The Caterers Corner
Pricing for sit-down dinner Caterers Corner: Pricing for sit-down dinner
By Foodie (Foodie) on Sunday, January 04, 2004 - 12:25 pm: Edit

I'm starting to get request to cater sit down dinners for groups of around 30. My question is (and I know the price depends on food cost) but what is your average price for a sit down dinner. They will want a couple of appetizers, will do a plated salad as first course, then entree (will do beef sometimes), vegetable, starch of some sort and dessert. I will charge separate for myself and helper ($15/each/hr) and will also charge for driving time into the city (35 minutes each way) I have no overhead to speak of (cook in my church's kitchen). These dinners will be for a bank president who will be doing business entertaining. I had catered a very nice cocktail party for him back in December and he approached me about doing his dinners also. When I asked his secretary about price range, she said maybe around $25/pp. I'm thinking I wouldn't make any money at all doing this. What would you consider an average price range for what I mentioned above. I know doing a beef tenderloin would be more expensive. I don't think anyone could go to a nice restaurant and have appetizers, salad, meal and dessert for $25 pp.

By Smartbytes (Smartbytes) on Sunday, January 04, 2004 - 02:43 pm: Edit

The problem with this type of business is the lack of economy of scale. You will work almost as hard preparing a dinner for 30 as you would for a dinner for 100, only make lots less $$$$. In many markets, you will not be able to charge enough per person for a dinner for under 50 guests to make it worth your while, except as a marketing tool. If these dinners lead to more profitable work, you should persue doing them. If not, you will work hard, but recieve little for your efforts. Remember, overhead is much more than kitchen rental. You need insurance, transportation, phone, other office expenses, etc, and you should certainly be charging more than $15/hour for your labor. You are the driving force behind the event- certainly worth more per hour to the host than your helper!

With respect to your meal charge, I recommend pricing each menu separately- with a range of 20-30% food cost. The more labor that is needed to produce the menu, the lower your food cost % percentage should be. Alternatively, you could estimate your hours of production labor and add those hours to your labor charge.

always remember, the 2 reasons most responsible for caterers burning out are: not picking the right kind of jobs (i.e ones that make a profit); and not charging enough for your services. All work and no profit makes tired, cranky, broke and burned out caterers.

By Rpd144000 (Rpd144000) on Tuesday, April 06, 2004 - 12:52 pm: Edit

you may also want to check on the legalities of using a non-profit kitchen to make a profit. you may be getting your church into trouble.

By Catergreat (Catergreat) on Tuesday, April 06, 2004 - 09:49 pm: Edit

A great cook does not a business person make.

I suggest you read the "E Myth" by Michael Gerber. It deals with the enormous number of failures in small business, usually due to the "Entrepeneural Myth" that a good technician thinks they can run a business....

first you need a foodservice permit, and most importantly, you MUST have liability insurance.


By Rpd144000 (Rpd144000) on Wednesday, April 07, 2004 - 12:46 pm: Edit

By the way, How do you get a topic going? I can't seem to figure that out.


By Gina (Gina) on Wednesday, April 07, 2004 - 02:14 pm: Edit

If you click on WFP's Forums, click on the relevant forum, you'll see all of the topics. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on Start a new conversation.

By Rpd144000 (Rpd144000) on Friday, April 09, 2004 - 05:02 pm: Edit


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