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Catering, Food Handling and Awareness *OnTopic* Forum to educate us on safe food handling. Not specifically for Catering or competition but overall health and keeping our families safe too.


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Unread 03-01-2012, 03:19 PM   #1
Hozman
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Question unofficial catering business

I know a true catering business takes a lot of time, dedication. There is health department requirements, city codes/ordinances, ect.

For me I am a guy who cooks in his backyard and my friends like my Q. With that I have had some requests from friends to cook for this b-day party or this family gathering ect. I do not want to jump feet first into a full time catering business. I have a great full time job.

I do want to get paid for my time and the resources that I use. I don't want to screw my friends but want an honest wage for what I am doing. So far I have always done it for free if they bring me the meat. You start adding in rub, tin pans, ect starts to cost some good $$.

So how do I know what is fair price. I was thinking to charge double what ever I have in meat, rubs, sauces, misc. This would cover my supplies used and put money in my pocket. Does that seem fair or 50% over cost?

Looking for input.
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Unread 03-01-2012, 03:30 PM   #2
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Don't underestimate the value of your time, even if you love what you are doing. Take a look at the other local catering companies and the prices that they charge and price yourself in the middle to start. Once you gain a reputation for quality food, then adjust your pricing. You would be suprised how much catering actually costs. Good Luck!
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Unread 03-01-2012, 03:41 PM   #3
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I think you will get a lot of negative feedback on this only because the guys that are on this board that do up and up catering have invested a lot of time and money to ensure they are doing it right and they feel like giving you input on doing this is essentially saying it's ok to run black market catering, which it isn't. What happens if someone gets sick? What happens when something goes wrong?

That said, the easiest way to do this is to create a spreadsheet that tracks each element you use when cooking and to create a cost per element. This will tell you exactly how much you've spent in the past and will therefore give you a very good estimate, based on current costs, for a cook. I have a spreadsheet that tells me per ounce of rub, per ounce of mustard, per glove, per foot of foil, per charcoal poundage, per wood chunk what it costs for me to cook x amount of different items. That will give you some idea of what you might want to track.

That said I checked my current sheet and my cost shows to be just under double the price of meat.
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Unread 03-01-2012, 03:55 PM   #4
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I am not looking to have my name in the phone book or pass out business cards. Again these are just friends or co-workers asking me to cook a pork butt for them cause they are having friends over.

I am not trying to take anything away from the "real guys" nor do I consider myself one.

Take for example at Thanksgiving. Everyone that I work with knows I am going to be smoking my turkey, this turns into hey can you do mine and mine and mine. This year was 9. They gave me a turkey and I smoked it. I paid for the brine ingredients and tins, ect. Not that I didn't mind doing it for friends but when it was all said and done I was out a lot of money.

Just asking as a bbq guy to another what would you charge your friends if anything to cook a meal for them.
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Unread 03-01-2012, 07:04 PM   #5
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Cost x 3, unless you turn down people who call that are not friends, it will start to grow and friends of friend will start calling. Sooner or later one of those friends of friend will get a price from a caterer and then go with you. Word will get around and before you know it someone will turn you in to the HD.

I have never turned anyone in but what does kinda tick me off is when people way under cut my price because they don't have all of the expense of being legal. So for that reason I would go cost x 3.
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Unread 03-01-2012, 07:20 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HBMTN View Post
Cost x 3, unless you turn down people who call that are not friends, it will start to grow and friends of friend will start calling. Sooner or later one of those friends of friend will get a price from a caterer and then go with you. Word will get around and before you know it someone will turn you in to the HD.

I have never turned anyone in but what does kinda tick me off is when people way under cut my price because they don't have all of the expense of being legal. So for that reason I would go cost x 3.
A couple of the places near me that are commercial are almost exactly this. I don't sell to anyone but I do cook for neighborhood gatherings and for some of our church events at cost. I only cook for events that my family is attending, I don't do drop offs.
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Unread 03-01-2012, 07:44 PM   #7
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I think you will find that cost x3 is a good number for what most places charge. Catering and restaurants may even get a little higher in some areas. I think you will also find that some of those folks are a little more hesitant once you start charging a fair price.

I think what HBMTN is saying is a valid point, that eventually, if your reputation grows, you will find out that you will come to the attention of others, some of those won't like you too much.
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Unread 03-01-2012, 08:34 PM   #8
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HBMTN I am not here to take money out of your pocket. I can honestly say the few people that I have cooked for in the past would have done hamburgers or ordered pizza before have BBQ catered. The only reason they asked me is because they know I BBQ on the weekends and have been at my house and ate it.

