I have an exciting situation happening, but I'm having some trouble with budgeting and projected expenses and income. I am in the process of preparing a business proposal that would have me operating a transportable commissary, providing meals to crew and artists at outdoor multi-day festivals in California. This is something I have a fair bit of experience doing on a volunteer basis, but now I have the opportunity to do it professionally. This is kind of a making-my-dreams-come-true scenario :-)
In all of my previous experience, I have either set up the kitchen with my equipment and that of other people involved, or else a vendor has been paid to come in and bring their kitchen, and the food. In the first case, my budget was strictly for food (for example: feeding 100 people 2 meals over 2 days (dinner and breakfast), plus having a snack and beverage bar available at all times with a budget of $1000. all infrastructure and equipment was brought by myself and other attendees of the event. i spent all of the money on food, with a $4/meal food cost), so my food cost percentages were 100%, as it was a volunteer position.
So now I have the chance to be that vendor who gets paid to bring in the kitchen, make the meals, and feed the crew. In my catering business, I try to keep my food cost percentages around 40%, restaurants tend to aim for 28%-32%, but what should I aim for? My overhead is going to be much lower as I won't have a bricks-and-mortar kitchen to pay a monthly lease/utilities/etc on, my labour costs will be low as many of my staff will be volunteer. I see my main expenses being upkeep and maintenance of equipment, storage, occasional rental of a commercial kitchen for prep, transportation, propane (for generators), and my salary.
It seems to me that I could aim for a 40%-50% food cost and still do all right, but what is the industry standard around this kind of catering?
For example: 8 days off-grid, 4 days feeding the festival build and admin crew 2 meals a day plus snacks and beverages, 4 days of feeding that same crew plus assorted volunteers during the event, 2 meals a day (snack and beverage bar available only to build and admin crew). Pre- and post-event I might see only 100 people per meal, during the event up to 350 people per meal.
Any input would be appreciated. Thank you!