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how to price a catering job ?

post #1 of 69
Thread Starter 

I've been asked to prepare finger foods for

150 people and serve the food for a 30th birthday party?

how much should i charge to cater & host this party?

post #2 of 69

Sweetpea, welcome cheftalk....that's just a strange question, how do you expect us to answer that question with no information?

 

cooking with all your senses.....
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post #3 of 69

Assuming a normal duration, I'd charge, oh, about $350-$500 more that the total of ALL my costs, i.e. labor, food, rentals, travel, taxes, insurance, permits, and anything else I have to pay for.

 

Oh, you don't KNOW what your costs will be? Good luck!

 

Oh wait, you want US to tell you what your costs will be? Well, how about telling us:

  • the menu, preferably with recipes so we can cost them out, oh wait, your food prices will be different, and
  • how many people you will hire, for how long, and at what rate, and
  • what will you need to rent or supply, i,e, chafers, disposable/china plates, napkins, utensils, glasses/cups, tablecloths, tables, risers, coffee pot(s), beverage dispenser(s), bowls, platters, flowers, etc.
  • Distance to event
  • the rest you are on your own
Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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post #4 of 69

What I do is take my food cost and times it by 3.33%.  Its a good way to include your food cost and service and then you get your profit.  It is a way that you will always have a great price for people and you will still make a profit.  

post #5 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by TemeculaChef View Post

What I do is take my food cost and times it by 3.33%.  Its a good way to include your food cost and service and then you get your profit.  It is a way that you will always have a great price for people and you will still make a profit.  

It is probably pretty accurate that a successful operation maintains a food cost around 33% of sales, however, there is NO guarantee that pricing at 3 times your food cost will result in a successful operation.

 

Multiplying food cost by 3 ASSUMES that your labor costs, overhead costs, and all other expenses are in line as well. And, if your food cost is off by a small amount, your price is off by three times that amount!

 

IMHO, if you do not know what your costs actually are, you are simply guessing at a price and hoping for the best.
 

 

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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post #6 of 69

How much profit do you want to make is the first question?  If you have to ask this question, then do not do the party. Work for an experienced caterer for a while and learn the ropes. If you insist on doing this gig add up all your cost first and start from there. There is mor figuring and paper work then there is food prep work time.

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #7 of 69

Actually my food cost normally stays in the 20's% range.  If you know where to buy food locally you can normally get it cheaper, especially if you keep returning to them and they get to like you.  

 

Like he said though, you have to calculate out what you are making.  My multiplying the food cost by 3.33 only includes my food, labor and profit.  You still have to include any plates you may need to rent and any equipment that may be necessary for the operation to go smooth. 

post #8 of 69

20% for catering /banquet  food cost  only is good. Out of season thats about what mine was, with increased volume it even went lower.

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #9 of 69

i work for a conference company, and we do conference with a finger buffet lunch and we charge about £4.75 per person.

 

off site caterng we charge from £20 per person

post #10 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kieron19 View Post

i work for a conference company, and we do conference with a finger buffet lunch and we charge about £4.75 per person.

 

off site caterng we charge from £20 per person

That is what your prices are, the question is how did you arrive at those prices?
 

 

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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Chef,
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post #11 of 69

I have different hors d'oeuvres menus and stationery menus for different price points.

Food costs are 20% of food proposal, plus staff costs ($30/hr incl grats and a $50 penalty if they accept the gig and arrive late), plus rentals (I work with a company that gives 15% on referred biz) if you don't already have your own collection of wonderful trays/platters, plus tax and grats.

 

Generally for a modest finger food/HD menu, it runs about $3. per selection per person. So with 6 selections, it's min $18pp. (then rounded to $20 for cocktail napkins, skewers, garnishes/flowers). That menu would be canapes, easy/quick phyllo combos, bruschettas, "gourmet" meatballs, fried polenta cubes topped with XXX, scalloped cucumber cups filled with XXX, stuffed mushrooms or cherry tomatoes, mini pizzas or quesadillas.....sometimes I'll include a tuna tartare which has a high yield for very small portion on fired wonton chip. There are so many ideas on the Cheftalk board on inexpensive HD that you can do that are not labor intensive.

 

I like to do more upscale selections and charge betw 5-6. per selection, per person.....crabcakes, 16/20 count shrimp, oysters with "pearls", scallop ceviche, B&W sesame crusted tuna, filet mignon skewers with ancho chili rub with espresso dipping reduction, coconut curry chicken skewers served with fondue presentaiton. Prefer to start at $35.pp. For a 30th BD for a 2hour cocktail party then following with sweet finales which might run another hour of service....you can do so many variations. For 150 people with passed HD, I would schedule 6 waitstaff, 3 bartenders, 1 chef, 1 asst. (add time for set up through breakdown and cleanup) 

 

Running the numbers really quickly, I would be charging betw $4000-6500 exclusive of tax and 20% grats. Just my personal thoughts. Good luck.

La torche de l’amour est allumee dans la cuisine.
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La torche de l’amour est allumee dans la cuisine.
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post #12 of 69

.....and times it by 3.33%

 

I'm hoping, Temecula, that that was a typo?

