Friday, April 13, 2012

The Anatomy of Catering Prices - why catering is so much more than just food

A wonderful tee shirt purchased 
at the Catersourse Conference 
in Las Vegas reads:  

When necessary, Caterers are ...

Electricians, Babysitters, Carpenters, Actors, Plumbers, Dietitians, Veterinarians, Magicians, Coaches, Furniture Movers, Hair Stylists, Traffic Cops, Designers, Marriage Counselors, Chauffeurs, Psychiatrists, Janitors and Miracle Workers.

Well known catering industry leader and Caterbuzz member, Meryl Snow states on her catering company website, "Like great performers, great caterers are known for their versaliity.  The most talented have the ability to portray a range of roles with ease." 

Both certainly speak to the catering talent and vast experience that is abound on the Caterbuzz Private Forum on Facebook, the global social media hub for event and catering professionals.

CaterBuzz, is an industry diverse on-line social media community of caterers and event professionals who bring their experience and talents "to the event table" for their catering clients day in and day out, from beautifully appointed venues and private homes to off the beaten track farms, cliff top parks and homesteads with little to no cooking facilities or even power sources.

Lately with the "crazy economy", catering clients have become even more mindful of budgets for their special events and caterbuzz member caterers are often hit with queries from clients wondering why their event costs what it does or with unrealistic budget expectations that do not take into account all that goes into putting an off premise catered event together.   Off premise caterers bring the restaurant to each and every event that they cater.  

There has been an onslaught of articles and blog posts by various caterbuzz members outlining the behind the scenes operating procedures and skills utilized for producing catering events and the life of a skilled professional caterer.

Caterbuzz member, Kim Pitchford, a Destin, Florida caterer and owner/mama bear of Dine by Design Catering, talks on her catering blog about what it takes to make her clients' catered events a success and what drives her company.

"Think of catering as a 1 foot ruler", Robyn Cavallaro, Sagra Catering and Events owner in Hellerton, Pennsylvania tells her catering clients.  "What you can actually see that you are paying for represents 2" on that ruler.  What you don't see that makes your event a success equals the other 10" on that ruler.  Order, shop, prep, pack, load, unload, setup/cook on site, cleanup, load, unload at shop, clean and store."  Thanks Robyn Cavallaro , for sharing with the caterbuzz members a concise, wonderful analogy that helps us as caterers explain to our catering clients why catering is more than just great food and professional service.

Julia Conway, a Mendocino California caterer and fellow buzzie, shared her blog piece with us, entitled "because we make it look easy - it's a well written essay that ends with the following:
"Let’s be proud of what we do.  A good magician is able to convey the complexity and difficulty of their performance without giving away their secrets.  Today, I plan to challenge myself to tell the story of what I do in such a way that the prospective client is intrigued, curious and a little bit awed.  To be sure, I will make it look amazing, fabulous and magical, but I will try not to make it look easy."

Below is an article written by Caterbuzz member Carl Jones, a long time caterer in Jackson, Tennessee about why delicious professional catering is more than just great food!

We always appreciate your comments and thoughts.  Please leave us a message below in the moderated comments section.   

Come join us on Caterbuzz, where professional caterers share their  triumphs and tribulations, awesome catering photos, upcoming trends, fabulous professional recipes and more!

If you are a professional experienced caterer - both on and off premise, be you a owner or an executive chef, a manager or event planner, and are interested in joining the private CaterBuzz community on facebook, please contact Lisa Teiger, outlining your professional experience, company website and why you would like to join and what you bring to "the catering table".  Our membership is global and diverse from mom and pops in small regional areas to urban corporate driven caterers.  What we share is professional catering experience, a passion for our business and a love of all things catering.  

Another article worth a good gander is a two part series written by caterBuzz members Jody Wimer and Meryl Snow   Find both articles, Part one, Culinary Smarts to help prepare you during your search for a wedding caterer and Part two that these talented caterers collaborated on for the Wedding Aces site as well as a summary is here on Wimer's company blog 


In the meantime, please enjoy the various articles and links about catering found here on caterbuzz.

The Anatomy of Price
...why catering is so much 
more than just food preparation

What goes into a typical catered event
Premier Place Catering
Jackson, Tennessee

The Call:  
Our receptionist takes the call asks questions to 
collect information for an overview of the event.

If the prospect is a “qualified prospect”, 
qualified means that the prospective client has 
selected a date and time we are available to produce the event, 
they understand the price ranges, the event falls within t
he parameters of our requirements.)

If one of our event planner is available, the receptionist 
will give the profile to him (her).  Otherwise, the receptionist 
may be able to answer general questions and e-mail 
the appropriate information to the prospect.

Initial Appointment:  

If the prospect wishes to meet with the event planner, 
an appointment is scheduled.  The first meeting usually 
lasts at least one hour.  

At that point the prospect may wish to reserve our services 
for their event.  A deposit is collected, all the paperwork is 
completed and an agreement is signed which determines 
how future situations will be handled if they occur. 

The office manager creates the event file.

Site Survey: 

If the event is in a home or unique location, 
the event planner will visit the location, do a survey and sketch out.  

Along the way, the client will stop in, phone, e-mail 
with questions, concerns or changes,

One Month Before: 

The client finalizes menu and event details.  
Our operations manager plans, calls the rental company.
confirms rental reservations and availability for 
linens, and other necessary rental items for the event.

