Remember a major part of selling a job is being able to negotiate....
If they come to you wanting multiple hours of food there are several ways to go......
Last hour can be sweets/cake, that is provided by someone else.
Best to have perimeters set from the get go:
How many estimated guests?
Where is it being held? do you know the site, is there a kitchen or staging area, what are the constraints (stairs, elevator, fridge, tables, ovens, stove, electrical wattage, etc)
BUDGET? best to stay within their budget but offer more options....
Food and beverage preferences, allergies, etc...
Timing...if it's a wedding reception are they coming from somewhere after the ceremony or is the ceremony on site?
Let's take Tigerwoman's gig and do a practice workup...
approx 150 guests, as the budget is low it's important to give a caveat about "if the guest count goes lower than (say) 125, the cost pp may increase"
that way if you are charging pp and the count goes lower than 100 you are not doing it for free. Your profit is in the numbers, pp & guest count.
Staff...there are ways to stretch staff, keep in mind when you design a menu to fit a budget how many staff it will take to work your event.
passed, means platters being filled in the kitchen, waitstaff walking the crowd
manned station means someone is standing there serving, they need support staff checking to see if they need anything
plated meal, means much more staff than buffet....both kitchen and waitstaff
stationary aps, less staff than passed
Type of food....
finger food, needs napkins only or possibly small plates/napkins
fork food, exactly what it reads like...nothing that needs cutting or spreading
heavy aps, it's the compromise with someone who plans an event during or around meal time and they don't want the appearance of "a meal"....yet if there is not enough substantial food guests will leave or be very unhappy.
Buffet, there's total self serve, there's everything self served except the protein which is served at the end of the line by your staff....carving station is a good example.
REALLY IMPORTANT: know your shtuff inside and out....how much labor, supplies, ingredients it takes to make the dish (even more so if you are serving seasonal local food, which is a whole new ballgame).
event center in NYC, they have a full kitchen....ovens, 8 burner stove, walkin fridge, ice machine, tables to work on, no stairs, loading ramp into the building, parking (yeah right, in my mind), carts to transport, the event center is taking care of the liquor typical here, you have 2 hours prior to the event to setup. Usually they want 10+% of the contracted food to kick back to the event site, keep that in mind.....
Spring, end of April
Budget. $22pp $3300, food not labor nor rentals but you know it's low budget so keeping that in mind, moving forward
Perimeters: vegetarian, they'd like 4 hours food, they will provide cake
Wedding is 20 blks away, ends at 4pm but there are pix with family/bridal party after for about an hour....so bride and groom not showing until 5:30pm. guests will trickle in starting 4:30.
Bar is open at 4:30
Snacks are out....local popcorn, they self serve...can have fun flavors to make it interesting...some like truffle salt (make your own) or parm or Indian spices or herbage or nutritional yeast
Fried Seasoned chickpeas
You get the idea.
Manned Station, with something interactive....grilled cheese station.....great especially if there are kids....You've got a staff person on a couple of griddles making different open-faced and closed sandwiches. This can be an additional option++, if you'd like something more than popcorn this is $pp.
Stationary food is put out, needs to be fairly heavy as your in prime dinner time.....vegetarians, so lots of different veg not just carbs....most vegetarians I've encountered have been environmentally conscience...which means to you: no hard plastic plates, post consumer paper products, nominal disposables...those used will be much more expensive than regular plastic, corn based or cane based are still much more $$$.
* Another part of the equation is what can you double up on labor, as well as what do you already have on hand both product and prop wise.
Ok, it's Spring....let's say asparagus, spinach, peas, broccoli, radishes, are all in season at great prices. Mediterranean Tables are a standard go to for inexpensive offerings....
Cucumber Yogurt Sauce
Hummos, makeup any variation
caponata...not in season but is a keeper, has a long shelf life refridgerated
olives, tweek um out
Make up some shtuff, use your imagination....
That stays out from 5:30-7:30
Mashed potato bar is a super thing too....meat and potato eaters or non-adventuresome guys can totally relate to mashed potatoes.
it's manned just to keep it clean....
offer up standards...cheddar, sour cream, scallions, then add in some interesting shtuff...remember temps, if it's gotta be hot then you will need a chafer or some heat source. Potatoes will need to be kept hot.
Consider what they will be served in...it may possibly mean a rental charge if you don't have 150+ appropriate containers.
*you can have a base of toppings with optional +$ others, the base should be a good base though.
may or may not be manned.....you already have a stationary med table, a mashed potato bar, grilled cheese has potentially been happening.
Loaded Salads....lots of vegetable options/dressing options....but manned so you control the amounts....this setup same time as mashed potato bar.
+ditto, base with optional +$
Food shuts down starting 7:15ish....
Cake ceremony, serving is last hour....
you've provided 4 hours of food....that if you have the equipment is easy to work into a $22....if you don't have cambros, griddles, many large platters/bowls, decorations/props, serviceware, chafers,table cloths, etc you're going to have a much harder time with the profit margin, unless they agree to a significant rental budget..
Pros, please feel free to jump in and give your versions....this is a great place for newbies as well as those that have been around the blk a few times to share ideas.