 

Let's see: If food costs are $200, and we multiply that by 3.33 percent, then all the other costs and profit would have to be covered by less than 7 bucks.

 

No wonder nobody's making money. biggrin.gif

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #13 of 69

I'm fascinated by the fact that very few seem to evaluate their costs at all!

 

For me the rule for pricing is very simple:

 

PRICE = COSTS + PROFIT DESIRED

 

COSTS = Labor (including your own, if applicable) + Food + Utilities + Rent + Licenses + Tax reserve + Insurance + any other costs of doing business, including interest, depreciation, and all the hidden costs.

 

PROFIT DESIRED is up to you, what return on your investment do you want?

 

IMHO, if you do not know your costs, you are only guessing at prices, no matter what mathematical exercises you may go through and, if you are real lucky, you will still be in business a year from now.

 

When dividing by a food cost percentage, I sincerely hope you have at least ten (10) years of records for the actual food cost percentage for your operation with your menus, otherwise you have a better chance simply guessing.

 

Oh, once you've figured your price, it is simple to calculate $/person or $/piece or whatever, just remember, the fewer persons, the higher the $/person, only food cost and part of labor can be attributed to the number of people, the rest is overhead and somebody pays for it.

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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Chef,
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post #14 of 69

Im catering my first event and Im not sure how much to charger for my serivce. My price is not including the food....Im making a 3 course meal and serving it to 18 people.  Any Ideas? Thanks

post #15 of 69

Depends on what you're making, your market......

18 people 3 course, are you shopping, serving, prepping, cleaning up?

Are you providing anything besides time?

Do you have a guesstimate on how long it'll take you?

cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #16 of 69

I will be doing it all

post #17 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by love84 View Post

I will be doing it all

First, I think you are a glutton for work or slightly insane crazy.gif

 

At a MINIMUM, I'd have a dishwasher/helper and at least one, if not two, cooks as well as either two extremely well trained servers/FOH or four normal servers. I've done too many of this size not to.

 

So, $500 for BOH, $400 for FOH, there's $900 in extra labor. My fee would be not less than $600 for a simple menu, up to $1,200 depending on the complexity.

 

Base MINIMUM thus is $1,500 to $2,100 plus food, rentals, etc.

 

Does that help?

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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Chef,
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post #18 of 69

 FOUR FOH staff for 18 people?

And 83 to 116.oo per person for a 3 courser?

And that's without food cost.

I mean I may not be quite on your level, but Holy Epicurean Batman,

you really GET that?

Dang.

We do 4 to 7 course plated, for 8 to 25 ppl, static apps, (usually 2C, 1H) 

choice of two mains with 2 sides, and two desserts.....

using myself and one other chef, 2 servers, and one dishwasher....

and don't get anywhere near that $$$.

But then, do we undercharge and overwork? Well, yeah I guess kinda.

 

I want YOUR world Chef! smiles.gif

post #19 of 69

If you are supplying the food, equi, and  taff  you are the caterer, if you are just making the food , you are an employee. Which is it both are priced differently. In 1 you outlay no money, have no overhead,  don't need permits etc. the other you do or should .

 

When I started many years ago I knew nothing about food cost, labor cost etc. what I did was  total amount I spent food labor  x 3  plus 10% for unknowns and travel.. Hope this will help you.  To give it to you any other way at this stage you are in , would be to complicated for you.

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #20 of 69

Meezenplaz,

 

Remember, as a personal/private chef, we do not have the ability to spread fixed costs across many covers as do restaurants and caterers.

 

We are talking apples and oranges or chickens and ducks here.

 

First difference, low volume, custom menu versus high volume menu offering.

 

Second, working out of a residential setting, plated meal, two experienced FOH can probably handle it. Labor is high because of low volume, after all, there are only 18 covers for the night!

 

Of course, the same crew could probably handle something on the order of 100-200 covers in a commercial setting, that drops the labor cost from $100+ to around $10+/plate, maybe less.

 

Run the numbers for your establishment with only ONE dinner party a night and see what you come up with.

 

It is all volume related...

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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Chef,
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post #21 of 69

Thanks Chef Pete, I see what you're getting at, so put another way it basically comes down to

minimums I guess--a minimum price for a minimum amount of work required for ANY sized

party. Drop below that, (just because the party is small and the client still whines

for the 80-cover, per person price), and all you're gonna do is lose money and setup

to be reamed next time.

 

I also get the ducks vs chicken analogy, an in-place-established facility with fixed costs,

vs small parties and custom EVERYTHING--from menus to FoH ambience design.

Priv/pers chef on one end, vs restaurant high volume  banqueting/catering on the other.

 

So I suppose what we do is a kind of hybrid of the two.....chiDUCKen if you will, a

commercial permited kitchen with an 80seat banquet room, booked events, ala catering,

but seated/plated/served. But with a fluctuating frequency of events. 

 

So as far as spreading costs as you mentioned, we can do that to a point. I worked it

out before, and also based on posts of yours Ive read, and I think our "cut-off" point,

where we have to maintain the MINIMUM rather than per head charge to even break even

and can start taking advantage of our fixed costs/volume potential for bigger parties

is about 35 guests.

