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Q-talk *ON TOPIC ONLY* QUALITY ON TOPIC discussion of Backyard BBQ, grilling, Equipment and just outdoor cookin' in general, hints, tips, tricks & techniques, success, failures... but stay on topic. And watch for that hijacking.


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Unread 01-13-2008, 01:56 PM   #1
nancee
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Default Good Cater Gone Bad aka How NOT to make money

OK, here goes; I am trying to spare all the gory details

Butts...RD only had boneless butts. They were all chopped up and very dinky. They cooked horrible. Reheated worse. They never got tender; the guys were trying to chop them and they would not even chop with the cleaver. I finally managed to chunk up the last few by hand so they kind of got pulled pork...but it was slow

Chicken...no one had chicken breasts which is what the client requested( we also had a case of quarters). This was a HUGE problem as I finally got 15 breasts from the store up by the party (after they spent 1/2 trying to find them for me). They were expensive and huge and held up dinner service which pissed off the client. To make matters worse, the client told me at the end of the night that hers was inedible (Greg had temped EVERY piece of chicken as it came off the grill)...I guess she didn't like pink chicken!

Rolls...this was a big mistake I made. I had no idea of what she wanted so I figured we would get them up there. The kid I was having stop was both running a couple hours late but also had no money so I had to leave the job and go to the store myself. The store was far and once again not well stocked. I finally bought out all there small croissants; we ran out...they were expensive !!!

Lemons...in the midst of packing the truck in the monsoon they got left on the kitchen floor. See supermarket comments above. These were for the sweet tea btw as they were also mission critical. Ended up paying about $10 for a dozen lemons

Beans...a little hard but they were homemade!

Slaw...Mike Mills recipe. Would not bother again

Mac & Cheese...the hit. Used all the leftover cheeses from last weeks wine and cheese party and the rest of the #10 can of evaporated milk from the sweet potato pies

Potato Salad...Greg's mom had drilled in to me about making sure I had enough mayo that I went overboard and it was runny

Sauce...they actually liked the white sauce I made. The vinegar sauce was OK but they didn't use much. I understand some were looking for tomato based sauce which was NEVER on the menu. I had a bottle of Cattleman's in the kitchen but no one told me this till the end of the nite.

Sweet potato pies...OK, maybe a little dry; we tried doing individual tarts; would have been better off with a bunch of full size pies. The Southerners took the but not Yankees

Banana pudding...used #10 banana; #10 vanilla, block of cream cheese, cup sour cream, vanilla and banana liquor. made 3 pans; they only used one. Guess the Yankees were as unfamiliar with banana pudding as they were sweet potato pies

She had asked for cookies at the last minute so while we should have been busy doing other things, Greg was making cookies. The Yankees must have recognized them as we ran out; which was OK

We made coffee although it was not requested I figured it was forgotten. Anyone that fussy about the desserts had to want coffee. I was right in this case

Food costs were $1000; we figure we each had 50+ hours into the gig plus $80 gas...it was 2 hours each way with rain and traffic

Moral of the story: be careful what you promise
Also confirm, reconfirm and reconfirm the schedule with the client...starting AND ending times have a way of moving around at the last minute in a rented facility. Had we had a different window specified by the day before, a lot of these problems would have been eliminated. I would also get the facility to confirm their schedule in advance; not just the client.
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Unread 01-13-2008, 02:02 PM   #2
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Wow. Sounds like you had a horrible day. Better luck next time.
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Unread 01-13-2008, 02:08 PM   #3
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Sorry to hear about it. I know that you never want to have a bad experience, but at least you can find some comfort in knowing that this is an anomaly. You guys have the chops and I've been lucky enough to try some of your food.

Better luck with your next event.

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Unread 01-13-2008, 02:48 PM   #4
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OUCH... sounds like a bad day for sure... but the menu itself seemed spot on.

Go get 'em next time Nancy & Greg.
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Unread 01-13-2008, 03:15 PM   #5
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I have totally been there. It sucks. In our case we had too many other gigs going on to keep everything straight. I agree about the confirmation. I learned 3 things from mine - 1. No changes within 24 hours, 2. Confirm day before and day of, and 3. I will charge more for all my gigs this year. If I'm doing the whole thing - it's going to be worth everyone's time. I know my food tastes better than any restaurant they are going to get - which a lot of caterers in our area can't say.

It totally sucks to go through it and it's frustrating, but all it takes is one bad event to wipe out the good ones.

Sorry for the pain.
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Unread 01-13-2008, 04:08 PM   #6
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Makes a Competition sound like a walk in the park!

Gotta think twice before I consider trying to make some money at this hobby.

Thanks for the story!
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Unread 01-13-2008, 04:32 PM   #7
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think out it as a competition on steroids; particurally in the lack of sleep department!!! Easy to make simple mental mistakes and weather is a huge factor; even bigger than comp...

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Originally Posted by acorette View Post
Makes a Competition sound like a walk in the park!

Gotta think twice before I consider trying to make some money at this hobby.

Thanks for the story!
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Unread 01-13-2008, 04:35 PM   #8
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I think the worst part is feeling like a couple of total hacks. Plus we are not used to people not liking our food. I thought it was overall very good. It has been a couple of quiet days around here for sure...pm me if you want the gory details so you don't repeat them...I am NOT posting them <G> thanks for the empathy (you too Vinny)
nancee

Quote:
Originally Posted by chinesebob View Post
I have totally been there. It sucks. In our case we had too many other gigs going on to keep everything straight. I agree about the confirmation. I learned 3 things from mine - 1. No changes within 24 hours, 2. Confirm day before and day of, and 3. I will charge more for all my gigs this year. If I'm doing the whole thing - it's going to be worth everyone's time. I know my food tastes better than any restaurant they are going to get - which a lot of caterers in our area can't say.