From a legal stand point is the ability to get in trouble is because I am taking money? So it would be fair to just ask for a gift card? Again guys I don't see this happening more than 3-5 times a yr. Last year I was asked 3 times.

I appreciate everyones thoughts and opinions. I hope I haven't made anyone mad. Certainly wasn't my point. Just wanted a couple extra bucks in my pocket.
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Unread 03-01-2012, 08:52 PM   #9
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Liability doesn't always mean when charging only. One can still be in trouble by doing things improperly for free. Cooling,holding, food not done, etc. That's one reason it's hard to help someone not doing things as us that do. Go with what you feel comfortable with. But please keep people's safety in mind first before cost. Steve.
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Unread 03-01-2012, 10:21 PM   #10
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I do it because I enjoy it =hobby
Cost plus =work.
Im retired but not a lot of money either. But I do things for free or I don't do them. I just like to help out. Praise is reward enough. I help the ones I want and say no to the others. Plenty people who charge. With out obeying the laws the risk is to high.

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Unread 03-02-2012, 08:00 AM   #11
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In general - HDs are only concerned with commercial food service. That means "you're getting paid" & "paid" can mean cash, gift card or even barter. In most areas, the only way to stay on the legal side of HD regs is to cook for free - no pay in any form or manner. Once you start wanting to make a profit - again even if that profit is some sort of barter - you've gone commercial & are subject to HD regs.

That said - the cost (including fuel cost) x 3 is a very good formula for this sort of thing. Standard food service mark up. Just make sure you are truly keeping it in a very small circle of friends or you definitely will likely draw the attention of the HD.
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Unread 03-02-2012, 08:58 AM   #12
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Be very careful my friend. Because you might find out that some of your "friends" aren't really your "friends". Like others have said odds are if your Q is good word will naturally spread to other friends then friends of friends.

When the word gets to that level then it begins reaching people's ears who may have a monetary interest in how you're going about doing business. In other words they maybe in the same business or thinking about getting into the same business and see a viable way of getting rid of competition by turning you in.

My business partner had this happen to a lady at his church. She ran a cake business out of her home. It started just like you're describing. Word got out more and more and she eventually was running a full fledge business. There was another lady in the church who ran a cake business but it was "legit". Not out of the home. She had a store front, sign out front, the whole nine yards. She turned her in. How about that? A sister in Christ turning in another sister in Christ to the HD? Be careful.
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Unread 03-02-2012, 09:12 AM   #13
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I charge people my cost x2 and my time at min. Wage. For actual work time, not the time the meat is smoking and I'm doing other stuff.
If your looking to get in to catering yu should check out your states farmers market laws, in VT as long as you are not makining $150 per week over the entire year you can serve food at markets w/o any D.O.H. Licensing. I'm not sure what other states have for laws but it's worth looking in to, it's how I got started catering, a great way to get your name and q out there. You could also sell your sauce,and rubs, there are different laws for processed foods like that, here is anything under $10,000 per year is ok w/o a license, just a label with ing, and your name and address.
Good luck
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Unread 03-09-2012, 09:26 AM   #14
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I hate to be a stick in the mud, but you already know the answers to your questions on this:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hozman View Post
I know a true catering business takes a lot of time, dedication. There is health department requirements, city codes/ordinances, ect.
Yes, There are health department requirements, city codes/ordinances, ect. They are there for a reason. The requirements are in place for the protection of the public and yourself.

For me I am a guy who cooks in his backyard and my friends like my Q. With that I have had some requests from friends to cook for this b-day party or this family gathering ect. I do not want to jump feet first into a full time catering business. I have a great full time job.
You state you don't want to jump feet first into a catering business. You can't just dabble in a catering business. You either need to jump in or jump out. There is no such thing as "kind of legal". I payed about $10,000 in licenses, permits, Health Department Permits, Food Managers classes and permits, taxes on my food, employees, workman's comp insurance, liability insurance, unemployment insurance, etc. just for the oppertunity to cook BBQ.

I do want to get paid for my time and the resources that I use. I don't want to screw my friends but want an honest wage for what I am doing. So far I have always done it for free if they bring me the meat. You start adding in rub, tin pans, ect starts to cost some good $$.
See above quote ^. If you get paid, you are running a business!

So how do I know what is fair price. I was thinking to charge double what ever I have in meat, rubs, sauces, misc. This would cover my supplies used and put money in my pocket. Does that seem fair or 50% over cost?
See above again, if you get paid, you are running an illegal business!

Looking for input.
Sorry, but you asked for input. I did not sugar coat anything to make you feel better about what you are are doing. This is coming from someone that is running a legitimate business and someone that is involved in law enforcement.
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Unread 03-09-2012, 12:39 PM   #15
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I never charge to cook, whether for friends, family, or church.
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