Catering Bid jitters. Advice welcome

Discussion in 'Professional Catering' started by Cory Beckwith, Aug 21, 2018.

  1. Cory Beckwith

    Cory Beckwith

    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    0
    Exp:
    Lifetime Kitchen Rat to business owner turned Event Manager
    Good day everyone,

    I am a new member and I have become a member because I am about to submit the largest catering bid I have ever done. It is a formal bid for a 450 person catering For a city chamber gala. They requested passed apps, plated meal to include surf and turf, dessert, linens, and non alcoholic beverages. Cutoff to send it is this Friday at 5pm and once I send it i can not change anything. So questions that I have are, anyone with experience please advise....

    The email stated a detailed bid. My bid is 10 pages including cover page, menu, letter explaining ourselves a bit, and a detailed breakdown of all the costs. Is that to much?

    This is a high Price event with my numbers. For the final price we have come up with $57.73 a person, and a grand total with 450 guests of $25,978.50. our profit will be between $9,000 and $11,000. I know that is a large profit number especially for a single night event. But we run the restaurant at 25% cost. This is over 50%.. Is that to high?? I want to make it worth it... but I want the event more. I am the event manager, so the big boss would need to okay a change but I am just looking to get input from people in the industry that have more experience than I do.
    Thanks in advance for taking a look and giving some input. I will try to be involved with other posts if I feel i can help.
     
  2. meezenplaz

    meezenplaz

    Messages:
    1,398
    Likes Received:
    210
    Exp:
    Sous Chef, Event Manager
    Welcome to Cheftalk Cory.
    If this is your first time doing the public bid thing, then you're entering a whole new dimension,
    and all I can say is...
    Theres the sign post up ahead....your next stop....the Twilight Zone.

    Without being too negative, because there IS money to be made, youll discover this can often
    be a game. A game of who you know, and inside shenannigans. However, not always.
    Why games? Simple. Theres enough money in these type gigs to be able to grease palms,
    kickbacks, etc, to easily motivate dishonest practices.

    There are actually 3 different ways thse potentially lucrative public bid gigs tend to work....
    1. "The fix is in"
    The first variable is, why are they "going out to bid"?
    Well that depends on their policies. They might be required to go out to bid every so often.
    You know, for fair practices and healthy competitions sake. Now, think about that word for
    a minute. REQUIRED. so if theyre genuinely unhappy with their last caterer, theyre probably
    excited to be shopping for another. But...what if they ARE happy? Maybe theyve used the
    same cater quite a while now, and love em ta death. Very comonly, maybe theyve become
    good friends. But now they HAVE to go out to bid. So they go through the motions,
    collecting bids, calling in the caters, maybe even a " job walk" meeting, where they show you
    all the venue, etc. All for appearances. While the guy they want is a shoe in.
    Well how can he be sure hes the lowest bid. A good old fashioned phone call.
    This happens more often in gov contracts than people think. We all know this
    happens with advertised job openings. Ive personally both benefited by this
    practice....and been screwed by it.

    2. "We want a good job...not necessarily the cheapest"...
    Yeah, right. They collect the bids, sometimes theyll invite bidders to a "public reading" of
    all the bids, sometimes not. They often skip past your "resume" pages, make sure youre providing
    what they require, then skip right to the price page. They make note of where you "fall in the pack,
    highest goes on the bottom, cheapest (even if its TOO cheap) goes on top.
    Then when they award to the cheapest, the event is often subpar, theyre not happy, and
    guess what....they go out to bid again.

    3. Finally, we have a truly honest, competitive, scenario. And sure, theyre out there.
    No inside connection, the client is truly looking for a good reputable company to
    take over, for what ever reason.
    With this in mind, you want to be somewhere around the middle, or a bit below
    of the high low range of bids. This allows you some "wriggle room" , up or down.
    In order to do this, you need an idea of whos competing, and how they routinely
    fall on the price scale in the industry. That can be easy or hard, depending on
    how savvy you already are in the industry.

