Working menus-pricing with clients

Joined Aug 11, 2000
All of us go through learning curves on what and how to charge.....most of us have given "deals" for one reason or another.

(1)I've been burned by not giving a customer costs....just emphasizes one person's blowout mega $$$$ is not the same $$$$ as another.

*Making sure you are both in the same ballpark when speaking of costs is just good customer relations.

(2) Giving a deal to a regular client for a "drop-off".  All of a sudden they think the deal is what you charge for working the dinner too....

refer back to #1

(3) Cutting a deal in lean times for easy receptions, seems like year after year they want the same deal.  Sometimes staying within their old budget but giving less, is the way they want to go.

Knowing how to cut....bulk vs bitesize, passed vs stationary, buffet vs plated, mixtures of much time aps are served, how much time a buffet is out....amounts, how much shrimp pp is a vs yours vs disposable......setup/breakdown/service.....

Listening to Customers and asking the right questions gives you a sense of what they are expecting and how you best can fit their needs.

Comparing apples to apples.....service charges, gratuities, equipment, amounts of food, amounts of staff, decor.....

So, those who have been in the business for a while, please share some of your learning cruves on working with customers and pricing.

Ane those who are new to catering feel free to ask questions.
Joined Sep 18, 2008
One thing I learned a long time ago, NEVER CUT YOUR PRICE!

Of course, you can offer a discount for whatever reason you decide to! /img/vbsmilies/smilies/laser.gifespecially to meet a client's budget WITHOUT lowering your price! Invoice at FULL PRICE, less the discount you are willing to allow, BUT CLEARLY STATED ON THE INVOICE!

Lean time, easy gig? Regular price for reception/buffet/dinner is, oh say, $1,500 (maybe 50 people @$30.00?), try a
  • Promotional discount of 20%, OR
  • Third week of September 10% discount, OR
  • Our 57th week in business 15% discount, OR
  • Drop-off discount of 7.5%, or
  • you get the idea.
How much do you charge for a reception/buffet/dinner for 50 people? $30/person!
Joined Apr 3, 2010
We (Up North At the time) went by season example   January thru March  was Flash  a discount price because everyone was afraid that weather would affect their affair.April  thru July 4 was highest. July thru Sept discounted because many people were away on vacation and would not be able to go to affair if invited. Sept thru December was regular price, Supply and demand. Holiday Eves were not Sat Pm prices but were higher then regular..

If patron ask you to cut your price after your  quote try this approach. ""Mr. Jones in order to cut this price I would have to cut quality and service, I have a reputation and will not do that"" Keep in mind all of your guest are my future clients and I do not want to give them a bad impression""

I have found this kind of shames them.(this works on private parties not organizations)  

You hold the advantage to some respect as you know your cost and percentages they do not.

If you are quoting a year or more away add a dollar or two per person, because your cost will most likely be more insurance, rent, food, etc..

Florida I work it the same but seasonal prices almost reverse.
Joined Dec 9, 2010
I hardly ever quote something a year or more out, there are just too many variables. I have used different menus for different 'seasons' with pricing appropriate to speciffic locations. It has been in such circumstances when I have had repeat clients ask why they pay more at one time of year than another. It can be tough to tell a favored client that the meal that cost $30 four months ago now costs $35 but will cost $30 again in four more months.

In these and other circumstances, I have given discounts, but when I do, I am VERY clear about how I am going to get the price down, for example, I am adament about the length of the event and minimum counts. Most recently we had a group that has had an annual event for @ 7 years. They asked if we could match the 2009 price. My conditions were #1 that they had to meet or excede the 2009 count for the number attending and #2 that if the event went over  the alloted time, I was billing them $150  added labor for each 1/4 hour they went over.

I too have been caught when I book for a drop off and the next time they want the full treatment for the same price. The other trick tried has been to only order the drop, then call ask for a little add-on, then another, then another, then another, before you know it you have four staff with linens and china packing up  a 'drop off''. I hate myself when I do this.

When it comes to talking costs, maybe I'm just getting old and impatient, but I try very hard to get an idea in the first 5 minutes of the first meeting what the principle client wants to spend on an event. Doesn't matter to me if it's a CEO or father of the bride witht the check book, but I want to know how much is realisticly going to be spent on the event. I hate pricing custom events only to have the real decision maker kill the concept because of budget.

A question for you all, what are your policies for deposits, refunds of deposits and when to require the final count for your events.
Joined Aug 11, 2000
50% booking

local food gig, final count 3 weeks out

Balance 2 weeks out

any extras, that evening.

no refunds....

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