It totally sucks to go through it and it's frustrating, but all it takes is one bad event to wipe out the good ones.

Sorry for the pain.
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Unread 01-13-2008, 04:49 PM   #9
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Sorry, learn from your mistakes and don't give up.
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Unread 01-13-2008, 06:13 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by acorette View Post
Makes a Competition sound like a walk in the park!

Gotta think twice before I consider trying to make some money at this hobby.

Thanks for the story!
That is why I would rather do a comp, or a vend. At the vending, you just provide what you are bringing to sell.... take it or leave it. I do better at them. The last one, which I didn't stay but 6 hrs after setting up, I cleared right at $800..... sold out of most everything. I had set a goal of quantity to sell, and all but did it. When I ran out of pulled/chopped pork, I packed up. Nothing else was selling, so why stay. Next time out, more pork.... I am scheduled again for the same one in March. I use the profits for my spring/early summer comps....

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Unread 01-13-2008, 09:37 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nancee View Post
Moral of the story: be careful what you promise
Also confirm, reconfirm and reconfirm the schedule with the client...starting AND ending times have a way of moving around at the last minute in a rented facility. Had we had a different window specified by the day before, a lot of these problems would have been eliminated. I would also get the facility to confirm their schedule in advance; not just the client.
Amen to that! Check, recheck and check again. Reminds me of the time the banquet manager and I got our signals crossed and I served 200 roast pork dinners....to a Jewish wedding. Talk about a PO'd client. Oy!

It happens.
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Unread 01-13-2008, 10:23 PM   #12
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I'm with chinesebob. Don't be discouraged.
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Unread 01-13-2008, 11:30 PM   #13
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Catering can be the worst thing to do. You take something you love, may even do full time, and it gets rained on. It's hard not to take it personal. I always email or call the contact back after the event to make sure every went ok. It irritates me to no end when they don't call me back.

When half or most of your business is from word of mouth you don't want negative feedback.

Keep your chin up, it's rough sometimes but more times than not it's the best thing to do.
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Unread 01-13-2008, 11:41 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by smoke-n-my-i's View Post
That is why I would rather do a comp, or a vend. At the vending, you just provide what you are bringing to sell.... take it or leave it. I do better at them. The last one, which I didn't stay but 6 hrs after setting up, I cleared right at $800..... sold out of most everything. I had set a goal of quantity to sell, and all but did it. When I ran out of pulled/chopped pork, I packed up. Nothing else was selling, so why stay. Next time out, more pork.... I am scheduled again for the same one in March. I use the profits for my spring/early summer comps....

Bill
Vending can be rough too. I did my first one this year, put 1200.00 down on brisket's and pork shoulders. Called a week ahead so they'd make sure to butcher enough cows/hogs. They quoted me a price then. When I picked it up they tried to charge me a different price. It effectively took 200.00 out of my pocket, but they are a market price so they react accordingly. In the end we split the difference.

The event was a three day festival where I was told we would have a certain type of spot prime for the 50K people that would be attending. Got there and it was a different story. They put me on a new side street. I broke even, barely. I didn't even use all the meat. I had it sitting in a walk-in at a friend's restaurant. The day after the event I went to get the meat and his place had lost power. 150lbs of pork and brisket rotting after he left the door open while he rushed his foods into portable coolers.

I got a lot of catering out of it so it wasn't too bad but it was tough. This year they've requested me back and it was a great event. Just bad spot. There was another guy there doing "Cajun" brisket and he always said he left by 3 every day his stuff was so good. Not so this time. He worked every night until close and didn't sell out once. I told people if they tried mine they would never be able to go back to a local retail joint again. I still get calls from the patrons there. If I had sold what I bought at the portion size I planned on (1/4lb) I would have made much much more.

Cooking for other people is always tough. But making sure you don't lose again is the best way to look at it.
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Unread 01-14-2008, 08:46 AM   #15
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Never fun to have to struggle the entire event. Sometimes you just have to start laughing knowing that something new will come around the bend and make the last disaster even worse.

I had to share my funniest catering story. I worked for a parade float company and was doing catering on the side. There was a 4th of July parade for a community near here, I didn't do the paperwork for the parade, my boss did, but had me make sure it was signed and paid for by the appropraite dates. When talking with the coordinator of the parade they mentioned they wanted to throw a bash for the volunteers, we made a deal... not a real problem to make it all happen.

I was cooking the 3rd, just about to pull the meat off the pit, we get a phone call.... where the heck are the floats? What floats, the parade is on the 4th...... no it isn't it is today and starts in 1/2 hour. Well there is no way we can get the floats there and setup in 1/2 hour, your contract said the 4th. No we said it was the 3rd, and you confirmed verbally yesterday that you would be here today (never remembered that, I always use the DATE not the day, but customer is always right).

So you wanted the meat today also? OF COURSE, is that not coming either? No, No, it will be there as promised (my contract also said 4th). HUSTLE HUSTLE HUSTLE! delivered and setup 15 mins before they started. They loved me, but hated my employer. And of course it was all my fault for not following up on the date they wanted the floats. They wanted to stiff me for the floats not being there. Nope, two separate contracts, two different companies, pay up or die from food poisoning.
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