The Caterers Corner
Catering FAQ or "How much does it cost?" sales stories Caterers Corner: Catering FAQ or "How much does it cost?" sales stories
By Mbw (Mbw) on Tuesday, August 27, 2002 - 01:10 pm: Edit

Answering client calls can be a real kick. Over the years I have noticed about 25% of all calls start out the same.

“Hi I was planning a party for about 75 people and wanted to know what it would cost.”

So as event planners we sit on the other side of the phone, and mentally bring up our list of boiler plate questions designed to “Extract” the correct information out of them, or “Feed” it too them for guidance. I guess over the years I have become impatient, and decided to have some fun with this. So now I have ONE answer for this completely absurd open-ended question of “How much does it cost?”

Around $25 per person, as to what it includes??

Oh so NOW you want to know what you get! Sheesh! I guess I DO need that boiler plate of questions. But you too should experience the shock, and dismay (and often dead silence) that I witness as they wrestle with the answer. They have the answer they asked for and NO info…. **Snicker** You asked for it! Good sport really! Try it!

On the UP side the $25 per person figure works great. It can be inclusive of disposables, and delivery, OR be a med lvl entrée. Of course the REAL answer to the question is $15-$150 per person, but that confuses them even more.

So NOW I have a bug up my bus (Micro-buss that is) to create a comprehensive catering/event planning FAQ. Many caterers have a company FAQ with a little additional general information, but I want my company FAQ (payment policies, etc), to be separate from this. Some wedding planning web sites have some good information, and several places have an article on “How the choose a caterer”

I would LOVE to hear your experiences talking to clients, and what you do to guide the sales process (if anything). What I will be begging for later is for input on this list that I hope to create… FAQ’s ROCK! So what is your most frequently asked question, or the worst, and how do you answer?

By Catergreat (Catergreat) on Thursday, August 29, 2002 - 09:22 am: Edit

No doubt!!!

caller: "Hello? How much does it cost to get a wedding catered?

me: "$20,000.00!"

caller: "uh, for what?"

me:"a $20,000.00 reception!"


me: "Do you know how much a 1000.00 wedding costs?"

caller: "uh, 1000.00?"

me: "You're right! now that you know how our pricing works, let's talk about your wedding, number of guests, desires, etc and see what fits!

I think it is just the curse of catering...

By Catergreat (Catergreat) on Thursday, August 29, 2002 - 09:42 am: Edit

I think the FAQ is a great idea.... I have done one in the past and had it in a brochure...

I had a lady call me the other day saying she needed prices... I started the usual questions and she said, well, we need like a creamed spinach to go with what we are doing.... I was like, uh, ok... are you having meats? she said, yeah....

i said, well, do you want me to cater everything? she said, well this is for 200 ppl and my neice is a caterer and she will be doing the cheese and fruit trays, my brother is cooking pork loin (...lovely) and we need you to provide the rest......

me: "why can they not cater the whole thing"

her: "well, she is not able to do everything..."

*can anyone guess my next question to her?*

me: "so, who is your neice and what is the name of her company"

her: "oh, she does it part time out of her house"

*bad answer!* lol

* by this time I was getting an erection*

me: "Soooooooo, who is insuring this, uh, reception?"

her: "huh?"

me: "well, should many of your in-laws' friends get very sick and miss time from work, doctor's bills, etc... who will be responsible for their bills?"

her: "well, I hope that won't happen"

me: "me too, but I am the only one with valid insurance and my insurance company will not cover this event if we do not provide everything..."

her: "gosh, I never thought about that..."

me: "This is your daughter's wedding! Do you really want to risk ruining that day by having amateurs cook? and worse, do you really want to risk several thousand dollars to save a few hundred?

her: "well, let me think about it..."

me: "thanks for calling!"

By Ginamiriam (Ginamiriam) on Thursday, August 29, 2002 - 12:57 pm: Edit

Wow! That last post really scared me! Are we as licensed caterers liable for people getting sick when we do not provide all of the food? And how do they know whose food made them sick? I do provide supplemental food to people who just want entrees or sides and want to cook the rest themselves. Now I find myself rethinking this. However, if I don't provide it, someone else will. Is it worth the risk? I have absolutely no idea! Any thoughts?

By Mbw (Mbw) on Thursday, August 29, 2002 - 01:54 pm: Edit

The master of all you survey, and liable for it too!

I don't have a licence to sell alcohol, but I provide service for it. My insurance is less than if I were to have a licence, but we are still liable if anyone leaves drunk. WE ALL ARE!!! Yep! You can sue the Location, the caterer, the beverages service (if applicable), the band, Everyone! Sure a judge may not bust a clown for not taking keys away from a drunk dad, but what if the clown doesn't and the family is killed going home??

