Catering for a mini conference

Discussion in 'Professional Catering' started by chefteldanielle, Mar 29, 2002.

  1. chefteldanielle

    chefteldanielle

    Messages:
    164
    Likes Received:
    10
    I was asked to cater for my fellow respiratory therapists, for a mini conference at my hospital and I was asked to do the continental breakfast, lunch (lasagna, salad, rolls and dessert) and a happy hour..
    This is for 60 people.
    They do not have to have lasagna, but that is what I thought would work..
    The kicker is the budget is $1000..
    There are no sponsors yet, and I doubt they'll get any..This is why I would not like catering.
    I want people to come eat at my place, eat what I have to offer and leave..
    Sorry Iam a bit frustrated..
    Does anyone have any better ideas?

    Danielle
     
  2. kuan

    kuan Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    6,743
    Likes Received:
    346
    Exp:
    Retired Chef
    That's simply ridiculous. That's $16.66 a person for breakfast, lunch, happy hour. Backout the taxes and gratuity and you're at around $13.50 per person. Do they have any clue how much it costs? Holy cow, talk about wanting something for nothing!

    Kuan
     
  3. kuan

    kuan Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    6,743
    Likes Received:
    346
    Exp:
    Retired Chef
    Plus you have to pay yourself labor, setup and cleanup... this isn't even my gig and I'm frustrated already! Okay anyway, tell them donuts and coffee for breakfast, no dessert at lunch, but have a dessert bar for happy hour.

    Kuan
     
  4. shroomgirl

    shroomgirl

    Messages:
    7,375
    Likes Received:
    64
    Exp:
    Professional Caterer
    Let them provide the beverages....coffee, juice, sodas, then booze or whatever at Happy Hour.

    Muffins and bagels for breakfast with shmear if you feel generous bananas and apples.

    Vegetable soup
    rolls,cornmeal muffins, biscuits.....or cheese rolly thingys....
    GREEN SALAD with ranch
    Cookie bars or brownies

    Happy hour....Hummos with pitas, olives, some other dippy shtuff with veg....

    Paper products all the way around. Buffet.....they provide tables and linens.

    ***I'd do this for a $1000
     
  5. pete

    pete Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    4,296
    Likes Received:
    877
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    I agree with shroomgirl, this is doable, though very tight. Yes, I would have them do their own beverages (are well talking alcholic for the happy hour?). They will have to realize that we that type of buget they are not going to get finest of foods, but you can still offer them something very good, though low budget.

    For the continental breakfast, you will need to make all your breakfast breads, as it is much cheaper to do that than to buy stuff already made. Whipped butter, as you can increase the volumne with air, helping to stretch it out, and besides it makes it easier to spread. And whole fruit, as right now things like apples, pears, oranges, etc. are less expensive than pineapple, melons, and berries for a sliced fruit platter. Also look into mini bagels as opposed to reg. sized ones, but still only buy for 1 per person. I find this to be plenty as you are offering other breadtype foods. Overall I would figure on 1 piece of fruit per person and 2-2.5 pieces of bread product per person. That should come out to only a few bucks, selling price.

    For lunch vegetable lasagna with a tossed greens salad would work prefectly. Keeping it vegetable will keep your costs lower. Also, a tip for reducing the time it takes to make the lasagna-make your lasagna a day ahead, and use raw noodles. Allowing it to set overnight softens the noodles so that when you bake it the next day it comes out perfect.

    Happy hour should be easy. There are many cheap hors that you can make. I would try to pass them though, as opposed to buffet style, as you can control the volume much more easily and can get away with making less.

    Hopefully that should then leave you some money left over for your time and energy. Not much, but some to compensate you.
     
  6. chefteldanielle

    chefteldanielle

    Messages:
    164
    Likes Received:
    10
    OMG... Iam dying over here.. yo guys crack me up..
    I don't want to sound obnoxious or anything but Iam trying to make an impression here. The conference goers have no clue about such a rediculous budget. They are somewhat aware that I went to culinary school and have heard thru the grapevine about the magnificent parties I have done.I would look terribly bad..
    Don't you think??
    Co-workers could be terribly critical.

    Iam kind of embarrassed that Iam doing a job that is totally not me. I did a wedding for a friend of mine at work, for 350 people and word of mouth is happening.
    I must do a magnificent job..
    But you are so right. That would be all I would be able to do.

    Iam almost tempted to make the job so expensive that they would have to go with the hospital food, because I don't want to be embarrassed to feed them mediocracy.

    I have only dealt with people who can afford to pay for my artistic creations and have no problem dropping a $300 tip for 5 hours of work.

    My point is, I want to uphold my standards, by serving only the best, use the best ingredients, not whip butter to make it last, not serve ready made stuff.
    Call me a premadonna.
    Maybe Iam one.
    I think it's ok to choose my clientele.
    Since it's not my only income..
    Talk to me, it's eating at me

    Thank you so much
    Danielle
     
  7. marmalady

    marmalady

    Messages:
    1,046
    Likes Received:
    11
    Exp:
    Professional Caterer
    Since 'continental' breakfast is usually quick breads and coffee, what about maybe 1-2 homemade coffeecakes, the mixed fruit bar, and I like the baby bagels - maybe with some kicked up spreads?

    I like the veggie lasagna for lunch - why not a roasted veggie lasagna? Simple salad, and rolls.

    HoDos - Think cucumber barquettes, stuff on crackers or in filo cups - things that are cheap, cheap, cheap, but that you can dress up to look smashing and show off!!

