Catering for 20 pax

Discussion in 'Professional Catering' started by Ama, Jan 10, 2019.

  1. Ama


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    20 years
    I have been coking since I was like 6. Cooking is my passion. I cook just causally for friends and family. A friend wants me to cater for 20 people. I am trying to find some sort of calculator to see how much each dish cost me so I know what to charge. She has quite the menu.
    Braised Oxtail
    Jasmine Rice
    Kale (make green. I use kale instead of collard greens)
    Sauteed Cabbage
    Spinach with beef stew
    Fried Rice
    Baked Chicken wings
    Fried Plantians
    No Bake pineapple cheesecake
  2. chefross


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    Former Chef
    Hello Ama and welcome to CT.
    Your question can be complicated if you do not have the knowledge of calculating a food cost.

    You posted your question in a forum for professionals only. I understand that you probably posted here so as to get a correct answer.

    Basically you're going to have to go through each recipe on your menu and find the price for each ingredient, then calculate how much of that ingredient you used, then price it all out. There are some online apps that can help you calculate a food cost.

    If you are buying all products retail (as in going to the grocery store) over wholesale from a purveyor, you can save some money.
    You'll also have to think about how you're going to serve the food. keep it hot during service and clean-up.
    All of this cost will be only your friend.

    If you have never catered a party before, perhaps it would be best to ask for some help.
    Vjan likes this.
  3. chefbillyb


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    Professional Chef
    It may be easier to just charge her for all the food thats bought. You could then add on what you want to make on the party.
  4. jimyra


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    Professional Chef
    You will find this on many threads, thanks Pete.

    COSTS = Labor (including your own, if applicable) + Food + Utilities + Rent + Licenses + Tax reserve + Insurance + any other costs of doing business, including interest, depreciation, and all the hidden costs.

    PROFIT DESIRED is up to you, what return on your investment do you want?
  5. sgsvirgil


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    Retired Owner/Operator
    Aside from the task of calculating costs, where are you going to prepare the food? I presume a home kitchen. If that's the case, then, one of the other commenters has made a valid point. Figuring out your costs and your menu is only part of the task at hand. You need to devise a plan that delivers each course hot and with the least amount of holding time.

    Here are some questions that will better help you and help us answer your questions.

    Is this going to be a sit down event where everyone sits at a table or did you envision a buffet style where everyone serves themselves?

    If its going to be a sit down type event, you will need at least 1 server and possibly 1 assistant to help in the kitchen. Doing this all on your own is not very realistic.

    If its a buffet style, you could probably skip the server and just go with one assistant to help in the kitchen and shuttle food back and forth from the serving table.

    Your mise en place (preparations and organization) is going to make or break this event.

    How "in love" is your friend with this menu? Its incredibly unbalanced. For instance, there are two rice dishes - fried rice and jasmine rice (I presume the Jasmine rice is simply intended to be a white rice offering).

    Another example is braised oxtail and spinach with beef stew. Either one is fine. But, together?

    The veggie list only offers cabbage and kale (not counting any veggies used in the beef stew or braised oxtail).

    Then there are baked chicken wings, which by themselves are fine,but, why? Are they an app?

    What about beverages? Beer, wine, soda, mixed drinks? Will guests be mingling before the main meal is served? Will there be a self serve beverage table or does your friend want someone to serve beverages?

    My point here is not to insult or attack the menu. Rather, my intent is to point out that with a little planning, a well balanced menu can be developed that fits the style of service your friend wants i.e. sit down or buffet, is economical and well within your grasp as a first time caterer. You want to shine here and your friend want a successful party. Set yourselves up for success.

    For your purposes, pricing out the food does not have to be done the same way we would do it in our restaurants. You can simply purchase all the necessary groceries and use that figure as your food costs. After all, Its not like you're going to return the unused ingredients, right? If you want to get a per plate breakdown, divide your grocery costs + the cost for your time and anyone else who helps by the number of guests, in this case 20.

    What you're paid should be either a flat rate or an hourly rate based on an estimate of how long you will be working on this project, including time spent planning, prepping and purchasing food. Don't forget to add in the cost of an assistant. They will want to be paid, too....unless you can find someone willing to work for food or for free, which is possible.

    Good luck. :)