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Help with catering costs

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
I lease out a small grill. The owners want me to cater a party for 50 people. The menu is: wings, small Italian beef sandwiches, mostacolli, potatoe salad, chicken strips and 2-3 foot subs. The subs are from a local meat market. Of course we have to put out all the sauces, silverware etc. My wife and i will be the only 2 doing the party. We want to give them a reasonable price, as they're good to us. The catering will be done on location. My cost including plates, silverware and everything we need is $214.52. Btw, we don't take a salary. Whatever profit is left over each week after expenses, is our pay. We're very small, so paying ourselves right now is tough! They pay for all utilities, so we have no additional costs and the party is at night, when we're very slow. We may have to stay an extra hour, over our normal hours. My food cost runs 29-31%. I was going to charge $7 a person or $350. That's $135 profit. Is that a fair price or can someone tell me what a fair price is? I thought it was high but my wife said its a lot of work and i need to start charging higher prices!! Please tell me what you think.
post #2 of 15

You didn't say where you are, but if you want an honest opinion youre not charging nearly enough,

and I don't possibly see how you can consider 7.50 a person too much. For starters, around 50 or

60 people is generally a minimum. And with the food cost you described plus your other expenses even if not

utilities, the two of you are making what...50 to 60  bucks each?

Do you honestly think youre being overpaid here??


Given the food you described, and having an idea myself how much work that is, my price to the client would be

(apx) 11.95 ...or up depending on how my EXACT   expenses calculated out.

Youre basically coming close to giving away yours and your wife's services (considered a "skilled" trade BTW)

for close to free because..... they "take care of you" ? I might suggest  you guys need to ask yourself what

you're in this for, and decide how to proceed from there.

post #3 of 15

I don't give my land lord free or discounted anything, he is very good to me also but I pay him full price for rent, he pays full price for food and would not have it any other way.

It's the pesky neighbor that always wants something for free just for being my neighbor.

post #4 of 15

Valuable advice there meeze.

Wondering about that plate and setup cost.

Disposables/rentals will eat a hole in your pocket fast.

Why can you not just use your own crockery?

The chosen menu is casual....

If the client (and yes your landlord is a client in this situation) wants something different, upcharge to cover the rentals/disposables.

He is hardly unaware that it is common practice to be responsible for everything you (the caterer) provide in this situation.



post #5 of 15
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the advice. I have no rental fees. Everything I need I already have. Of course I'll be using my sterno and pans, but I added those type of things into the cost. I know its cheap, but this area is very cheap! I'm in northwest Indiana. About 40 miles from Chicago. I'll raise the price! I contacted a couple of caterers and their prices were $8.50 a plate and $9 a plate. So I'm not too far off.
Thanks again.
post #6 of 15
While keeping in mind what the local competiers are charging you should set yoyr price according to what your doing and what product and service are being delievered. 7 bucks a head, plus tax hopefuly if there is tax on that there, wouldnt have even got me to do any more than the subs and a salad for pickup, and that was 10 years ago when I was in business in the states.

Dont get caught up in the situation where people call you because your the cheapest, you will spend you time working for peanuts. I have for many years, and will continue until my body is room temp to turn away business from people shopping on the basis of the least price.

I know you said you want to be fair and treat your landlord well but you also need to treat yourself fair and well.

