The $200 Continental

Joined Nov 11, 2012
I don't know what to say to a customer right now. He wants a $200 conti for 55 people for the second year in a row. He is an old friendly guy. I like him. Last year, start of the year and my first year opened at this golf course, he approaches me and offers me $200 to do a continental with coffee, juice, hot cocoa, muffins, donuts, asst. pastries etc. I ask him if that includes tax and he says yes... I remind him that the cost of doing business is a bit higher, tax, labor, etc... and my menu prices for contis are quite a bit higher than that, per person. 200/55= $3.63 pp tax included.

He wanted it to be 55-75 people last year. I balked and really broke down my numbers for him and we both were red faced at the end of the meeting... but I ended up agreeing anyhow just because my first month was so slim and I needed the money and I knew I would be able to make a tiny bit of money.

The previous owner, my former employer, would agree to these year after year.

I ended up doing the banquet and I pretty much stayed within budget and only about 45 people showed up and just picked through the buffet. I really think it cannibalizes my sales because I sell donuts, muffins, coffee, hot cocoa, etc. for $2-$3 a piece anyway. Their group always buys a ton on their own, of snacks and breakfast burritos, sandwiches, etc. I'd make $200 in sales with them in a few hours of business anyway on a typical business day with their group. Probably use less product and need the same labor.

What should I tell him? I asked him if he would give me $250 to cover tax and get slightly nicer product. He told me no. I was thinking of asking him again if he would give me $250 this year. I know his answer.

I keep having to turn people down for banquets because they are super cheap. Some people at this golf course think I am too expensive but it's only all the old farts that have been there a long time. I don't want to turn down money but I am not having a good time financially right now at the start of my second golf season. I need to make money but $200 for a 55 person continental is so screwed up. I can't do hot cocoa at that price and they would only get mini donuts, mini muffins, mini pastries etc...

I did that to them last year and they were ok with that mini pastry conti with some cheap yogurt and granola, coffee, orange juice. He is asking for hot cocoa and "juice" again and that stuff is too expensive at $3.63 per person. I told him last year that if he takes his people all to McDonald's, it would cost more money...

How can I compete with McDonald's and Jimmy John's at my little golf course? I get sick of people not wanting to pay normal prices at my place.

What should I do? I am inclined to decline his business this time. I get sick of this. I've had to turn down banquet business before and it kills me. I recently had a church group set up a buffet of Little Caesar's pizza in my outdoor pavilion and they told me they do this every year. I told them to never do that again but I would allow them this one time. In the future I have a banquet menu and use this space for catered events. I charge a fee for outside catered events to use my space. I know they will be another group in the near future that pulls something when it is time for their event this year. I need to be able to accommodate these super cheap groups that have been using my place the past few decades.

How can I do a $200 or $250 banquet?
Joined Oct 10, 2005
You're working too hard.

Probably the best tool we had when we did catering was our menu package: If it wasn't on the package, then it was custom and subject to an upcharge, but we always listed our menu packages as price per person.

When someone came with a budget, we asked they pick a menu package, then multiplied by persons attending. This way the clients budget has to accommodate our price, rather than we have to accommodate the client's budget.

Hope this gives you some ideas....
Joined Nov 11, 2012
Yeah, I already have a banquet menu with continentals of various types. He was just kind of like "take it or leave it, we always do this" kinda guy. It seems nobody there wants to pay $6,$7,$8 a head for something like that. I have a banquet menu that ranges from $5.5 per person for simple continentals to $40 for nice dinners. All that stuff is covered but when people don't even want to read my menus or contracts, it gets to be impossible to meet their expectations. My prices are super cheap at my cafe and I was recently re-listed on FB and Google from $$ to $ in price based on user suggestions. I don't work that hard but I do get very frustrated with unreasonable people that want my family to starve.
Joined Feb 17, 2010
I get that you want the business and don't want to piss anyone off but your not making any money. I would show him the numbers then tell him to pound sand. Politely show him your banquet menu and ask f he would like to order from that, there are no ore off the menu deals, you have to make a profit, your not working for charity.
Joined Oct 10, 2005
Pretty much what ChefBuba said...

You can sugar coat "pounding sand" with something like:

"I'd love to help, but I have commitments on that day. Why don't you go to Bakery X and get muffins yourself, they're the cheapest in this area at $1.50 each, and you can get coffee in Stah-bucks in those disposable carafes which works out to something ridiculous like $1.25 a cup".

It still says "eff you", but in a kinder tone.....
Joined Mar 3, 2016
You are being taken for a ride. This guy knows he’s lowballing you, but, unfortunately he also knows that if he persists and bullies you enough you will cave like you did last year. The “take it or leave it” comment demonstrates that he thinks you have no option but to bow to his demands.
Call him out.
Be nice, and tell him what you CAN do for $200. Take it or leave it.

In my experience, every single one of these private member clubs are populated by people who think they own you and you are lucky to have their trade. Just like the pizza group who have “always done it!”, the fact you let them do it “just this once” means they now think you are theirs to push around.

You have to firmly put your foot down.
$200 gets you this, this and this. Final. If he insists on hot chocolate, that will cost more. take it or leave it - by all means direct him and his tight arse mates to McDonald’s (and watch his face, because guaranteed he knows how much more it will cost).
You won’t lose any casual business by doing this - if his group already frequent your business, they know the prices and will easily understand your position on this, and probably would agree that his demands are unreasonable on your business.

