vzank, I am in the "start-up" phase of a catering business and by choice I am going very slow. I've done a ton of research; there are books you can purchase on-line or you can go to B&N or the library. I picked up a book at the library and used several forms from the book on my first few events so I would have some legal contracts and proposals from the getgo. Here is a site you may want to check out as well: CaterSource . The biggest advice I can give you is to know your competition, know what you are really capable of delivering, and set yourself apart. There is A LOT of competition. Then you need to know how to price your services. There's a lot that goes into an event besides the food and all of it needs to be reflecting in your price. The books should explain all of this.
The reason I'm going slow is because you can get overwhelmed very fast In fact, I'm still deciding if this is the avenue I want to go down. I agree with W.DeBord to some degree that's it is tough. But I don't know if it's the toughest Maybe just as tough? Maybe because it's not just about food. It's a lot about managing an ongoing relationship and taking care of a lot of things that can go wrong from start to end (which could span over weeks of time). For example, I just got off the phone with a client who was supposed to have an event today at 4:30. Well, Mother Nature decided that now was the best time to drop the most snow that Maryland has seen in years. His event is postponed until Monday but the food is already prepared and ready to go. What do you do? Well, some items will have to be made again and some will last. The client is very understanding and so am I, but thank goodness I don't have too full a schedule because I don't know if I could handle it otherwise since some items were rather elaborate and time consuming.
As far as the "building" aspect of your question, that's easy. If you do a great job people will take notice and will refer you to others.
Well, I hope I coudl shed some light in your direction. I'd like to hear what other information you're able to glean from other sources. Good luck!
I started catering because believe it or not, it isn't THAT difficult. I had worked in enough other restaurants and foodservice applications that, by the time I actually started catering it was as an offshoot of what I was doing. Tonight I have a function for 100+ people and will be doing it mostly myself because it is just a no-host event and I'll hang out and keep everything "fresh", and restocked. My point being that if you practice long enough with other peoples' money and systems, you will eventually just KNOW how to do it. For me it took @ 21 years of cooking, managing and doing other peoples' catering before I was feeling that comfortable about being known as my own caterer. But hey, I've had events all week and booked up through Christmas and I don't feel too bad about the workload. Anything quicker than that I can't tell ya.
In many instances I find it a whole lot easier than personal cheffing. So apps for 100 or cooking 5 meals for 2 people....same time whole lot more money and less mental workout.
Now I've gotten a few dinners for 300....and pulled in consultants to work with me on traffic flow and staffing....got good menus that are workable and staff that I feel good about.
I'm cooking and selling a mushroom dinner for 50 the end of March...that was a challenge to cook without a stove available that night. Oven and a couple of burners.....yehaw! this one I'm selling on my own.
Still not interested in owning/running a restaurant.
We really struggled with getting GOOD consistant and reliable help. Since they were only "moon lighting" from their real jobs it was hard to get them to care. It was easier to find wait staff then kitchen help. Kitchen help back at our kitchen was a hard thing to find. Some months we had tons of work others we were slow. No one wanted to work the crazy hours we had. They wanted a 9 to 5 with benefits, we couldn't compete with other employeers.
We couldn't afford a set up crew.....it's physically very demanding between your supplies coming in and moving tables and chairs....same people did all the back breaking work, same people hide from it. We had had a hard time finding men that wanted to moonlight, so we were mainly women, some fit some not.
Working in a non moveable fully equiped kitchen is a breeze compared to catering in closets. You get beat down and beat down over every penny, they change their menu every day, they call every day and every day you have to hold their hand then you arrive at their home and it's bigger then a department store and you know you left money on the table in that deal.
Yes at times it was very fun. But you have to get your-self past being a little guy (which we never did). Get to the point where you have a full time staff, a sales team, etc... we wore all those hats....for us it was hard. You have to be more then a good cook, it's about being a great business person more then anything!
