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Catering amounts

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
Hello All! I am new to this site and am excited about getting some help in regards to catering. I am catering a party of 200 on a lake outside of Anchorage Alaska. The menu is Salmon, Flank steak, some sort of veggie and starch and various other items. My main question is how much fish I should order. I have (rather the bride has) the opportunity to purchase Yukon King Salmon for 4$/lb. She wanted a ball park estimate for how much she needs to request. I was thinking around 3-4 ounces a head, due to the fact that there is flank steak available. That would put the amount around 37-40 lbs. That doesn't sound like enough to me. Any input? Also, having never catered anything on my own, I am not sure what to ask for for money. Any insight would be helpful. I will only have 4 people including myself and much of the items I will need will be provided by the bride and groom. Again, any thoughts would be very useful. Thank you so much.

post #2 of 12
Cheech welcome to the site, congrats on your first solo catering event.

When you say your not sure what to ask for money.
What does that mean? For food, for service. Could you be more clear?

My opinion is and this is just my opinion.

It will be hard to mark up the food when the clients are picking it up for you! Food usualy is 3 times the price, meaning if you buy something for $4.00 dollars you sell it for $12.00 or more sometimes, depending on how labor intence it is.

How much salmon will you need depends on how much salmon you have agreed upon with client. I would be real clear in this department. Does she want 4oz, 5oz, or 6oz portions for guest. Is this plated, buffet, or family style. Which all the answers will vary depending on how your going to serve the food.

As far as for your service. It all depends what you feel you and your team is worth and what the event details are.

As far as staffing, depending again how your serving this meal.
5 against 200, which team do you think will win. With this line up,I hope for your sake this isn't plated.

Try to be more clear in your questions. There are a lot of people from all over the world on this site that have fantastic opinions and are willing to help. Once again congrats in getting this event. Don't let the clients push you around. Remember what people tell you are only opinions of peoples past experiences, thats all....
When I stop loving what I do, I will do something else: Clint Eastwood http://NewDreamCatering.comCharleston, SC
When I stop loving what I do, I will do something else: Clint Eastwood http://NewDreamCatering.comCharleston, SC
post #3 of 12
Thread Starter 

catering amounts

Thanks for your reply Redsox. I am in Alaska so this isn't the most formal of events. There will be 200 people at the most and it will be buffet style. Basically, I am trying to come up with a number to charge the client for just my teams services. She (the bride) is going to pay for the food when the time comes, so I don't have to worry about adding those charges to my service charge. The bride has let me know that many family members will be helping in setting up, clearing and breaking down. There will be three cooks, one of which will be clearing once food has gone out. Also, there will be either 2 or three more people helping clear tables. Guests will be on their own for their own beverages. Basically I have decided that each of my team will be paid between 400-500 dollars for 10-15 hrs of work, 8 hrs of drive time and gas. I guess that I am looking for feedback on whether this is too much or this is typically a norm for a informal kind of wedding. When all is said and done, I am asking for around $3500-$4000 to pay for five people, including my services. Is that an absurd number? It just sound like alot.
post #4 of 12
OK! Thats a lot more clear.

So $4,000.00 divided between 5 people will equal $800.00 per. person for a day.

Now 15 hours work plus 8 hours driving equals 23 hrs.

23 hours divided into $800.00 equals $34.78 per hour which includes gas for a eight hour trip, assuming its 4 hrs each way ( I hope ) and your car pooling all in 1 vehicle ( I hope ). For the sake of gas prices.( here its $4.15 a gallon)

My opinion is, and very important to remember its only my opinion and thoughts.

$34.78 for travel time, gas, and work I think $800.00 for a days work is a little high, but not my call, don't let me lead you the wrong way. remember its what you think your team is worth. Its only salmon, flank steak, potato, veg., and various other items buffet style. Easily can be prepped by one strong person in 3 hours tops, with the famous 20 minute every hour smoke breaks, :lol: ( joke from another thread)

I could be way off base by saying this, considering I don't know these people. Those so called family members that are going to be setting up and breaking down. Around here it sounds good, but would never happen in real life, just in never never land. BEWARE!