    I have a HoDo book that I love, and go back to it all the time - "Hor D'oeuvres" by Eric Treuille and Victoria Blashford Onell, published by DK publishing. Think I got it at Jessica's Biscuit.
     
  8. w.debord

    w.debord

    Messages:
    1,640
    Likes Received:
    11
    "Talk to me, it's eating at me"....the opposite view (if this helps).....

    I understand you want to excite and wow but there's alot of caterers out there paying bills with this kind of stuff. There are places that need this quick easy stuff regularly and it can add up and make the difference to other caterers that are suffering.

    I think you should look at who your catering to. This group still has possiblities for future sales. Young nurses wed young doctors....what ever...but this is still contact with up and coming clients. You NEVER know where something really good could come from. Do you know everyones family background...some could come from very well to do families.

    It could be worse, your not catering into a place with no potential. Theres a difference between doing this at a hospital and doing it at a k-mart store.
     
  9. pete

    pete Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    4,296
    Likes Received:
    877
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    Danielle, I know how you feel. When I came to catering a year ago I was very disappointed in the types of food we were doing, for the most part. Sure we did some great, very high end parties, with lots of fun, creative food, but our day-in day-out work was rather boring, limited, and quite often low-budget. Unfortunately, this is the stuff, that for us, pays the bills. I have learned over the year, how to cut corners (I hate that term as it sounds so negative) to fit into a clients budget. Sure it is not ideal, and when I have my own restaurant these things will not happen, but for now, as I have to deal with feeding lots of people on small budgets, it is what has to be done. I can't afford to run any party at a loss, no matter how small their budget is. The key then becomes how to cut without compromising the quality of the food, or without letting the client know. The average diner will not notice 95% of these things. Again, this is a conference, and as such expectations of food quality are not the same as expectations of a $150 per person party. I am not saying that that makes it ok to serve them crap. But it does make it very easy to wow them on a low budget. It takes a little creative thinking, and thinking with that budget in mind. It is a hard mindset to learn coming from fine-dining, where you have the luxury of working with great products and much higher budgets.

    In this economic market our company has to take every party we can get our hands on, and our salespeople rarely ever say no to a client, which puts me and the chef in some very tight situations. Clients are on a tight budget and:

    -they want a shrimp hors, we do shrimp fritters. They are great, the client gets shrimp, and we only need 1/3 the amount of shrimp per person as normal

    -they want lasagna, we do veggie lasagna

    -they want beef entree for a luncheon, we offer them pot roast or sauerbraten

    -they want hors for less than$1.50 a piece, we come up with creative veggie hors, hors that we can shred inexpensive chicken thighs.

    Sometimes its a matter of putting ego aside, and looking at the situation objectively. You have to ask yourself "What can I do to cut costs without affecting the enjoyment of my client?" Sure you will know, but can you honestly say that they will know if you do things like serve whipped butter?

    You are lucky. Since this is not your main source of income, you can pick and choose who you want to work with, but if you have already agreed to take this job on then you have a professional obligation to give them a meal that they will enjoy, and to do it in the budget you were given. I have no choice (until I leave this job) in what parties to take or not. I have to work with these budgets all the time and I have to make sure that they like it well enough to want to come back to us again and again. Am I doing the food that I really want to be doing for these parties? NO. Am I getting these people back in the door by serving them the best quality I can, within their budget guidelines? YES.
     
  10. suzanne

    suzanne

    Messages:
    3,853
    Likes Received:
    11
    Exp:
    Food Editor
    Anybody can look good using foie gras and truffles. It takes real talent to do spectactular things with carrots and celery. If you have that talent, you'll be fine.
     
  11. marmalady

    marmalady

    Messages:
    1,046
    Likes Received:
    11
    Exp:
    Professional Caterer
    "Anybody can look good using foie gras and truffles. It takes real talent to do spectactular things with carrots and celery. If you have that talent, you'll be fine."

    Suzanne - May we all frame your quote and hang it in our kitchens? That was great!!!!!
     
  12. shroomgirl

    shroomgirl

    Messages:
    7,375
    Likes Received:
    64
    Exp:
    Professional Caterer
    Make them aware that they are getting a discount.....and only do what you'd feel comfortable replicating for others.....as Pete said this is your bread and butter money....Do fun muffins, cookies etc... Look at creating conference/lunch menus, I'm sure they have a need at any institution.
     
  13. chefteldanielle

    chefteldanielle

    Messages:
    164
    Likes Received:
    10
    Thank you fo being so positive
    It is heartwarming to know that you have all been there and are so nice.
    I did not want you to think I didn't want to do the job because It was either below me or I wasn't making any money.
    I do many probono jobs, feed the homeless and give friends food for free.
    I just don't want to be taken advantage of .
    Iam very lucky not to have to depend on jobs like these to make my mortgage payment.


    I will make this one work as well and hope that indeed I will get some advertisement out of it.
    Thank you
    Danielle:p
     
  14. w.debord

    w.debord

    Messages:
    1,640
    Likes Received:
    11
    You have a wonderful attitute Danielle!

    P.S. The people who classiclly take advantage are other pros. like party consultants or competitors who under bid. I truely believe 99.99% of the time no one is even looking to take advantage they just don't really understand. ;)
     
  15. chefteldanielle

    chefteldanielle

    Messages:
    164
    Likes Received:
    10
    Merci'

    Danielle