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Catering, Vending and Cooking For The Masses. this forum is OnTopic. A resource to help with catering, vending and just cooking for large parties. Topics to include Getting Started, Ethics, Marketing, Catering resources, Formulas and recipes for cooking for large groups.


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Unread 05-08-2009, 12:06 AM   #1
hossrocks
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Need a little input brothers... What is the best way to count how many people have been through your buffet line? Count the plates?
I have a gig tomorrow that has had the number of guest change 3 times. We settled on 75 from the original 100. I'm guessing they will have closer to 85 peeps. I always roll with extra grub just in case, but how do I track it affectively? I just want to get paid for the extra peeps if there are any. Any thoughts
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Unread 05-08-2009, 08:33 AM   #2
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This is why I don't price based on a "per plate" rate. IMHO it is FAR easier to do things on a per gig rate. Everyone knows, up front, what the cost and prices are.

If you really need to keep track, I'd guess the plate count could give you a close number, but it will cause an error based on any folks that go thru twice, and/or the inevitable folks that load up plates to take home at the end.

Just my $ .02.
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Unread 05-08-2009, 09:55 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hossrocks View Post
Need a little input brothers... What is the best way to count how many people have been through your buffet line? Count the plates?
I have a gig tomorrow that has had the number of guest change 3 times. We settled on 75 from the original 100. I'm guessing they will have closer to 85 peeps. I always roll with extra grub just in case, but how do I track it affectively? I just want to get paid for the extra peeps if there are any. Any thoughts
When I want a count of how I am doing (at least with sammies) I just count the buns! I know what I started with so the difference is what went down the line.

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Unread 05-08-2009, 09:59 AM   #4
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If you roll your silverware in napkins it works better than plates. If this is not the norm for your customers, it may not be worth the stress to worry about. I have a problem like this about once a year and just hope the main check don't bounce. Chit, sometimes I go to their bank to cash the check before the event happens.
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Unread 05-08-2009, 11:08 AM   #5
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Depending on the situation, how large the party. If everyone sits and eats at the same time, you can count the heads or tables and multiply by how many people are sitting there. It is a very hard thing to do. I was at a party one time as a guest and the person throwing the party tried to low ball the caterer and told him 75 people would be there, and guess what he had 102 and ran out of food. He was pissed, I explained to hmi that it is his fault for trying to beat his caterer. Good luck with that.
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Unread 05-08-2009, 01:34 PM   #6
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Even if you don't tell them cook an extra 5% and work it into your price. Call it a service charge. And make sure the servers know what a portion looks like. And ask for full payment one week in advance of the gig (Thanks Steph!). That way you don't have to hunt anybody down to get a check at the end of the party.
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Unread 05-08-2009, 03:39 PM   #7
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We use the plate count
But a per gig price is better
I have started including seconds for
folks
They is dang Pigs
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Unread 05-08-2009, 05:54 PM   #8
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We use the plate count also, but I have found out that if you cook the bare minimum, you will probably run short. We don't serve the food, so there is no way to count on a 1/4# of meat per sandwich. Some take more than thier share, so we cook about 10% more and take the loss. It makes us look good because we fed everyone and made the place that put on the feed happy. That's the reason we keep our customers.
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Unread 05-09-2009, 01:26 AM   #9
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Quote:
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We use the plate count also, but I have found out that if you cook the bare minimum, you will probably run short. We don't serve the food, so there is no way to count on a 1/4# of meat per sandwich. Some take more than thier share, so we cook about 10% more and take the loss. It makes us look good because we fed everyone and made the place that put on the feed happy. That's the reason we keep our customers.
We are doing much the same thing. I try to feed everyone there as if I was sitting down to eat. lol, I can put down some Q. Most of what we have extra I freeze and vend it. So, it works out either way. Using left over taters from tonights gig for breakfast burritos in the morning. My frustration is getting hosed out of 10 or 15 extra plates. Kinda trivial but these days every cent counts.

Thanks for the input gang...
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Unread 05-09-2009, 03:27 PM   #10
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I cook for how many they tell me they will have. We plan a little heavy. If you think 85, i'd charge for 85 and take 1/3# per.
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Unread 05-10-2009, 12:13 PM   #11
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I like the idea of counting the wrapped utensils.