Here is how I would look at this.
What do I want out of this job, what does it mean to me..
I would think being my first job in all.
Am I going to get another job from this event, if so I would charge less, for the futures sake..
If this is a one time deal charge, charge, and charge $$$$$$$$$.
Am I taking it being first job just for experience sake, if so thats a good idea.
Just thinking out loud here.
I'm also thinking can they afford it. It seems like their going through great lengths to cut cost by not hiring a catering company and picking up there own food having family set up..
Think do I like these people are they friends of mine, whats the relationship between us. And how important is the relationship to me..
The more I think about it, mind you I'm a couple of thousand miles away, I would charge less if their friends and more if not.

As you can see I had way to many coffees tonight? I'm sure someone else will give their opninios to clarify the mess I just wrote you.. I should of waited till morning to answer this one. Let me know what your thinking.
When I stop loving what I do, I will do something else: Clint Eastwood http://NewDreamCatering.comCharleston, SC
When I stop loving what I do, I will do something else: Clint Eastwood http://NewDreamCatering.comCharleston, SC
post #5 of 12
Its funny after I just that last reply, I said to myself if it was me the price is the price take it or leave it. But I'm in a good place to do that.
When I stop loving what I do, I will do something else: Clint Eastwood http://NewDreamCatering.comCharleston, SC
When I stop loving what I do, I will do something else: Clint Eastwood http://NewDreamCatering.comCharleston, SC
post #6 of 12
How much salmon?

A. Salmon will not be the only protein in the mains;
B. The guests will be notoriously big appetite Alaskans;
C. The service is buffet, which means pans must be kept full until the end, and people feel free to take seconds and even thirds; and
D. 4 oz per person is a typical but not generous allowance for dressed weight fish, plated

Then, 4 oz per person, dressed weight seems reasonable. That's 50 pounds of fully dressed raw fish.

How will you prepare the salmon?

If you're grilling the salmon and the flank steak, and serving it fresh from the grill... Wait a minute. It's Alaska. You are, aren't you?

You need more people, pal.

Don't argue, listen. You've never done this. You asked for advice and so far everyone who's answered, three people who have done it, are saying the same thing. Coincidence? I think not. Your crew is too small unless it's very experienced. Given that it's your first time, it's a safe bet that the experience level is very low. Get more people. Make less money if you have to, but make the event successful

Have you ever seen 200 people approach a buffet line with a grill at the end? I have. It's not a pretty picture. You need two lines with a grill at each end, and two people on each grill alone. Of course after the first half hour things slow down considerably and you'll be hard pressed to keep people looking busy. But it's that first half hour that counts. Everything else is something else.

Salmon and flank cook very quickly. Stop smiling, that's not a good thing as far as you're concerned. That means you'll be serving salmon right off the grill, while flank will have to be held, rested, and carved. Now you're up to six people. You'll have to both fish and meat on each grill. A really experienced caterer, the sort who does film crews full time could do it with four, plus unlimited support from the teamsters. You need eight, minimum. Six on the line, a runner and someone to watch the rest.

If on the other hand, you're poaching the salmon off site, loading it into chaffers, and merely setting up and changing chaffers during the party, you might only be in deep doodoo up to your neck with five. If there's little to do onsite other than setup and serve, you can make it with six.

Get more people now!

Don't expect a lot of help from guests and family members. They will attend the wedding, the festivities and be part of the excitement. When it comes to getting stuff done, they will fade faster than fog -- not because they don't want to work but because they simply have more important things to do and because there's no one there with the experience to keep them busy, answer their questions, make sure they're free to do the stuff they came for, and don't wander off just before you need them. Which they will . Also, people in party clothes -- even Alaskan party clothes -- are lousy helpers.

Tough duty, but someone's got to do it.

It's up to you to explain this to the bride, and make sure you and she have an adequate work force so things run smoothly. Human labor is the cheapest and most efficient use of financial resources. If she has a problem with this, have her PM me.

How to charge.

