We used to do a lot of catering. There is a lot of $$ to be made but we had so many hassles it just wasn’t worth it.
Here’s what I got:
Make sure and I mean make sure no matter how large or small you have a contract signed.
We charged per person. We got a final count 7 days prior to the event. That is how much they had to pay regardless of how many showed up. I told them if they wanted the left over food we would put it in containers THEY provided. This way if they are expecting a 100 and only 2o show you still get paid for the 100 you prepared for. We counted the plates and put out a few extras. That way if there was 120 and wasn’t enough food not our issue.
One of the issues we ran into was most catering occasions were on our busy nights. Fri and Sat. As our store business kept increasing we just didn’t have the room to prepare and cook on those nights.
Our place isn’t big enough to reserve so we don’t close the dining room. All our catering was off sight.
As for pricing we did it just like our menu. We figured cost (including transportation, extra paper products etc.)
Be real clear with the customer what you will be doing. (Decorations, plates, condiments) put it all in the contract.
We had a set up time and a tear down time in the contract. That way if you are doing a wedding you aren’t having to keep the buffet line open the whole time.
But as I mentioned NO MATTER what get a contract and ALWAYS ALWAYS GET A non refundable deposit.
And finally if you don’t read or remember anything I said. COLLECT THE MONEY BEFORE ANYONE CAN EAT! PERIOD. NO EXCEPTIONS.
Our last catering job was for a long time loyal customer (considered him a friend) we did his daughter’s wedding. Only time I did business on a handshake.
Of course we went above and beyond the usual.
We showed up, set up and the crowd came… he wasn’t there yet so we let the guests eat and after a while he came, drunk. I asked him how everything was he said fabulous…I’m real busy can I hook up with you later. I said sure.
After we tore down I felt he was dodging me so I tracked him down. “His wife had the check book.” I waited about 2 hours. Finally he said he would come by tomorrow with the 1500 he stilled owed me.
Never saw him again. Never answered the door. Never answered the phone. He did send a note thanking us with 200 bucks and a sob story. Another about 6 months later but after that-Nothing. No contract No case. I did get a thank you from his daughter who lives out of town. (No return address)
Gossip around town is he and his wife divorced, he is a drunk. Lost his business etc.
That was enough for me. Our store was getting too busy anyway to handle it all.