A couple years back we were hired to serve for 160 people at a department bbq where I have my weekday job. People from other departments heard there was free bbq and started lining up. We ended up feeding almost 300 people. The organizers ran to the store mid-meal to get more food for us to cook. But the sad thing is people in line were getting mad at us when food was running out. Talk about lessons learned.
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Unread 05-10-2009, 01:39 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by big brother smoke View Post
If you roll your silverware in napkins it works better than plates. If this is not the norm for your customers, it may not be worth the stress to worry about. I have a problem like this about once a year and just hope the main check don't bounce. Chit, sometimes I go to their bank to cash the check before the event happens.

Word!

I've done that more than once...never been burned, but it never hurts to be cautious.

Per gig pricing is easier as long as it's understood what the "max" of guest is. If you price a gig at 75 folks and 125 show up -- you'll be out of food and the customer, even though it's his fault, will blame you.

If he knows he's paid for 75 and you hand him the supplemental bill for the other 25 folks -- he knows you're paying attention.

Like others, I always have about 10% overage planned. But I've been close a couple of times.
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Unread 05-11-2009, 02:17 AM   #13
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Counting plates works if real plates are used. Counting plates is bad if you are using paper plates---many people take 2 plates and double them up. The best lessons learned are the ones that hurt us the most----I remember taking one plastic sleeve of 125 Chinet three compartment plates to a dinner for 100 people---thinking I had plenty. Then I ran out of plates. I usually count silverware for a close estimate.

When I first set up at a dinner I usually count the tables and how many chairs at each table. If there is 15 eight foot tables with 8 chairs each then I know that there is seating for 120 people. Then right at the end of serving I can quickly look at the tables and estimate the crowd. If I am concerned with head count at a certain event--then I have someone count heads as they go thru the line.

The biggest problem I have had is when tickets are presold to a dinner and people forget to bring their tickets, and as a caterer you are getting paid for each ticket that is turned in. People can become real jerks when you tell them that a ticket is required----they know that they bought a ticket and from their viewpoint they don't see a problem. I make sure that one of MY people collects the tickets---not a member of the group that we are cooking for. I learned that lesson one day when I fed about 300 bikers and 100 tickets were collected----it got kinda ugly.

Caterers on this site talk about guarantees and deposits and payments etc------and all for good reason----we have all learned ugly lessons that hurt us.
Service Clubs that say "Our treasurer isn't here" The groom that left on his 2 week honeymoon to Hawaii with your check in his pocket. The big corporation that issues a "purchase order" instead of a check. The check arrives 90 days later. I have found that the largest corporations will screw you the fastest---to beware of governmental agencies----and a good ol' boy wearing bib overalls and shaking your hand is a sure thing. If you are catering for anything that has the words "Law Offices" in it----just bend over.
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Unread 05-11-2009, 07:44 PM   #14
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Quote:
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a good ol' boy wearing bib overalls and shaking your hand is a sure thing. If you are catering for anything that has the words "Law Offices" in it----just bend over.
Lol, thats no joke!!!! Well said.
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Unread 05-11-2009, 10:06 PM   #15
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I try to get a firm count up front and charge accordingly. Most folks don't realize that with regard to the head counts cooking for 75 is the same as cooking for 100 (although prep time is longer). You still spend all day with the event. I try to have a minimum price and I always cook extra. I do this for fun but run it like a business. I try to make that $1000 profit for a days work. If they don't want to pay it, it's probably not worth accepting the job. If you cook good they will always pay it.

This weekend we are doing a gig that at last count had 92 folks, I have a $1500 minimum, My wife and daughter will help and I will probably get 3 or 4 additional gigs out of it. If 120 folks show up, there will be enough food for them. I will spend $500 on food and buy all that will get me. I will do 15 racks ribs, 5 briskets, 5 butts and 8 chickens. I may even do some sausage. I try to do a gourmet bbq and use a lot of unique sauces. Then the customer does not feel like he/she can just go to any old bbq joint and get what I am serving. They will be happy and so will we.

I have everything broken down on a sread sheet, so I know my costs down to a few dollars. If anyone wants a copy, just send me an email.
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