I know the family is paying for the food. Are they purchasing it as well, or are you the shopper? Who pays for the rentals -- tables, linens, etc? The bar? The flowers? These are the sorts of things on which most caterers make their money. Assuming they're going to keep you away from all this...

My suggestion is that you charge an hourly fee for each of your crew members and for yourself as well, without reference to the other expenses. If this is off the books, something like the following might be reasonable. For your crew: $25/hr on site and prep, plus $15/hour travel time (both ways). For yourself, $35/hr on site and prep + $20/hr travel time (both ways), but ask for $45/$30 and knock $10 an hour off to get more people. If they give you more people before you knock your rate down, knock it down to $40/$25 and tell them it's because they were so reasonable. Figure $1 a mile (one way only) for transportation costs -- gas, wear and tear, etc. My numbers are estimates. You know how much people in Alaska earn better than I. Your crew should earn construction wages, and you should earn about 1/3 more.

How to get paid.

Sit down with a pad of paper and mentally walk through the entire event. Write down everything you'll need including matches to light the stove, swizzle sticks for the drinks, whatever. Take nothing for granted. Make sure the family is aware that although you are mostly "labor," there will be some equipment.

Put together a detailed estimate and ask for a small first deposit of "earnest money," so you can put your crew together, and arrange whatever rentals are necessary (grills, chaffers, cambros) and pay for any necessary small expenses (tongs to turn, carving boards, long spatulas, charcoal, etc.); then a second "deposit." You're very cavalier about "beverages." "Hey, beer and wine and they'll take care of it." Rots o' ruck. It seldom works that way. Find out about coolers, ice, glasses, napkins, garnish, soda, sparkling water, etc. You don't have to put it that way, but give the family a chance to reconsider their bad judgment.

Submit the estimate in writing to your clients so there's no confusion or ambiguity afterward. The estimate should include a detailed itemization (you're only charging for labor, so far), a statement that the estimate is only an estimate, and that the client is bound to pay for any additional time and expenses required. Give them a receipt for each deposit. Together the two payments should equal your estimate. In other words, money up front. Save all receipts for additional expenses you will incur (and you will incur them). Communicate with the responsible person (hopefully not the bride) two days before the wedding and fax or email notice of these expenses. Keep the originals of all receipts and submit copies when you submit the final accounting afterwards -- which you should do even if the money was right. If necessary, send an accounting by mail and keep a copy.

Since what you're doing is fairly cut and dried, your estimate should be very close to the final expenses. Try and be a little generous estimating the hours. Clients would far rather pay $4,500 and get $200 back than pay $4,000 and owe $200. It's not "net net," it's human nature.

Welcome to the madhouse and good luck,
post #7 of 12
Thread Starter 

catering amounts

Thanks Chef ESG, I am totally ok with peoples opinions. No worries. After thinking about what you said, I got to thinking why I was doing this. The woman getting married is a daycare provider for my children. I know her through my kids and on a semi-personal level. I am, however, in this to make some cash, albeit far from a small fortune. I guess I was thinking a bit high, but with your comment about the number of people it would take to produce the meal, I know that myself and another highly competent friend would be able to get the food done. It is more of a logistical thing. I guess a concern of mine is having enough people to help set up and clear. Also, I want to make sure it is worth their while. The venue is 4 hours away by car. I wouldn't expect people to commute together so that is why I put in gas and travel time for everyone. If they did, that just makes them more. Also, it is the bride and groom that are fully aware that these people are spending their time to travel 300 miles to do this thing. To the best of my ability I have tried to forsee the time needed for this gig and this is what I came up with. If the meal takes longer that predicted, I am happy with the cash. It will be nice either way. I have been cooking for the better half of my life and I am aware of the quality of food I put out in any situation, so I know it will be nice. I just didn't want to under or over pay me and the people working with me. Here is my break down...Geez and you thought you had too much coffee!!:crazy:

(coordinator/cook) (ME)
Planning hours (5) @ $20/hr = $100
Hrs. – Sat. (4 hours), Sun. (11 hours) @$20/hr = $300
Travel – 8hrs @ $20/hr = $160
Gas = $100
Total @ $20/hr = 100 + 300 + 160 + 100 = $660

