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Food Cost Percentages for Outdoor Commissaries?

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 

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!


Skamper :-)

post #2 of 3

Explain bringing in the kitchen, how does this go over with the health dept? I would think that a catering truck set up for film work would be your best way logistically to handle something like this.

post #3 of 3
Thread Starter 

Previously what I've done is fill out forms for the local health board (Temporary Food Services Application) describing the menu (ingredients, method of preparation for each dish, location of approved food service establishment for preparation of items prepped in advance, Food Safety Plan for each item), on-site preparation plans, hot holding and cold holding plans, layout of kitchen, methods of maintaining temps (during transport, on-site, and reheating), sanitation plan, CCPs, FoodSafe Certificate for myself and any other food handlers. 

Thus far, i have had every application accepted. :-)

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