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Please review my menu

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

I've been lurking for a long time and have gotten great ideas, thanks!

A friend asked me to cater her 19 year old daughter's wedding reception in a few weeks. Will someone please review my amounts and any advice on staying sane? Reception is 2-4PM, 200 people, all cold finger food (no utensils), coffee and cake are provided. Food budget is only about $5.50 pp and they want fruit, cheese, crackers and 2 types of "meat" crostini.


Fruit trays, 30# fruit-  melon, pineapple, cantaloupe, strawberries, grapes, kiwi

Cheese trays, 20# cheese- sliced cheddar & muenster, cubed pepper jack & colby

Crackers- 14# assorted

BLT crostini- 300

Turkey cranberry crostini-300   I haven't figured recipe/portions for crostini yet.

Hot cocoa- 3 gal + 3 cans whipping cream

Tea for 100, 2# sugar, 100pk sweetener, 3 qt cream, 1 soy  Somehow sugar etc. is provided for coffee but not tea


I am limited to 2 8' tables for food & 2 8' tables for cocoa, tea, water, cups and get 4 helpers, there is a separate, small kitchen. Advice appreciated, bad jokes and smack talk welcome. Thanks

post #2 of 11

The menu looks fine as long as the bride agrees. $5.50 pp seems low but if you can do it at that price, best of luck. 

As for sanity, just keep writing down details. Shopping list, prep list, timing list, layout plan, etc. That will help you feel more in control. 

If you haven't already, visit the venue before to help you foresee any problems. 

post #3 of 11
Thread Starter 

Thank you!


I'm freaking out a little because I'm not a caterer, just a personal chef. I've helped with large events but never been in charge of all of the details. Of course, they changed their menu and their expectations of me and my 4 person staff.

New menu for 200 people:

Cheese platters with fruit garnish- 24# cheese, 4 varieties sliced, 2 varieties soft. Garnished with grapes/berries (don't know how many #'s).

Crackers- 15#

2 kinds of crostini, BLT and turkey cranberry- 300 of each

Mixed green salad with cranberry, pear, walnuts, Gorgonzola, balsamic vinaigrette- 24# of mixed greens?

Caramel apples slices- passed tray, 300 slices, will be a huge pain to make, may need to serve in cupcake wrappers

Chocolate dipped strawberries-  passed tray, 300, cupcake wrappers also?

Cocoa -same

Hot tea- same


I will now need to set tables with water and lemon and have staff refilling glasses

Will now need to have staff passing apples and strawberries


Assuming I am in the kitchen with crostini prep and plating additional platters, that leaves, 1 server running food/checking buffet, 1 server refilling glasses, 2 servers passing apples & berries. I need more help, don't I?

It was so simple in the beginning but has turned on me. I will highly recommend that people leave large, important events to professionals! You guys deserve so much more appreciation (and $)!

post #4 of 11
Are you still at 5.50 pp?
Try to simplify it a bit. If you dont want to make caramel apples; dont.

I would micro manage the costs a lot more. Charge for servers on top of food. Charge for food by the item is easier IMO.
I.e chocolate strawberries @ 1.50 ea= $450

Add grat right into your end price, its too big of a function to worry about it at the end and you'll probably get stiffed.
200 ppl @ 5.50=1,100 budget.
Food cost needs to be kept around 30%( this is subjective to many things)= food budget of 330$ of course its for a friend maybe you want to donate your time just spend their money have fun.

Hope this helps.
post #5 of 11

They are inching very close to what a sandwich and salad or soup buffet would cost.

Now they will have assigned seating (water bearers) ?

If I was a guest and had a place to sit with all the attendant staff I would expect more than some finger food.

Try to educate whoever is running the show with a few mock up menus that will equal the price of passed dipped fruit and napkin food.

Looks really cheap for a sit down wedding reception.



post #6 of 11

You are also getting way bloated on staff.

This is your first catering... cut some of them lose and work more.

You need to learn all the stations anyway if you are planning on adding this service to your business plan.



post #7 of 11

Your selection is small, therefore the items that you are giving them is not enough for 200 people at Lunchtime  30# fruit by the time you peel the melons and pines works out to about 25#  figuring 1/4 pound of fruit a person you have enough to feed 100 guest. Cheese 20# is less then an 1/8und per person again I guarantee you will run out . The only thing you have enough of is crackers. You do not have enough food to fill an 8 foot table. 2 good size fruit platters and 3 cheese trays is all you cn make even by stretching.  Rethink your food quantities and Good Luck

P/S 3 gal of cocoa is 384 ounces  figuring 5 ounce cups you barely have enough to do 80 guest


You do not need anyone to run food or check buffet because you wont have any refill to offer and nothing left on buffet.