(emp. 1) (cook)
Hrs.—Sat. (4 hours), Sun. (11 hrs) @ $20/hr. = $300
Travel—8 hrs @ $20/hr = $160
Gas = $100
Total @ $20/hr = 300 + 160 + 100 = $560
Total @ 17.50/hr = 263 + 140 + 100 =$500
Total @ $15/hr = 225 + 120 + 100 = $445

(emp. 2) (cook)
Hrs.—Sun. (10 hrs.) @ $20/hr. = $200
Travel—8hrs @ $20/hr = $160
Gas = $100
Total @ $20/hr = $200 + 160 + 100 = $460
Total @ $17.50/hr = 175 + 140 + 100 = $415
Total @ $15/hr = 150 + 120 + 100 = $370

(emp. 3) (waitstaff)
Hrs.—Sun. (12 hours) @ $20/hr = $240
Travel—8 hrs. @ $20/hr = $160
Gas = $100
Total @ $20/hr = 240 + 160 + 100 = $500
Total @ $17.50/hr = 210 + 140 + 100 = $450
Total @ $15/hr = 180 + 120 + 100 = $400

(emp. 4) (waitstaff/cook)
Hrs.—Sun. (12 hours) @ $20/hr = $240
Travel—8 hrs. @ $20/hr = $160
Gas = $100
Total @ $20/hr = 240 + 160 + 100 = $500
Total @ $17.50/hr = 210 + 140 + 100 = $450
Total @ $15/hr = 180 + 120 + 100 = $400

Grand total for 4 employees @ $20/hr = $2020
Grand total for 4 employees + me = $2680
Grand total for 3 employees (- emp. #2) @ $20/hr = $1560
Grand total for 3 employees + me = $2220

Grand total for 4 employees @ $17.50/hr = $1815
Grand total for 4 employees + me = $2475
Grand total for 3 employees (- emp. #2) @ $17.50/hr = $1400
Grand total for 3 employees + me = $2060

Grand total for 4 employees @ $15/hr = $1615
Grand total for 4 employees + me = $2275
Grand total for 3 employees (- emp. #2) @ $15/hr = $1245
Grand total for 3 employees + me = $1905

Let me know what you think. With 22 hrs of daylight, I tend to ramble on. Can ya tell? Thanks.
post #8 of 12
serve the protein.....put it at the end of the buffet and have staff serve it.

I'm more apt to talk the bride into cold salmon and hot steak. Especially in the summer. That way the steaks are the only thing on the grills.

BDL is right on the money.....be in charge of equipment rentals, hopefully there is a reliable rental shop at (or near) the event site.

So you are driving to the site, food will be there (?) or are you hauling it 4 hours......from what I'm reading you are prepping on site. I hope there is a town or grocery nearby that you can run out for forgotten supplies.

It's a very very long day.....especially when you add in the driving.

We've got a wedding reception 1.25 hours outside of town this fall, my staff will carpool. I'll provide them with maps and written detailed directions, as well as a ton of cell/landline phone numbers.
My cooks make $25 an hour (4 hours minimum)
My head waitstaff $25 an hour (4 hours minimum)
ditto bartender
waitstaff anywhere from $15-17.50.....occasionally more.
*they also are normally tipped out.....gratuities are usually in the $50ish range for a 4 hour event.

I'm a total control freak. I want to pick out and have the food with me, so I know where it is. I want to see the site prior to working on menus if they are
(a) elaborate
(b) for alot of folks....200 is alot of folks

Planning a menu that's easy to work. ie
large green salad with shtuff....sugar snaps, oranges, pecans, just toppings.
Vegetable platter with blanched and roasted vegetables....can be room temp.
If it's summer a tomato salad
Rolls, butter
Entrees, sauces.....if there are two entrees one will be either cold or in a stew/sauce ie chicken mirabelle or spring lamb stew .....food that can be made and warmed on site. Cold salmon with fennel cucumber sauce.

