The Caterers Corner
Hors d'oeuvres for 80 - how many? Caterers Corner: Hors d'oeuvres for 80 - how many?
By Jazz2336 (Jazz2336) on Tuesday, March 15, 2005 - 09:12 am: Edit

I bought an existing catering business in Ormond Beach, FL in January. I do mostly lunches for pharmaceutical reps (doctor's offices). I have an evening Open House this week. It's from 6:30 until whenever. They want food for 80 even though they expect more. They have chosen shrimp cocktail, florentine stuffed mushrooms, mini quiches, fruit & cheese tray and raspberry blondies. How do I compute how much food to purchase/serve? How many per person. The clients are assuming since it's 6:30 that most will have eaten dinner, and if we run out, I go home. I've seen the posts on how damaging it can be for a caterer's reputation to run out of food (that all will blame the caterer, not the client). How should I handle this? I am going to add a big basket of bread with spreads even though it's not on the menu - keep them full. Thanks for all help.


By Foodpump (Foodpump) on Tuesday, March 15, 2005 - 09:41 am: Edit

Is the contract already signed and deposit paid? If not, there's still time to correct things. You know if it's 6:30pm and the word "caterer"is mentioned, most guests assume that there will be free food, a.k.a. dinner. 6:30 until when? Two hours? 80 people, 5 items, figure on each guest consuming 3 of each type of item. Alcohol being served? More food. Who's doing beverages? Can you at least squeeze a dime by serving coffee?

I've been in this business for ten years now, and I want to impress something on you. There are only two types of customers. The first type is the one who doesn't know what he/she wants, doesn't care, and anyways its too expensive. They will take absolutely no responsibility in a poorly planned event--it's all the caterer's fault. These people are the bulk and bane of every caterer. If you can educate them you will have a loyal, knowledgeable customer. The second type is very rare: A customer who knows exactly what they want, knows their guests, and will not balk or haggle over pricing.

If the customer is insistant on the menu, and will not pay more for more food you can help a bit. As you suggested, a basket of bread and dips, raw vegetable platters are fairly cheap as well. Load up on the crackers and ease a bit on the cheese for the cheese boards. Make sure you highlight any free items on your invoice and state the menu price clearly but do not charge. If your client is worth educating, do it

By George (George) on Tuesday, March 15, 2005 - 02:22 pm: Edit

Just incase you missed it in the other posts be sure to pass the shrimp. Don't put them out or you will need 4X as much.

Also around here 6:30 is dinner time and as Foodpump says most will assume it's a free dinner.


By Chefgibz0 (Chefgibz0) on Tuesday, March 15, 2005 - 02:25 pm: Edit

I agree with everything Foodpump said..I would like to add a bit. For 80ppl, 5 items is not all that much, the timing is important as well..6:30 is tough.....most will NOT eat before they go to a function set at 6:30.....they will be hungry and ready to EAT. The bread will help....but just a bit. With the shrimp cocktail.....peeled?...unpeeled??......are you charging by the piece?? If they are peeled and not charged by the piece...expect them to load up.....around 6-10 per person, at least. The other items I would say more like 5-6 per person. If the contract is not signed I would urge you to try to get them to add some things on like a crudite or some small cold canapes, borsin or goat cheese piped on cucumber, endive points with creme fraishe and caviar, salami cornucopias stuffed with cream cheese and california olive, something! And definately list what it is your are giving....charged and uncharged...if price is an issue......set the price at what you want your food cost to be...list it...then give them a 10% discount or such......have fun...good luck!

By Jazz2336 (Jazz2336) on Wednesday, March 16, 2005 - 06:44 am: Edit

Thank you all so much for your help. I have cleared up the following: The invitations only said cocktails - no mention of caterer or food at all. Also, approximately 50-75% of the people work for one of the clients and they get off work at noon on Fridays - plenty of time to eat before a cocktail party. I have convinced the clients to allow me to bring crudites/dip and assorted rolls/butters - and only to charge if I break into them. I guess now my big problem is going to be the shrimp. I will provide 5-6 of everything per person but since I don't have an extra server lined up, it will be peeled shrimp for the taking. 10 per person? 800 shrimp (26-30 count)? Does everyone agree with that?

I know 80 probably seems like small potatoes to most of you on this board but my specialty was cakes - before buying the business. This preparing hot and cold food to take to an off site job is all new. I'm very nervous. I thank you all for the help and interest you've given.

Thank you, Deb

By Chefgibz0 (Chefgibz0) on Wednesday, March 16, 2005 - 10:46 am: Edit

how are you buying your shrimp?? I think 800 is a lil agressive....last thing ya want is 400 left over , all dressed up and no place to go...If you are buying them already cooked and in 2.5 lb. bags....hold them in a cooler....frozen to partly frozen so you have the ability to pop them back in the freezer. soak in ice for 5 min. and voila......fresh shrimp. What do you plan on doing with the "back up" crudites and bread if not used?? What about your food cost??

By Mbw (Mbw) on Friday, March 25, 2005 - 10:12 am: Edit

How was the party? A nice Shrimp Salad Puff may be a good alternative in the future. I use either a little puff pastry shell, or a choux puff and fill them with chilled shrimp salad. The final result is quite cost effective, colorfull and delicious.

Two types of clients? I think there are more, or you just do too many weddings lol.

Chopped shrimp (no bay shrimp)
red onions/shallots (fine dice all veg)
yellow bell peppers
red bell peppers
sesame oil and/or Extra virg
small spoon of aioli/mayo to bind if needed

The yellow, green, red, brown of the puff and the rose pink of the shrimp are an eye catcher. To realy make them stand out I like to garnish with black sesame seeds.

Add a Message

This is a private posting area. A valid username and password combination is required to post messages to this discussion.