    Let me say , Im fully aware of the feelings here...sure you know its competive,
    that youll have to get some dirt low product prices, take a low profit, maybe
    even a loss in order to get the job. But, you feel, it will be well woth it, for the
    experience, and the great reference. Referrals galore right???
    Well no, not necessarily. We as carerers routinely advise people not to jump
    at a gig for reasons like that if you have to sacrifice ANYthing--your profit, quality, anything.
    Because in the end, youll wish you hadnt. All those "buffers" you had built into your price
    and profit margins in case things go wrong, (its always something) are gone when you bid
    that way. And thats on SMALL jobs, say 250 people or less.
    On a job of THIS magnitude......well you do the math here, itll be good practice for ya. :)
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2018
    drirene, iridium12 and chefbillyb like this.
  3. chefbillyb

    chefbillyb

    Messages:
    2,161
    Likes Received:
    495
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    Meezy, Great direction in a difficult but real way on how these things work. Most people think it's their ticket to success. They may even start seeing the money and the feeling of notoriety. In many cases they will almost give this away just to get a foot in the door.
    I've turned down the bid process for years. Then one day someone asked me to bid because it was a process that had to be done. I got the hint and got the catering. It's much more fun when they chase you......Like I said Meezy great job explaining the process.......ChefBillyb
     
    meezenplaz likes this.
  4. sgmchef

    sgmchef

    Messages:
    354
    Likes Received:
    148
    Exp:
    Retired Chef
    Hi Cory,

    Here are some thoughts.

    The devil is in the details. I don't think your submission package is too big. Depends whats in it! Follow all requirements, guidance and rules for submission of bids. Do you have a gluten-free Vegan option planned for? Always somebody the night of...

    Your other question should just be running the profit margin by the boss. You already know the costs, present the numbers for review. If he wants a larger or smaller profit margin, he'll let you know. If the Boss approves the bid, can't be upset if you don't win it.

    He is a member of the Chamber, right?

    Good Luck!
     
  5. chefwriter

    chefwriter

    Messages:
    1,852
    Likes Received:
    409
    Exp:
    Professional Cook
    In addition to the excellent advice already given, I'll add only this. Forget for a minute that this is a public bid/city chamber event. Think of it as just another event. Then price it out so you feel you are getting a fair profit for value given just like any other proposal. Then no matter how the bidding goes, you submitted a fair bid you won't regret. If you get the job, no adjustment in pricing strategy is needed should they use you again. If not, nothing lost.
     
  6. Cory Beckwith

    Cory Beckwith

    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    0
    Exp:
    Lifetime Kitchen Rat to business owner turned Event Manager

    Thanks for the support. Yes we are members and they are only asking members for bids. And in our town I can think of only 2 or 3 other places that would be able to put in a bid and execute such a large high end event. I was so detailed i thought of going less detailed. But I did not offer any vegan or vegetarian options. +++Sigh+++ Just one more thing to think about while I am waiting for a response. The deadline is today at 5pm but I did not want to keep over thinking what I had on paper so i sent it 2 days ago. Now even tho i know that they havent looked it over i find myself checking my email to see if they came back.. I showed them where every single dollar was going, and they want surf and turf. I went a little non traditional and did a 6oz filet, 4 oz Mahi-Mahi with crab stuffing topped with a scallop, a shrimp and lemon butter served with fresh green beans and garlic mashed. When i priced it out for them it was $23 a plate for all that. $25 with a salad, and $30 with bread and dessert( salted caramel cheesecake with local honey and whipped cream). I feel like if i saw that for 30 bucks i would be all over it.
     
  7. meezenplaz

    meezenplaz

    Messages:
    1,398
    Likes Received:
    210
    Exp:
    Sous Chef, Event Manager
    So you finalized at 30.00 per plate? Thats far more reasonable than 57.73.
    My initial thought on reading your post was somewhere around 28 to 33.00
    per guest, maybe a bit lower because of the volume. But I didnt know you were
    planning that much seafood. (Though I think the scallop on the main might
    be a bit much. Though they make great apps.)
    Without a defined specific menu, Im wondering how they can make a true bid
    price comparison. Maybe they ARE just looking to be dazzled.....at a good
    price of course.
    I might also note that while on smaller gigs the profit margin ran about 30 percent,
    on larger or more expensive ones like this, weddings, etc, it ran more like 15 to 18 percent.
     
  8. Cory Beckwith

    Cory Beckwith

    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    0
    Exp:
    Lifetime Kitchen Rat to business owner turned Event Manager

    No that is the price breakdown for the entree salad and dessert. We have passed apps before hand, tea and coffee service, and this is all cooked on site and plated. We needed to rent some items and they also wanted linens for the tables, chair covers and charger plates. I was just giving an example of how I broke it down for them. I gave them the price for everything. Rentals per person, I also gave them hard numbers that would not change unless a significant drop in guests occurred. Everything out the door including labor for 25 employees came out to 57.73 per person
     
  9. meezenplaz

    meezenplaz

    Messages:
    1,398
    Likes Received:
    210
    Exp:
    Sous Chef, Event Manager
    ok i gotcha. That could be competive, depending on where in the country or
    the world, you are.