As for the pizza group, don’t let it happen. Tell them to take their pizzas to the local Red Lobster, and good luck with that.
It might be wise to document every interaction with both groups so you can present your case to the Golf Club body corporate. If they advise you to just go with their demands, you then suggest that they recompense you out of club funds or reduce your rent. They’ll love that.

Good luck. I’m off to my local electronics store to offer them $30 for the latest iPad, take it or leave it. I’ll let you know how I go.
Joined Oct 1, 2006
Hi vic,

You mentioned "Their group" always buys a lot on their own. Since you like him, ask directly if the $200 is coming out of his pocket only. Maybe suggest he approach "the group" to chip in to "help" him (YOU!) with the financial burden...

Maybe the guy you are talking to has a $500 budget and is pocketing the rest. I don't know what kind of "group" they are. The CC I worked at had several different groups within the membership that would have one person deal with the staff for things like a conti for the big shotgun start. I have no idea what your situation is though. Just brainstorming...

Again with "Their group" could you offer a package deal with a conti and lunch or dinner?

Given all the solid advice above I can't add much except, you need to be blunt and firm.

Anyway, Good Luck!
Joined Jan 17, 2015
I have taken over a food operation in a busy pub and have a similar problems at the moment. The owner has obviously served food before to compliment his wet sales and he has an army of cheap customers who don't want to pay much for food(often frozen or shop bought). We do scratch made food now and feel that we have to get paid appropriately. I have made a party menu with a good few options and everyone has to fit in to that. I often hear "too expensive", "discount", etc even from the owner(who we are providing the food for as we franchise the kitchen from him) but he sells his drinks very expensive with no shame. We are sticking to our guns, we are worth it, we are not working for no profit and that is that. So my advice would be stick to your guns, you don't have to be offensive but don't let them take advantage of you," we have always done it " doesn't cut it any more. After a few months it will get easier I am sure, I mean does the guy pay the 1998 price for the car when he goes to buy a new one? I am sure he doesn't, he thinks you are soft and trying it. Good luck!
Joined Jun 23, 2015
Let him and all others order off your menu. Do you have a contract with the club that does not allow others to cater on the premises? Your question was how can I do a banquet for $200.00? The answer is you can not and stay in business. Let everyone know that.
Joined Feb 8, 2009
God only knows how many people I've run into like this. They would tell me what they want and then tell me what they wanted to pay. I told them it didn't work that way. I found if I wanted their business I could have them in a position of being to far off their price and still get the business. If they said they could only pay $10 on a buffet and that buffet would normally be $18 then we aren't in the ball park at all. I would talk with them on altering their food items and then splitting the difference making the buffet $14 per person.
I understand your in a position that your going to be there whether you cater the breakfast or not. You also figure it's better to make something on the event instead of making nothing. Try to inch him up on price, he's sticking to his guns because he knows you'll bend. Tell him what you need to survive. Your willing to give him a break but, you just can't do the breakfast at this price. Give him your price, stick to your guns and see what happens. Good food isn't cheap, cheap food isn't good! Take no prisoners......ChefBillyB

P.S. People need to understand there are many days your open that you don't have real great sales.Bad Weather will alter the amount of people going to the course therefore making it hard on your sales. You need to make hay when the sun shines.
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Joined Oct 31, 2012
"How can I do a $200 or $250 banquet?"
You can't.

And now we know why the last guy went out of business. History repeats itself. So you don't have customers, you have mooches and leeches. Friendly or not, they are used to ripping off the business. $3.63 per person is barely enough for coffee and a donut at the convenience store. In fact, I may stop by my local one just to see if I could get a donut and large coffee for that price.
I'm posting only to support the others who recommend stiff arming them out the door. It isn't personal, strictly business.
Just for fun, you could ask them what they do for a living and then ask for their services at a ridiculously low rate. Maybe that would just piss them off. Quite frankly, I don't think it matters if they get pissed off. They are happy and you go out of business, or they aren't happy and you make money with others. I don't see a middle ground as things are now.
You could also change the menu for a younger crowd and see if or how quickly your base changes.
I'm not good at the sugar coating part but I'd recommend following foodpump's advice to soften your approach. But remember your approach is the only thing you need to soften. Food and service cost money. $$$$$
Frankly, I can't believe they could approach you with those prices and keep a straight face. And I commend you for trying to figure this out. I'm not involved in any way and I'm really pissed off about it. You are dealing with unethical cheapskates who couldn't care less about you. "We've always done this" is the worst answer to anything anywhere.
Joined Mar 3, 2016
And, just to add, what would be your response when he starts telling all the other members what kind of discount you’ll do if pushed? All of a sudden, you will have another ten members wanting $3.50 breakfast deals.
Joined Jun 25, 2017
I was in a similar situation at my current place. GM wanted to keep our starting per plate wedding banquet fee to $19 a plate inclusive. I wanted to be at $25. I ended up having my wife cold call every catering and banquet facility in the area and get their price and made a spread sheet comparing apples to apples, and it turns out the cheapest place on the list was at $30 a plate. Once he saw the data we ended up raising our prices to $35.
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