March 28th $65pp includes food, tax and gratuity....bev extra
6:30 7 Gables wine room
mushroom cap with morel duxelle
puff twists of porcini
apple with mushroom pate
Butternut squash soup with maitkes
Salad of baby greens with morbier and a drizzle of truffle honey
Canneloni with veal and black trumpets
chef's choice of veg
poached pears with caramel sauce
*artisinal bread and butter
*with alot of resources you can garner good help...I just had to look....also I pay more than restaurants (not saying much) and can pull during their slow periods. Set-up is done by others....I pass along that cost....also I started charging to cook at dinners...if I had someone else cook I'd pay them.
It's good to just stand your ground and realize if you don't get the job it's OK.....I don't want to bid on a job and feel bad/angry afterwards. I just dropped a client after working with them for 4 years because he wanted discounts....continually....I got tired of being angry and after the last party where we were gigged I just quit being available....other work has come my way.
the part that gets me is that some people tip 15-20 % of total bill and others just throw in an extra $5 or so....do any of you have a tactful way of saying "gratuity is not included and it's normally 15%"?
The reason I ask is because, I do not see myself in the restaurant game any longer. I been working restaurants 7 years and I heard one too many stories of how the restaurant can be a dead end career. I still love the industry.
However, I just got married and I really want to do the family lifestyle. I have no kids but some are in the plan.
I'm slowly starting, looking into chafing dishes, dishes, trading my car in for a van etc etc. I just got my first gig. 75-80 ppl all finger food for a holiday party. Its pretty easy so I'm going to do it by myself. I only charged double the food cost due to my experience. But it was a personal friend.
For future information, how do you guys go about qouting prices?
I would highly recommend reading some of the other threads on catering where pricing and service were discussed. I could never do a gig for 2x food costs, it's hardly worth my time. Oh, I see you said it was for a friend, well I've done a few of those. As a new caterer myself, I want create an image or brand that people will recognize regardless of my "experience". Don't sell yourself short because you just started. I don't want to be a lowcost caterer - so any requests for that type of business I either try to sell them the bigger package or turn it down. Otherwise burnout will come fast and furious. Btw, you can acquire low-cost chafers and dishes and equipment at Sams, Ebay and discount stores. Rent as much as you can before you sink your own money into the big items and remember you can charge a fee for using your serving dishes to recoupe the costs. Good luck.
Shroomgirl - We don't call it gratuity we call it service charge and we charge 20%. It all goes to the house. Reason being I pay our staff very well and I don't have to go to the work of figuring out who gets what. I also give one price that includes everything set-up, clean-up cake cutting, staff everything. I spellit out in our contracts in a highlighted section so that if the customer happens to be getting other bids they are comparing apples to apples. i hate paper work and chose to make that part of my business as easy as possible.
Vzank- I agree w/ what has been said, know your competion now what their prices are and what does it include. Study there contracts find out where they might have hidden fees that might not show up in the food price. Also friend or not I would never go 2x food for a price to many ways to lose money that way. Not know the party you are talking about specifically it's hard to know but here are some of the rules I follow:
Food costs = 480.00 [email protected] $6.00pp
Labor costs = 242 4ppl x 5.5 hrs x $11.00 p/h
Insurance = 46.58 17000.00 p/yr '/. 365 days
total = 768.58 x 3.5 = 2690.03
I own all my own stuff so there wouldn't be any rentals unless is was some thing special to that I charge what it cost plus 15%
Also, to the total i add sales tax and a service charge of 20%.
Of course thre are many varibles that can come in but that is a basic starting point. Hope that helps
I am "studying the business" through a catering company that I workfor. One of the great advanatge is that our prep list for the kitchen are the invoices for the client which includes prices.
I'm looking to buy a van. Do you guys use anything besides a basic deliviry van?
I am just starting out working with someone else in the catering business. I need some sites and reference books for receipes, pricing and converting menu sizes. I have ordered the most recent "Thee chefs book of fromulas' which I am waiting to come in, I was told that was almost the bible. Any more information anyone can give will be greatly appreciated.
I am a baker and my partner is into the other end of the business.,