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Catering Pricing Advice

post #1 of 2
Thread Starter 

Hey there folks, stumbled across this site while researching and figured this would be a good place to ask a few questions. I saw a similar thread, but it didn't really get to my areas of concern. Background:


Doing a catering for between 75-125 people. It's for a family friend, but I'm not necessarily trying to give them a "deal" (and they aren't looking for one, they have the change to spare), just wanting to make it fair for all. I realize that's a big range, so let's just call it 100 ppl, and I can adjust the math from there. I've designed a menu, but it's nothing strict, just used it to give them an idea of the type of dishes I'm offering- though I will likely stick quite closely to it since they loved it. Here's the full text of it, as I can just copy and paste it since it's already typed up. Ignore all the details obviously



Ceviche – Fresh fish (or any combo of fish, scallop, shrimp, lobster) marinated in citrus, with bell pepper, onion, cilantro, tomato, scallion etc. Can make in many styles (good with mango, jalapeno, avocado, etc). Always a favorite.


Fruit/Cheese/cured meats platter. Any variety of fruits & cheeses.


Seared Sea Scallop (possibly bacon/prosciutto wrapped) w/lemon & rosemary- individual bites, served on toothpicks, passed out on tray.


“Lobster Bites” – Could be flavored in a number of ways (sweet Asian, dry rubbed, spicy, curried, etc). Could do w/small asparagus spear, some type of unique mushroom (like oyster mushroom), etc. Some type of sauce as well.


Stuffed mushrooms – can stuff with anything from a crabmeat mixture, to more of a parmesan/herb/veggie stuffing, spinach & sun dried tomato. Endless options.


Corn & Black Bean salsa- Sweet Corn, blk beans, cherry tomatoes, red/orange/yellow bell peppers, red onion, fresh herbs, etc. Very colorful, flavorful fresh made salsa. Great with chips or as a side item. 


Edamame Succotash (w/pancetta or prosciutto) – Beautiful dish, crowd pleaser. Edamame beans with sweet corn, cherry tomato, onion, lemon, herbs, pancetta bacon (can be left out to be vegetarian friendly).


Thai Meatballs- Ground pork seasoned with peanut sauce, cilantro, curry, thai basil, sweet chili sauce, etc. Bite sized, can be served on toothpicks. 


Tomato & Onion Salad (with or without mozzarella) – Thin sliced tomato & onion, fresh basil, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, cracked pepper. Very similar to a traditional Caprese Salad.  Vegetarian friendly


Peel & Eat Shrimp with homemade cocktail sauce. Large local shrimp, boiled and chilled. Guests would have to peel the shrimp, not a big deal but something to consider.


Broccoli salad- Raw Brocc w/bleu cheese crumbles, sunflower (or pumpkin) seeds, red onion, dried cranberries, very lightly dressed. One of my overall favorite dishes. 


Bowtie (or tortellini) pasta salad- include a variety of veggies (spinach/arugula, corn, sun dried tomatoes, mushroom, etc)


Grilled Vegetable Antipasti- Roasted squash, zucchini, eggplant, peppers, tomato, mushroom. Tossed in olive oil & herbs. (vegetarian friendly)


Pearl Couscous salad – w/roasted chicken, toasted pinenuts, saffron, seasonal veggies, etc


Slow roasted chicken “drumettes”- Tiny chicken drumsticks, can do in a variety of sauces / dry rubs. I have some go-to’s that are always well received.


Sesame Ginger Braised Beef – Tender shredded beef in sweet Asian glaze. Amazing flavor, crowd favorite in past. Can be served on buns or tortilla wraps, with homemade slaw (below)


Asian slaw – Cabbage (red & white), cilantro, minced jalapeno, very lightly dressed. 



Not an overly extravagant menu, but not too simplified either. I'm confident that my fiancee and I can cook it all in the 2 day period. I plan on cooking for 2 full days leading up to event, and doing finishing touches the day of. I'll be driving an hour to the location, and doing all of the cooking there for the 2-3 days. The food will be buffet style, and I'll stick around to mingle and talk food/describe dishes/etc. I'm estimating that I can buy everything for around $1500 in food cost. But I'm kinda just basing that off of smaller events I've done in the past.


My questions are-

1) Is there a standard way to estimate how much food to prepare to feed all guests sufficiently? (As in, the average person eats .75lbs of food, something of that nature)

2) Does $1500 sound about right to prepare food for that # of guests? Much of it is produce that I'll be buying in bulk from a restaurant supply store.
3) How much is fair to charge someone in total, considering the style menu I've described + shopping/cooking time + paying my "assistant" + travel + 2-3 days work etc.

I know I've been fairly vague and probably made the longest post in history, but I'm really trying to get this all figured out. The $1500 + other costs/expenses has me thinking of charging in the $4000-$4500 range, but I'm just not sure. That would essentially be $40 a head, which includes all of my many expenses & overhead. Seems reasonable to me....



post #2 of 2

Well first, since you have quite a variety of items there, I don't know how you can accurately estimate food cost

since you don't know exactly what youre serving yet.

2ndly, that mostly looks like an appetizer/sidedish menu.. Is this an appetizer event? What time of day?

I always base my pricing on my food costs, plus ALL other costs (labor, rentals, disposables,

business overhead etc) (and these are listed in several past threads on this forum) plus what ever profit Im

shooting for, dividing by number of people for price per head, then fine tune that number.

However, your 15.00 per head pure food cost sounds like plenty to me, even given your menu's diversity.


~~How much is fair to charge someone in total, considering the style menu I've described

How much is fair? What does THAT mean? lol Whats fair is how much you want, and how much your client wants

to pay,and their view might be based on the "going rate" (price comparison with other caterers, and what they've

paid in the past etc) Something the two of you need to agree on. If they think youre tying to gouge them, Im

sure they'll tell you. If you feel justified, I'm sure you'll tell THEM, and why. Such is the process.


Your end figure of 40-45 per person seems enuf to me to cover your FC, overhead, some hired help, your

personal labor (and expertise, and responsibility for health compliance etc), as well as a profit to boot.

But I don't know YOUR costs, so I'm thumb-nailing as well.


Also, if you're  doing all your prep AND cooking strictly at the event site i.e., no transporting of product from elsewhere you're probably okay as to not being fully licensed etc, but it also depends where you are.

Edited by Meezenplaz - 11/25/13 at 3:01pm
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