At what we charge.

Which for what we do, lets just say if I told you what we cook and what we charge,

you'd no doubt yell at me pretty good. redface.gif

Yeah so we're in the middle of what you outlined, but just not charging enough

to be in your neighborhood. Of course not owning it, it's not my decision.

 I found it so much easier to make money in onsite catering.

 

I appreciate your reply! chef.gif

 

-Meez

post #22 of 69

Meezenplaz,

 

I believe we're beginning to find common ground crazy.gif

 

As far as concerning the "neighborhood", we have several restaurants in the area that have small banquet rooms for parties in the 30-50 size and they DO charge, um say, $20-$45 per person for a pre menued 3, 4, or 5 course meal. There are also some that charge $50-$75 as well, such as our local Country Club.

 

For a private, in home, custom menu, cooked on site, the price is considerably higher,

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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post #23 of 69
Quote:

I believe we're beginning to find common ground

        It's a crazy world. tongue.gif

 

 

Quote:

restaurants in the area that have small banquet rooms for parties in the 30-50 size and they DO charge, um say, $20-$45 per person for a pre menued 3, 4, or 5 course meal.

Ah well then we're right in the vacinity, averaging around $35 per, offering 2 mains dependent on owner/co-chef's mood, but

usually something premium, e.g., Wellington, plank Salmon, OssoBuco, stuffed CornyHens, etc. and usually 4 or 5 course.

I just don't, for the hours involved to do it all right, think we're charging enough, from a business standpoint. And while

our local "market"  wouldn't bear too big an increase, I believe it would tolerate say, 25% over that, for that type of cuisine.

post #24 of 69

multiplying food costs by 3.33 does not work well for small parties (IMO)....just doesn't.

cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #25 of 69

AMEN!

Quote:
Originally Posted by shroomgirl View Post

multiplying food costs by 3.33 does not work well for small parties (IMO)....just doesn't.

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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post #26 of 69

I am going to prepare food, buffet style for a party of 35 - 50 people. The menu consists of bbq chicken wingettes, green beans, deviled eggs, meatballs, and potato salad. I would like to know how to price this event.I will have to account for chaffing materials, and my labor. Any advise will help
 

post #27 of 69

Hi Sweetpea06

 

I do professional catering in Brisbane, Australia and have been a chef for 23 years.  If I were you I would:

 

  • Work out the food costs - weight x price for each item
  • Add the food costs for each different item together, then
  • Multiply that by 3 or 4, and finally
  • Multiply by 150 pax.

 

So, as an example:

 

  • 6 different pieces of finger food @ $0.5 food cost each
  • 6 x .5 = $3.00 cost of goods
  • $3.00 x 150 = $450 (the cost of all the ingredients for (450)  = $900 Gross Profit (GP).

 

Ok, so you now pay your fixed costs with the Gross Profit (like rent, staff etc) and what you have left is your net profit.  But just like Pete McCracken said earlier in this thread, if your fixed costs are more than 25-33% then you might need to add up the difference and add it onto the costing.  For example, if your rent is $500 then you might need to spread that, or some of that, out over the total cost.  Just be careful not to price yourself out of the market.

 

Also, Sweetpea06 don't forget to charge additionally for staff on the catering jobs.  Charge yourself out at an hourly rate, a chef on-site at the job, wait-staff at the job.  These all get added onto the cost of the food.  So, the cost of the food + the cost of a chef for 4 hours + the cost of two wait-staff for 4 hours each.

 

Also, if you have to hire equipment, then make sure that you add that on too.  Staff and equipment can really eat into that GP and it is perfectly acceptable to add these items onto the bill.

 

I hope that helped Sweetpea06.  Good Luck.

 

Wayne


Edited by CatererBrisbane - 11/12/12 at 11:50pm
post #28 of 69

What % do you want to make . What is your time worth?  The type clientel and neighborhood. Your overhead.. There are many variables.

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

Reply
post #29 of 69

At 35 to 50 people this might be a good time to decide what your minimum fee is to cater an event.

When I cater, my minimum is usually based on 40 to 50 people, depending on the menu being served,

and delivery method; e.g., buffet vs plated etc. In principle, once you hit your minimum,

(for what and how youre serving) the price per person starts rising.

For example, if I'm charging for the menu-at-hand say, 15.00 per guest, but given my overhead, I

KNOW I have to make a minimum of 600.00 just to pay everything and make a minimum profit, my

bottom-line minimum party would be 40 people at that rate. So if I took on a gig of 30 people, the price

per person would actually be  20.00, but I would charge them the minimum.

Only you can figure out what your minimum should be, based on your particular set of fixed/variable

expenses, and food costs, etc.

post #30 of 69

On premise is different..  Each room a different size had to take in a set minimum amount   Example The Holiday Room had to take in 1200.00   if 100 people  $12.00 per person  if 75 people  then $16.00the same $12.00 minimum per person which multiplies out to the same $1200. minimum. Having 6 rooms with different  square footage and minimums, assured us of a set gross every time. Sat PM average of $10,800.00 for all 6 rooms ,but that was a long time ago its probably tripled by now.

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

Reply

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

Reply
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