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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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Old 07-09-2019, 06:58 AM   #1
Wood Fire Steel
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Default Catering cost

I typically to not sell bbq, but have been approached by an coworker wanting to retain me for his 50th birthday celebration. He has asked how much per head would I charge. He wants the basics of pulled pork and a couple sides. My thoughts are pulled pork, pulled chicken, beans and Mac and cheese. I would be supplying only and not catering the event. Any thoughts on price per head?
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Old 07-09-2019, 08:08 AM   #2
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General rule is to triple your food costs. Are you providing buns, sauces, plasticware, plates, cups, drinks? Add it all up, triple the cost, and that's a pretty fair price for all parties involved.

For 2 meats and 2 sides (about 1/4Lb portions of everything) I would be doing $12 per head. If this person is a friend you would still probably make a little money at $10 per head.

I'm sure tons of people will swarm this thread talking about liability issues, and with this litigious world it's a big concern. Especially so when you're talking a 50th birthday party as the guests will tend be on the older side and are generally a higher risk of having serious health risks if there is some kind of food poisoning issue. Obviously you'll have to decide whether or not the risk is worth the nominal amount of money you'll make.

Either way good luck!
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Old 07-09-2019, 08:57 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by SmoothBoarBBQ View Post
General rule is to triple your food costs. Are you providing buns, sauces, plasticware, plates, cups, drinks? Add it all up, triple the cost, and that's a pretty fair price for all parties involved.

For 2 meats and 2 sides (about 1/4Lb portions of everything) I would be doing $12 per head. If this person is a friend you would still probably make a little money at $10 per head.

I'm sure tons of people will swarm this thread talking about liability issues, and with this litigious world it's a big concern. Especially so when you're talking a 50th birthday party as the guests will tend be on the older side and are generally a higher risk of having serious health risks if there is some kind of food poisoning issue. Obviously you'll have to decide whether or not the risk is worth the nominal amount of money you'll make.

Either way good luck!
Was going to type basically the exact same thing. Good advice on both points.
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Old 07-09-2019, 09:05 AM   #4
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I don’t know if it’ll hold up legally but I do private parties like that.... I don’t charge them.... but somehow walk away with a predetermined tip of sorts.
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Old 07-09-2019, 09:31 AM   #5
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You guys illegally preparing and selling food need your common sense calibrated, the county fines and personal liabilities the courts will levy on you when an opportunist cashes in on every asset you own now and every dollar you make in the future being chased by court judgments will ruin your lives and family.
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Old 07-09-2019, 10:00 AM   #6
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You guys illegally preparing and selling food need your common sense calibrated, the county fines and personal liabilities the courts will levy on you when an opportunist cashes in on every asset you own now and every dollar you make in the future being chased by court judgments will ruin your lives and family.
This is why, when I started out vending, I'd only charge them for reimbursement of the food and not make a penny. I bought everything at RD and would hand them the receipt. It allowed me to hone my skills cooking for the masses and I'd just tell whomever was asking that I'd cook it for free as my gift to them.

That was many moons ago now though, so if I were in the same situation, I don't know what I'd do.
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Old 07-09-2019, 10:08 AM   #7
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This is why, when I started out vending, I'd only charge them for reimbursement of the food and not make a penny. I bought everything at RD and would hand them the receipt. It allowed me to hone my skills cooking for the masses and I'd just tell whomever was asking that I'd cook it for free as my gift to them.

That was many moons ago now though, so if I were in the same situation, I don't know what I'd do.
In 99% of most counties in the US you broke the law after the first penny changed hands unless the event qualified under old cottage type laws that are more or less history at this point.

Guys, you are personally liable for engaging in these activities and I see some Shirley owners here in the thread which tells me you aren't the average member of the go be poor somewhere else crowd and likely have plenty to lose.

There's two things you never want to cross in life, a game warden and a public health enforcement inspector they will destroy you purely for the sport of having done it.
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Old 07-09-2019, 10:45 AM   #8
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In 99% of most counties in the US you broke the law after the first penny changed hands unless the event qualified under old cottage type laws that are more or less history at this point.
Yeah, I should have mentioned that these weren't "client" cooks, rather cooking for friends parties. Once I knew I wanted to do it, I went legal. I agree with every cautionary tale you've told on this site.
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Old 07-09-2019, 01:11 PM   #9
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"Typical pricing of triple the cost" is because those of us that do this for a living have other costs involved: licensing, permits, accountants, lawyers, taxes, rent, equipment maintenance, paper products, cleaning supplies,utilities, payroll taxes, fuel costs, etc, so that at the end of the day we hope for 10-15% profit. So for those that do this on the side, what I need to charge to feed my family and pay the mortgage and you are able to charge is COMPLETELY different and really not comparable.
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Old 07-09-2019, 02:34 PM   #10
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"Typical pricing of triple the cost" is because those of us that do this for a living have other costs involved: licensing, permits, accountants, lawyers, taxes, rent, equipment maintenance, paper products, cleaning supplies,utilities, payroll taxes, fuel costs, etc, so that at the end of the day we hope for 10-15% profit. So for those that do this on the side, what I need to charge to feed my family and pay the mortgage and you are able to charge is COMPLETELY different and really not comparable.
I find it to still be relatively accurate. We cater on an on-demand basis (legally) and while a restaurant or full time food truck would have much higher costs, there are other things that cost me way more. First and foremost is meat. Second, buying anything in small batches is way more expensive. And third is time. If I do a 250 person wedding that is two full days of my time that would normally be spent doing something else (instead of just adding more product to an already running smoker). Not trying to argue, but just making the point that the 3x cost does not go as far as you think for the part-time small guys.
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Old 07-10-2019, 07:32 PM   #11
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I find it to still be relatively accurate. We cater on an on-demand basis (legally) and while a restaurant or full time food truck would have much higher costs, there are other things that cost me way more. First and foremost is meat. Second, buying anything in small batches is way more expensive. And third is time. If I do a 250 person wedding that is two full days of my time that would normally be spent doing something else (instead of just adding more product to an already running smoker). Not trying to argue, but just making the point that the 3x cost does not go as far as you think for the part-time small guys.
I don't see you arguing at all. Whether lithe operation is small or large isn't the concern. Somebody that is simply doing a favor for a neighbor or a buddy once a year is completely different than you, me or even Famous Dave's. That person doesn't have the same types of expenses. It's product cost and time.
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