2 of us were in the kitchen, my food far outshone the others (not brag, just fact). One of my buddies brought in fruit skewers, salmon/cream cheese/pitas on a platter cut into assembly. He was networking the crowd, offered to help take my food (shrimp creole and oysters benville) from the kitchen to the dining room buffet. UMMMMM HELLLOOOOO....when I realized everyone then thought it was his food and he was shmoozing the crowd, I woke up. Working the crowd is the owner's job, not being in the kitchen all night. Of course I oversee the food, my gosh I got into this because creating dishes makes my heart sing......but networking is what keeps parties coming through the door, and essentially the door open.
Really short learning curve.
As to breaking down, depends on where we are.....sometimes I cut staff loose after my car is packed up and just unpack in the morning. A couple of times I've sent a couple of staff back to the kitchen to unload and wash if we are close. My catering business is in a rough area of town.....well one that makes you aware of your surroundings. It's comfortable to be there baking at 6am alone but it's not unusual to be panhandled a few times a month in front of the building. And I'm always really aware of where my purse is.....more so than other scenerios.

So, take pictures/do diagrams of your slow worker's beautiful platters....replicating is easier than just designing.

With Stations I've started packing boxes for each table that has all that table's stuff in linen, signage, tongs, decor, that when we get to the site all someone has to do is look at the diagrams and replicate.

I do not always do schedule sheets for non complicated parties, I will for the party mentioned because food is coming out at different times.....cheese table throughout, other stations half hour into the event, dessert after 1.5 hours.....just to make sure my guys are all on the same page timewise.

Recently I've gotten a GREAT guy who does construction during the day, but is high/how far do you want kinda guy.....I mentioned something at the last event and he said, "from now on I'll check that".....just love the follow through, the work ethic, the quiet energy. GEM. This is what catering workers should aspire to, actually same goes for the new college girl who loves food and (except for salmon roses) only needs to be shown once. Others are OK, but not the combination that makes these two so great to work with.....
cooking with all your senses.....
cooking with all your senses.....
post #16 of 18


Shroom, I wodered abot that 1st menu... didn't make sense & didn't look like you. Now I understand! PASSED SCAMPI??? What a mess!!!

Lentil, I struggle with some of what you talk about. I am learning I think... My business is part time and small. I started out as partners with a mentor who had been catering/cheffing/teaching/etc for years. She is faster than lightning, creates like an incredible artist and her food is always melt in your mouth wonderful. Everything is aways beautiful! She moved away, but when i get really stuck with a huge job, she comes in to save me. When she is around my control issues pretty much disappear because I know she will take care if the BOH.

She taught me what Shroom says... I need to be out front, shmoozing, watching, coordinating etc. I do all the staging. I write lists, but find the staff don't always pay attention to them & i need to keep showing them the lists, even when I have names next to tasks. I now go in early to do the staging and set-up so I can mostly be in the kitchen during prep. I show them what I want plattered how, then I garnish last minute. Most of my time during the prep is coordinating and directing. The pre prep is almost all me unless it is a really big event, then I get help for a day before the event.

My hubby now works with me at the event, so I have all staff pack up, then he and I do the unpacking.

I have staff I like working with, but they are NOT really catering people and it is hard to find the speed, ability, direction following all in one. Also, because I am not steady enough, I can't depend on people to be available. I end up with new people frequently and that leads to some of the control issues I have.

I would add at least 1 runner to what Shroom has for that event - partly because of speed, and partly because of experience level of staff, I have found the need for 1 or 2 extra. I have just started doing that because I have been short staffed a few times recently.
post #17 of 18
If we were using rentals then I would absoluely have another on the floor.....

It's only 70 men.....apparently into hard liquor, frankly I cannot remember the last time I've had a boozing crowd.

The only thing the carver needs to worry about is slicing thin and making sure the meat is warm and the right rare-medium.

the Asian Station involves heating potstickers, frying the bottoms, making sure sates come out warm on a regular basis....other than that everything is cold/room temp.

cheese table occasionally monitored

dessert assembly is squirt and torch......real no-brainer.

waitstaff makes sure glasses and trash are eliminated, running the 15 ft from the kitchen to the event rooms.....well actually pushing through the crowd.

Kitchen staff makes sure the desserts are finished, Asian and Carving have's already prepped, just needs to be plattered.

I pay staff guaranteed 4 hour premium rates.....don't usually have a problem.
cooking with all your senses.....
cooking with all your senses.....
post #18 of 18

Trusting your Employees

Hi all, sorry to join the discussion so late. From reading what has been posted thus far, I always knew that we could charge more here in NYC than in many other places, I am just taken aback by how much more. For a cocktail party, our hors d'oeuvres start at $35 per person. Service is $25/hr/server and I charge a 5hr minimum for servers, my fee which is $50/hr. and other cooks @ $25/hr. That is really important, because more likely than not, you are tearing a server away from a restaurant gig which commands significant tips on a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday night. I believe that you are better off assigning greater value to your product and service by charging a little more than your competition. As much as I always need business, as we all do, I never want to get the business because I am the least expensive around. Also, It is really super important that you have employees that you truly trust to do as you would do. I know way too many Chefs who were unable to delegate responsibility because they did not have faith in there employees' abilities. It is a sure way to burn yourself out. Just a few thoughts.
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