One to Two Weeks Before:  

Client is called to get the guaranteed number of guests, which is due. 

There usually are more phone calls from the client 
wanted to go over everything, again. 

The client may call to add more guests 
even the day before the event. 

The office manager enters all the information into the computer, 
prints 3 copies of the event sheet.  

One goes to the chef, 
one to the event captain, 
one to the operations manager.  

The Operations manager, the Chef and Carl Jones 
hold a meeting to discuss the event and determine 
any special needs or circumstances, which need solutions.  

Our well-trained staff for the event is contacted 
and scheduled for the event.  This process takes several hours.

Three days Before:  

The Chef analyzes each items selected from the menu 
and calculates the needed ingredients to prepare 
for the event.  S/he must calculate a percentage 
over in the likely event of a last minute change in the 
number of guests expected.  

A complete inventory of ingredients is taken.  

The Chef calculates the quantities of ingredients needed.  

Several suppliers are contacted 
and the Chef meets with each to order the necessary items. 

Two Days Before:  

Delivery trucks arrive at various times with the various items ordered.  

The Chef must stop his work and check in each item 
to assure that the correct item has been delivered in excellent condition.  

Kitchen staff must immediately move the items from the delivery area 
to the proper cooler, freezer, dry storage, linen room, 
small wares, or paper goods storage.  

Each item must be marked with a date.  

They must pulled the existing items and 
place the incoming item on the shelf 
then place the existing item in front. 

This is called rotation of stock.

 The Day before the event:

The chef creates prep lists for each item ordered by client.
S/he assigns time schedules and prep lists for the kitchen prep staff. 

The prep staff goes to the proper storage area and 
pulls the ingredients listed.

They slice, dice, mix, and follow strict recipes procedures.

Each prepped pan of food is then labeled, 
dated and place in the proper cooler or storage area.

The kitchen is completely cleaned and sanitized.  

Floors are swept, sprayed, scrubbed, rinsed and mopped.  

The day is complete.

 The day of the event:

The chef creates a timeline schedule to assure food will be ready at the proper leave time.
The chef assigns tasks to each of the prep staff who places foods in state of the art equipment, sets precise temperatures to assure the food temperature is at a safe level for holding.
The pans of food are placed in an insulated storage box, placed on wheels, labeled moved to staging area.
The event captain prepares a detailed checklist to assure each necessary serving piece, service ware, plates, glassware, silverware, ( many more items too numerous to list here ) has been pulled, packed, labeled, and moved to the staging area by the catering staff.

All of these items are carefully loaded on the vans and rechecked.   A driver transports these items to the event venue.  The catering staff drives in other vehicles to the venue. 
The catering staff unloads the items from the vans, carries each item to a staging area inside the venue.  Depending upon the event, the staff may be required to place linens on tables and set the tables with silverware, napkins, glassware several hours before the event so the decorator can finish the tables. 
They cover the buffet tables with professionally cleaned linens; and place each service piece in a pre-designed format.   They fill the chaffing pans with water and place sterno under each.
They light the sternos just before the food arrives.

Meanwhile at the Kitchen. trays are garnished and finished 
and all food to the staging area.
The Staff loads and carefully checks to assure all food 
and remaining items are loaded on the van.
The driver transports to the event venue.
The catering staff unloads the items from the vans
and carries to a staging area inside the venue. 
The food is placed on the buffet.  

A buffet artist properly garnishes and finishes the buffet.
The service staff completes several tasks.
Now we wait.  Sometimes guests arrive at 
the appointed time, sometimes early, sometimes late.

Everyone must be in uniform and ready to begin. 
We must pay our staff from the time they arrive 
and throughout the event, even while waiting.
As guests arrive, the catering staff attends to the
 buffet assuring it is full and appealing. 
The service staff pours and refills beverages, 
removes plates and attends to the guests.

 The event is over?  

Hardly, now it’s clean up time! 

Dishes are rinsed and repacked.  Silverware, glassware,
 linens are packed and moved to staging area.  Buffet is cleared. 
Chaffing pans are extinguish, cleaned, sanitized, repacked 
and moved to staging area. 
All items are carefully loaded on the vans and transported 
back to the kitchen. All dinnerware must be washed, 
sanitized and dried before sorting, wrapping and returned 
to their proper storage location. 

Van is swept and cleaned.
The hot storage containers, ice coolers and 
any other platters, trays or props are cleaned, sanitized 
and returned to storage.

The kitchen equipment and surfaces are sanitized.
Floors are swept, sprayed, and mopped.
The employees clock out and go home after a job very well done!

In our price, there is a lot more than food you are getting. 
Many things happen before, during and after your event
that most people are not aware of.  

A special staff of trained professionals will set up,
serve and clean up your event.

There will be many types of specialty equipment, 
which must be pulled,loaded and transported to your 
reception, unloaded, set up, reloaded, transported back, 
unloaded, cleaned, sanitized and restocked. 

These specialty items had to be purchased, maintained and 
will be replaced after a number of uses. 

Catering requires long hours, weekends away from family, 
hard work, serving people who are sometimes less than 
cordial and occasionally verbally abusive while the caterer 
must smile and continue to serve people. 

It is hard to understand why many nice people 
treat other people who are serving them abruptly or rudely. 

This is true in not only the catering business 
but many other businesses as well.
Now, let’s get this straight, 
you want your event catered for 7.50 per person???

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