Forget the apples they will turn color on you if made ahead and not fully coated.


I can see you have never done this before, get someone who is experienced to help 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...


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...

post #8 of 11
Thread Starter 

Thanks everyone,

I originally agreed help my friend's daughter with the reception when they wanted a few snacks for a cake and punch type reception from 2-4. They wanted a few trays of fruit and cheese so that people could have a snack while visiting. The only thing left from the original plan is the time. I would have declined had I known what it this turn into but at a little more than 2 weeks out, they're stuck and I'll just do my best to help.


They decided the menu and don't seem to care that it looks like a meal but can only be portioned as a light snack with the money they have available. A few weeks ago, I thought I'd make a few $ for my time, now I'm just trying not to spend any of my own. Luckily I was just doing it to help, not to make money or launch a new business or I'd be sunk.


I have 4 servers, paid separately from food budget, to help set up, refill waters, bus, restock (if there is anything left to restock), pass desserts and clean up. The only time I'll be in the kitchen is assembling/plating back up crostini, the rest I can do before guests arrive.


They still want cheese, crackers, crostini, and salad and will not budge from this. I've talked them out of caramel apples but they still want the strawberries.


Coffee, tea and cake will be provided by the venue, I'm just providing the cocoa.


Everyone is correct that the menu doesn't make sense, guests will expect a meal, this isn't enough $ for food and I'm not a caterer. I'm trying to salvage this so that the brides parents aren't mortified and guests will have something to eat. I guess my original question turned into me venting, thanks for listening.

post #9 of 11

Glad to listen so that you can vent, I know the feeling. I have seen this same exact same scenario unfold hundreds of times. Never ceases to amaze me.


There are people that cater professionally and they get paid what they do for a reason. Then there are the people that try to avoid paying professional caterers fees for a reason. Lastly there are well meaning people and friends that sometimes get stuck in the middle for a reason.


Good luck, just remember that this too shall pass. Errors in judgement only turn into mistakes when we don't learn from them.

Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
post #10 of 11

Like cheflayne said hang in there.

I used to do all the Grands/nieces/nephews bday cakes as gifts.

The kid was always allowed to choose theme and flavors.

My last straw was a castle cake for 100.

Delivered and set up.

Stayed for the party and counted maybe 40 people there.

Come to find out the mom just wanted a "taller" castle than the kid's friend had the month before.

Just smile and count your karma points lol.



post #11 of 11

i had a similar issue with agreeing to cater a friends wedding, and then finding out that they wanted to squeeze the cost as much as possible. i was fortunate, in a way that sadly you dont seem to be, that they wanted hot buffet, so they could all load up on carbs and at least be full. can i just suggest some things that i went through in my head in the run up to it, they seemed like desperation at the time, but in retrospect, saved the day for me.


how cheep would it be possible to do this for, if you absolutly had to bottom line it? the point is it is surely possible to do what you want to do, but how much would you have to sacrafice the quality to bring it in at the price you want?

your sticking points are things like - 300 strawberries, how much does that cost? plus the chocolate to cover them, like someone said, thats probably a fifth or more off your budget per person right there. your cocoa, go find the one your planning to use, find out how many cups a pack makes, thats another fixed cost. once you have the fixed costs out the way the rest is just scaling one thing against all the others, and economising where needed, the turkey and bacon and whatnot dont sound too troubling, maybe make them huge, so that people will be full after one of each?


how much do you think people can eat? you should work up from the portion size, not down from the prep size. someone above me has very neatly worked a few of these out, you should do this for every single thing. i rmemeber trying to estimate how many spring onions it takes to have spring onions in a serving of paella, and then multiply that up by the number of people, and then by the cost and then, and only then, do you know if its viable.


what could you leave out? is there anything your planning to do that is a frippery, or an extravagance, or uncalled for by the brief? there's a long history in catering of people missing the point, it took an illustrator friend to point out to me that their cardinal rule is always work to the brief, and that i was way off the mark, focus on exactly what you need to do.

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