The less you have going in and out of ovens at the last minute the better.
The more you can have predone the better
Backups ready to push out......

MORE STAFF.....you do not want to shortchange yourself.....
200 guest buffet, newbies....8-10 and that's really lite.
Who's dealing with the rentals? If they are using plates you've got at least two between dinner plate and dessert (cake plate) 5 pieces of silverware, 2+ glasses, coffee cups?, pre dinner glassware.....if it's disposable all the better and easier for you. If not you at least need to clear, scrape and repack. Someone will need to check in and out the rentals in case you are shortchanged. If you are using the site's place settings someone washes them.....is it your staff? What kind of dishwasher do they have?
Who's cutting and serving the cake? maybe you'll luck out and they'll serve cupcakes.
cooking with all your senses.....
cooking with all your senses.....
post #9 of 12
First off breath deep a few times.
Here is a few suggestions but first let me say you can pull this off.

1) You need to take and print what BDL and SHROOM wrote and study it.
2) Get more staff or suffer like you've never suffered before.
3) You need to take and print what BDL and SHROOM wrote and study it.

This event is going to be the best learning tool, you can ever be provided with. At this stage of the game I wouldn't even be worried about money I would be completely focused on execution of this thing. I can't follow that time/money chart you provided, I got lost in it. But notice the difference from $800.00.

Lets look how I staffed my little event today compared to how your staffing yours. Mind you I've doing this since 1985, and have made more mistakes than I care to addmit.

Party of 187 guest buffet, I had myself not doing much, except making sure everyone else was doing their thing.
I had 2 cooks (extreamely good, each one could of handled it themselves) 6 waitstaff,
2 bus girls,
1 runner,
3 dishwashers (hardest job in this business)

Thats 15 staff members, could I have had less staff you bet your a-s.
Why did I have so much help, you may ask?
1) Experience told me to.
2) I want most of my staff to come to next event ( I'm no slave driver)
3) I am very clear on what I do for a living. I provide impeccable service and great food so my guest can sit back and enjoy the moment. Thats my goal whether it be 2 or 16,000 ppl. Thats what we do, period.

Remember this is somones special day, never mind the fact they watch your kids when your not around. :bounce:

I could of made much more money by having less staff, but thats not what its about for me. As much as I love money, the feeling I got today when the client and all the guest were completely at ease because of my staff, was worth more than the extra money I would of made with less staff. Short staff causes stress, agravation, drama, and chaos. Did I mention it causes 3,00 emails and phone calls about the shity event they just attended. I got 3 possible upcoming events from this one event, so did I really lose any money? ;)

Here is my last suggestion:
You need to take and print what BDL and SHROOM wrote and study it.

Here is not a suggestion:
When you get completely stressed out ( and you will, we all have our moments ) do not take it out on your help!

Good luck and G-d bless you, please let us know how this all turned out and what did you learn from this experience.
Remember you can do this!
Read my signature below and tattoo it on your arm.
(under your chef coat of course)

When I stop loving what I do, I will do something else: Clint Eastwood http://NewDreamCatering.comCharleston, SC
When I stop loving what I do, I will do something else: Clint Eastwood http://NewDreamCatering.comCharleston, SC
post #10 of 12
I am assuming you are buying undressed whole king salmon as is. That being the case after cleaning and fileting your losing 35 to 45 % of weight minimum. Going at $4.00 per pound and assuming a 4 ounce portion net your talking a minimum 50 pounds net weight. Therfore you will need approx 70 to 80 pounds as is weight. So lets average 75 pounds @ $4.00=$300.00 divided by 200 portions, it cost you $1.50 per 4 ounce portion
post #11 of 12
BDL you have it on the button . Not to scare this gentleman, I FIGURED JUST HIS FISH COST. Restaurants are restaurants and catering is catering totaly different business. Everybody thinks they are a caterer. Dual buffet your 100% correct.This fellow will get killed if he tries to do this function his way .When I lived in New York I will never forget seeing a sign in a furniture store window saying "We Do Catering" take it from there.
post #12 of 12
Great job breaking it down
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