when you say cookouts? like backyard grill party where you come in and cook? or...? couple things you need to do is cost out EVERYTHING...spices, foil, pans, fuel (wood/charcoal), plates, etc... know what your actual is and then you can look at what to charge. when i first started catering, i did it by huncks of meat.. a butt was $30 with a pint of Hawg Sauce. that sucked. firing up the big pit for $30. then i switched to Per Person. www.madaboutque.com
you can see what we used to charge up until last year. costs got too high and i didn't want to raise prices. so we basically shut it down for a while.
the other biggest cost is your time. figure out how much you want to make to make it worth your wild. if staying up all night cooking, then delivering and serving/cleanup is worth something, then factor that in as a MINIMUM charge. we used to do $300. now it would have to be $1000 unless your family.
yes.. cost times 3 is a good figure for a food cost deal... thats where most restaurants shoot for. to stay competitive, be prepared to go to a little better than double the costs. also, we did slaw as an auto side for the plates. read that as cheap side #1. that way i didn't get screwed with mac and beans (my two highest cost items due to my recipes/ingredients)..
start small. make a lot of notes. keep in mind you can rent equipment if you get a big job. dont' do a wedding until you are sure. thats one that you don't want to screw up. also, there was something else,, but i lost it.. hope it helps