As a practicing personal chef as well as a past restaurant owner, IMHO percentage food cost has little, if any relevance for personal chefs, period. And any comparison to restaurant percentages is a foundation for bankruptcy, restaurants deal with 100s of covers, personal chefs deal in 10s of covers.
For me, the ONLY way to price a small dinner party so that you will have an opportunity to stay in business, is to calculate ALL your costs, i.e. food, rentals, extra labor, travel, insurance. license(s), and anything else that you spend money on, then add on your fee, what YOU expect to earn for the work, and, IMHO, is not $xx/hr, you are a business person, NOT an employee!
Most of my dinner parties result in a cost of food percentage in the 15-20% range. Why? Because my fee for a dinner party in the client's kitchen starts at $350 and for a 10-14 person, 6-7 course meal, would be in the neighborhood of $500-$700 plus food, rentals, 1-2 servers ($100-200), Sous ($150), and dishwasher ($50). I'd expect food cost to be $175-$250, so, bottom line, for 14 about $1,350 down to, maybe as low as, $975 for 10 people. That results is a food cost percentage of 16.3-17.9%
BTW, I NEVER quote small dinner parties as $xx/person for a couple of reasons:
- A. The client WILL compare you to a restaurant
- B. To save money, the client WILL reduce the number of people AFTER you make the per person quote, remember, the only cost you might avoid with a reduction in guests is food, you will still have to pay your labor.
To illustrate the pricing per person problem, lets say you, by yourself, can handle a three course meal for up to, oh, 6 people. Food cost is, say, $10 per plate, your fee is, oh, $350 for the night. The per person cost would be:
- $360/1=$360 for one, food cost is 2.77%
- $370/2=$185 for 2, food cost is 5.4%
- $380/3=$126.67 for 3, food cost is 7.9%
- $390/4=$97.50 for 4, food cost is 10,2%
- $400/5=$80 for 5, food cost is 12.5%
- $410/6=$68.33 for 6, food cost is 14.6%
If you quote $68.33 for six without specifying six and the client drops it to four, you fee is reduced by $172.62
If you price by multiplying food cost by 3 (33.3% food cost) and food cost is $10/person, you'd be willing to do the same meal for $30/person or $180 for six, which leave you $120 for the night, instead of a reasonable $350.