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# Costing out a Buffet

Million dollar question. What is the right way to cost out a buffet? I do buffets and i want to make sure i am still meting my food cost.

I have a good idea what my buffet cost but when i do the holidays i want to make sure i am making a profit.

Any ideas?

Chef

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I suspect you're really asking how much food your quests will eat. Lotta threads about that in the catering section.

The actual costing is very easy. (Sales Price per Person)=(Estimated Food Cost per person)/(Food Cost %). Or from a different perspective, (Sales Price per Person)x(desired Food Cost %)=(Food Cost per Person) if you want to figure out what you can offer for what the market will bear.

Then you can check your projections against reality by (Buffet Revenue)/(Food Cost of eaten and wasted)=(Actual Food Cost %).

One thing I've learned about buffets, especially when it comes to high ticket items, is that sometimes it's not a matter of how much they eat, as in how much you LET them eat. If you let them, buffet patrons will eat lobster tails till you're living in a fridge box. So you pace your output of lobster tails, and have your roast beef guy get ever thinner and a little slower.

I'm not sure what you mean by the right way, but food cost is just that, the cost of the food.

For me: Profit = Sales price minus food cost minus labor costs minus fixed costs of operation, in other words P=S-F-L-F

Food cost percentage (FCP) is the food cost divided by the sales price times 100: FCP= (F/S)x100, likewise labor cost percentage (LCP) is labor cost divided by the sales times 100: LCP= (L/S)x100

Where it might get tricky is that, for me anyway, food cost is what I pay for the raw materials, not the trimmed out, prepped on the buffet food, in other words, do not ignore the fact that you have to recover ALL the food costs, even that which is thrown in the trash!

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
Keep a notebook in your pocket. Write down everything you use as you're prepping it. Later, when you have the time, pull the bills, recipe cost sheets, etc and start tabulating what you got. I usually go the extra step and create a spread sheet. Listing out everything like an itemized receipt, organized by course. You can add totals for cost & cost% per course, per cover whatever. If you are strong in Excel, it doesn't cost you much time to get extra info.

If you just want a number, sit down with a calculator and go down the list in your notebook. If you already have cost cards for stocks, sauces, rubs, and such it will be a lot easier. Either way it's a pain in the ass.

If accuracy is less important than your time... after the event, go down the menu and write down everything you can remember using. The high cost stuff is easy, so really, you should only be off on the odds and ends. This should give you a pretty good ball park unless your memory isn't all that reliable.
A person who never made a mistake, never tried anything new.  - Al E
Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.  - Ben Franklin
A person who never made a mistake, never tried anything new.  - Al E
Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.  - Ben Franklin

thank you, is there a way to cost out the buffet before i offer the menu. my owners what to know the cost before they approve the menu. They want to make sure the price the guest is paying will cover all the expenses.

Um, that is what most caterers do, they KNOW their costs before offering a menu!

• Create the menu
• cost out each recipe
• add up the food costs
• add the labor costs
• add the fixed costs
• the total is the cost of the buffet
Quote:
Originally Posted by HeritageChef

thank you, is there a way to cost out the buffet before i offer the menu. my owners what to know the cost before they approve the menu. They want to make sure the price the guest is paying will cover all the expenses.

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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Yup, what he said.
A person who never made a mistake, never tried anything new.  - Al E
Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.  - Ben Franklin
A person who never made a mistake, never tried anything new.  - Al E
Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.  - Ben Franklin
Quote:
Originally Posted by thetincook

I suspect you're really asking how much food your quests will eat. Lotta threads about that in the catering section.

The actual costing is very easy. (Sales Price per Person)=(Estimated Food Cost per person)/(Food Cost %). Or from a different perspective, (Sales Price per Person)x(desired Food Cost %)=(Food Cost per Person) if you want to figure out what you can offer for what the market will bear.

Then you can check your projections against reality by (Buffet Revenue)/(Food Cost of eaten and wasted)=(Actual Food Cost %).

One thing I've learned about buffets, especially when it comes to high ticket items, is that sometimes it's not a matter of how much they eat, as in how much you LET them eat. If you let them, buffet patrons will eat lobster tails till you're living in a fridge box. So you pace your output of lobster tails, and have your roast beef guy get ever thinner and a little slower.

Thin to win.... Your carver can put you in the poor house!

I'm sorry. My last post sounds a little snarky now that I've read it again.

The process is exactly the same before or after the event. Only difference being that before you're using values that you are expecting to use rather than actual usage. I highly recommend you start making some cost cards for all of your recipes, beside the obvious reasons for having them, it will also save you a lot of time when costing events. Keep everything saved as a spreadsheet on your computer. That way you can easily update the prices as costs change. Same for the banquet cost sheets, after you have several of these prepared, you will be able to go back to one, change a few amounts maybe add or remove an item or two and you are done.

I know that many people don't do these things, but you set aside some time, make it part of your routine and it gets easier to knock them out without too much pain. And you will never regret having a deeper knowledge of your costs.
A person who never made a mistake, never tried anything new.  - Al E
Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.  - Ben Franklin
A person who never made a mistake, never tried anything new.  - Al E
Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.  - Ben Franklin

Most caterers already have an idea of what it costs to get to the event, pay a helper or three,

pro-rate for insurances, etc. The remaining costs are event specific,(food, supplies, rentals, chaffer-fuel etc)

I just thumbnail it out per person.

Now, when you say "make a profit" that's a subjective thing-- and to me, size matters--e.g., on an event buffet of

say, 250ppl or so and under I find it's not hard to make 30 to 40% net, while still staying price competitive.

While on big parties I've settled for less % because in the end you make more actual. . . .dollars.

However I must admit that as yet, that figure has not nearly approached the MILLION posed in your question.

there are so many ways to manipulate an event...

serving just proteins rest is buffet, passing aps as well as stationary....you know which are \$\$\$\$, placement on buffet, \$\$\$\$ being garnish, size of spoon, size of portions......etc.......

having a set time for food....really affects volume consumed.

one of my huge learning curves was how much to prep in advance and how many to assemble on site....there's a waste factor vs timing....if you put filling in a pastry shell then it needs to be consumed pretty quickly, if you don't have them ready to go then bam! something will come up and your in the weeds.   Shells/filling separate can be used later....filled shells eaten right away.

All a balancing act.

cooking with all your senses.....
cooking with all your senses.....

Dear Chef,

You Food cost it dip ants of your average cover First of All you have to make your approximately food cost sheet for a buffet with minimum of 15 Pax here you will know the approximately food cost you have then you will make the price then like the below Example:

Approximately cost PP = \$ 22

The buffet should be sold at the price of \$ 100

Total sales of the day = 12 PAX

Minimum Buffet cover should be 15 PAX

Your Food Cost for Buffet = \$330

Total Sales = 12X100= \$ 1200

Food cost = 330 / 1200= 28% which is ok

For any further assistance please fill free to contact me at

kattan.belal@hotmail.com

Regards,

Chef Belal

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