Best wishes to you

post #7 of 15
Thread Starter 


I appreciate the advice. The only parties I cater, are for patrons of the bar or for the owners and their friends. One guy said he'd charge $11.95. There's no way I'm charging that much. That's almost a $400 profit on a $200 bill! I don't want to cut myself short, but I also have to deal with these people everyday. Also, $50 of the cost is for 2 subs from the meat market, so I don't want to make a ton of profit on those. So that brings down my cost and labor. All I have to do is walk out into the bar and serve the food. So no transportation is involved and I already have the table cloths etc. I'm going to charge $9.00 a plate plus tax. Do you think that's fair?  My sales range anywhere from $100 a day to $300. So we're not high volume. I run daily specials and the alcoholics in the bar will only buy the specials. They all complained because I just raised my cheeseburger special from $5 to $5.50. I give them a 1/3 pound fresh ground chuck patty from the local meat market, their choice of fries (8 ounces), chips or slaw. I use a bun that costs me .23. $5.50 is more than fair for a special, but they complain. I can't give food away!  However, I don't have the expense of other restaurants. They pay, electric, gas, water and supplied all the major equipment. I pay for food, paper and some cleaning supplies. I only have to sweep and mop the kitchen, which takes about 5 minutes.They supply the mop,bucket and floor soap.They charge me 15% of my sales. So, I'm getting a pretty good deal.  About 30% of my business is from outside the bar. It's a really nice sports bar, but they have a reputation of being "an old peoples" bar. Some of the regulars start getting rowdy around 6 and that turns the younger people off. There's about 12 guys who are here faithfully every single day at open and stay till 7 or 8 every night. That really hurts my business and it's not the kind of place people come in for lunch, as the other people who leased the grill the past few years had a terrible reputation. I'm just using this as a stepping stone to something bigger. They all love my food and think it's high quality. But, I still have to be fair to myself.


post #8 of 15
Fair enough it seems, the sause is always in the details and if its a low effort gig like you explained in that last post then cool.

Something to keep in mind, and I do get the idea of a steping stone business, just dont let both feet hit that stone, move forward one way or another or you will get comfortable and stagnate. Little steps, focused outside your place of service, will get you a long way.

post #9 of 15

The only parties I cater, are for patrons of the bar or for the owners and their friends. One guy said he'd charge $11.95.

There's no way I'm charging that much.

Well, One-Guy didn't have nearly as many facts of the situation as have been posted now.

So he was trying to thumbnail it based on what was provided--people often come in for advice

giving rather sketchy info, and getting details can be a challenge.

However, I can say that One-Guy  still feels the OP has an "undercharging" catering mentality ,

something he's not only seen before, but has fallen into himself.

But the bottom line is, OP should charge what he wants--if its a mistake, he'll arrive at that conclusion

himself eventually. If not, great.



post #10 of 15
Surely you searched the net on your own before asking for help from the professional chefs that frequent Chef Talk.
Pete McCracken is one of many (you have already met a few others) who freely share what knowledge they have accrued over the span of their careers.
Here is a link to another thread re catering costs (the numbers and advice from Chef McCracken are golden, IMO) and there are many many more just like it on CT.
Let me also mention that the level of professional advice shared here is not the norm.
Many F&B forums on the www are filled with childish bickering and backstabbing but CT holds it's members to a higher standard.
There I go.......rambling again.
Anyways...welcome to the forums.
Hopefully you will stick around and share with us.


how to price a catering job ?
started on 08/02/11 last post 04/28/17 at 11:18am 147 replies 211910 views
post #11 of 15
Thread Starter 
Thanks Mimi. Everyone's been great and I appreciate it. I appreciate the link too.
post #12 of 15
Glad to help :-)


* Received a PM questioning my choice of threads to illustrate the point of my post.
Thought it was a perfect example of how a bit of passionate back and forth makes
a thread flow a bit faster.
The less time between posts makes for a livelier debate...almost like a real world
Without IMOs and edits and smiley faces.

Edited by flipflopgirl - 3/8/14 at 9:36pm
post #13 of 15

I'm a very small town caterer and I will give you a piece of advice that was given to me and that I found very helpful..Anybody will let you work for nothing. Do NOT under sell yourself. These people aren't doing you a favor, it's a business deal. Could you go to a restaurant and buy the meal you are serving for $7.50 a plate? No. Charge what you need to charge. I double my money on everything, at least.My time and effort is worth something. You want to give them a good value? Give them great service, serve them great food, but don't undersell yourself.

post #14 of 15

Welcome to the world of business and catering. While I do agree that you do need a experience and a portfolio of clients to get started, pricing your services too cheap can cause problems in the long run, these "start up" customers will always expect the low pricing you have given them and can be very hard to raise prices on them. They will also refer business over expecting the low prices given. The exisisting clients may also want a discount since they referred a client over. Best advice is not too undercut yourself, charge market prices, and let your quality do the selling. Hope this helps.

post #15 of 15
Happy wife = Happy life
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