In most cases the caterer is insured, the location is insured, AND many clients will get a one day policy for themselves (usually attached the their homeowners insurance), to boot almost all subcontractors are insured too, so we typically have it covered.

So for only creamed spinach...
Creamed spinach for 100 $400
Delivery $80 (with pickup of equipment)
$1,000,000.00 one day policy for spinach $250

Cash or charge?

By Mbw (Mbw) on Thursday, August 29, 2002 - 02:07 pm: Edit


I used to work for a picnic company in L.A. People (and I am being generous calling them people) would load up plates of barbeque chicken, ribs, potato salad, and run to their car to stash it for later. It was miserable for food costing as you may imagine, but that is not what you are thinking is it??

So now we have cooked chicken at about 70F sitting in a car, under pork ribs, and over potato salad with loads of mayo. ??? NOW close the car and go back to the picnic to eat. Well it is L.A., and the temp will be between 70-100F for 4 hours while you eat YUMMY! Then the ride home and HOPEFULLY you will put it in the fridge BEFORE you go to bed. What? You forgot to do that last night... oh well slap it in the fridge and we will eat it later...

I wish this were uncommon, but it is not. When ever you allow your guests to keep the food leftover from the party you are trusting THEM to practice safe food handling. Dixie (the SO CAL caterer) had a great hold harmless that she would have anyone sign if they wanted to take food from an event or have us leave what was extra.

By Mbw (Mbw) on Thursday, August 29, 2002 - 02:26 pm: Edit


In order to sue for food poisoning, you must have proof. I found out the hard way by eating in a thai restaurant in Chicago (not MY idea), and having 3 of us out for 3 days of an important convention. When I could walk we all went to the restaurant to complain, and to alert them to the peanut sauce that was the common thread between us. The restaurant refused to admit ANY possability of wrong doing so I took it up a notch. They seemed to be so defensive that even my plea to inform their cooks for the customers safety was stonewalled. OK now I am angry. We have wasted plane fare, been layed out sick for 3 nights, and now they acted like they didn't care. It was a busy night full of customers so I spoke up in my best stage voice.

"LOOK we ALL got sick by eating HERE, and YOU don't seem to care at all." The customers turned to look at the front desk where the 4 of us (only 3 ate the sauce) were taking turns sitting as standing was still painfull. The host began to look worried, and a bead of sweat appeared. "You either compensate us, or we sue!" They quickly made a phone call and within 10 minutes an attorney appeared. He explained that we would have had to gone to a hospital, had our puke examined, held in evididence before we could sue. I told him I was a cook, my stepmother sitting here was a chef, and we KNOW it was this place and we WILL be compensated! We got the cost of the meal returned to Momma 2 steps card, but no big $$$

Mostly I was shocked that the health and safety of the customer seemed to pale in comparrison to their leagal health.

My Motto "Over 100,000 served, and no deaths as a direct result of eating my food!" or even better shorter version "Over 100,000 served, no convictions!"

By Mbw (Mbw) on Thursday, August 29, 2002 - 02:47 pm: Edit

SPELLING BAH! BTW "Momma Two Steps" is the woman that married my stepfather NOT a dancer

By Catergreat (Catergreat) on Thursday, August 29, 2002 - 03:06 pm: Edit

MBW... nice information.

You don't need proof to sue, just proof to win. If you have insurance, then they will pay the attorney's to defend.. If not, you pay and that can cost thousands, even if you win...

regarding other food being served. I always have them sign a waiver when there is ANY other food...but it is not necessarily the liability, but the PRESS.... if people get sick at a party you cater, they will BLAME you... at least in their hearts and mouths..... and that is more damaging than anything..

I usually refuse jobs where they serve other people's food, except wedding cakes...

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Thursday, August 29, 2002 - 07:54 pm: Edit

Here's another how much story!
Lady calls telling me she's having a luncheon w/ a bunch of Ft. Laud. socialites, it's going to be in a 6 million dollar home on the water in Ft. Laud. and can we do a chicken entree, salad, dessert and, throw in a few appetizers. I'm like, sure we can do that! Oh by the way I only have $8.00 to work with can I get that for that much? I said no but you can get it from this place.....and I proceeded to give her the number to a local KFC out of the yellow pages!!!!!!!!!!!

By Mbw (Mbw) on Friday, August 30, 2002 - 05:03 am: Edit

Send me some information.

Back when I did cold calling for a picnic company in Orange County CA, I worked with a fellow Frank Zappa fan. We would call company after company trying to get them custom proposals for their next event. If a person wanted to blow you off they would say "Well just send me some information" We would get their address and wonder..Information on what?

These special people got Frank Zappas' "BarfcoSwill" mail order catalog with a little note inside.

"Here is the information you requested"

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