Culinary Sense

Adventures with Food and Life

Catering and Banquets: Recipe Costing

Hi Peeps!

As I mentioned last post, the lectures for ‘Catering and Banquets’ are all about catering events. For our big project this class, we have to create a theoretical banquet. I already showed you my BEO (banquet event order). The next step is to write down and “cost out” the recipes. This is writing out the recipe and calculating the portion size, and then figuring out how much you need to make – in our case, the event will be for 100 people.

Say, for example, you want to have crab cakes as a passed hors d’oeuvres in the first hour of the event, along with some other little treats. (The photo is just an example, not actually a photo of something I made – unfortunately!!!) So you have a recipe, or look up a recipe, and check the yield or portions you will get. Then, you have to most likely multiply all the amounts until you get the yield you need. In our case, we will make 2 oz crab cakes, and we are assuming all 100 people will have one on average. Of course, some people will have none, and some people might have more than one, so you as the caterer have to guess how many on average you think people will eat. Keep in mind that during the one hour cocktail hour before the main banquet, they will have four hors d’oeuvres options, and also be drinking.

Here is an example of what your recipe costing sheet might look like:

You calculate the cost of the food by looking at your invoices, or checking your purveyors’ information. How much does it cost you to buy one plastic tub of mayonnaise? Then you can get the price per gallon, or per ounce, or whatever measurement you are using.

In addition, this handy little form will calculate the total cost of the recipe. The cost of the recipe is the amount of money you as the caterer pay for all the ingredients. The program also calculates the price per portion/plate. The menu price is the price you set per portion. Then, the form will tell you what percentage of the menu price the food cost is. In our example, I set the menu price as $3.00 per portion (one 2 oz crab cake with 1 tablespoon remoulade). The cost of one portion is $1.06. This means that the food cost percent is 35.3%, or, I make $1.94 of profit per crab cake. This is not pure profit, but pays for the cost of labor, cost of equipment, and other overhead costs (renting the kitchen, transportation, etc.). But, if I manage my money properly, I can make a lot of money selling crab cakes!

So, you get the idea. For every item that is on the menu, I fill in the information on the recipe costing sheet, and can then calculate the total food cost of the event, and at the same time create my purchasing list (how much of each item to buy).

The next step is to write out a production and firing schedule, which is how you will figure out how many hours it will take you to make, cook, and serve everything. Assuming the event will take place on a Saturday, you want to both make things as close to the event as possible to preserve the quality of the food, but you also can’t make everything the day of the event, so you need to make some things in advance. For example, you can make various sauces and condiments a couple of days in advance, like the remoulade for the crab cakes. You can make the crab cake batter and form the crab cakes in advance, and then cook them the day of the event, and so on. Basically, you want to do as little production as possible the day of the event, because you will need that time to prepare the freshest ingredients and set up the event.

Here is what my production and firing sheet looks like:

I have parsed out every single item into how many minutes it would take me or another prep cook to make, plus I have added some time for labeling, clean-up, and storage. Everything down to chopping herbs is accounted for by going through all the steps of each recipe that I have. In our project, I pay myself 20 $/hour, and I pay my prep cooks 12 $/hour. I’ve managed to (theoretically) prepare the entire event in four days, prepping and cooking what I can in advance, and leaving only the most important things that can’t be cooked in advance for the day of the event (like the lobster stuffed haddock).

On the very bottom, I’ve summed up the total food cost and the total labor cost, which are my main costs for this event. This number, along with any other overhead costs (cost of equipment, utilities, rent, etc) are my total cost for the event. I am charging $68.50 per person, totaling: $6,850 for the event. My costs are about $2,279.17, which means I am making $4,570.83 (again, minus any other overhead costs). This is my profit, in addition to the 20 $/hour I am paying myself for my labor. Pretty nice, right?

So you see, it is a lot of planning and calculating, plus executing the event, but there is also a great reward if done properly. My chef said that a lot of businesses fail because they don’t plan properly, and don’t really know how much money they are spending or taking in. I had a lot of fun doing the planning and numbers, and I am more excited about my future in the industry after this class. I think I would do well in catering once I have enough experience cooking because I do enjoy the business side. Plus, I enjoy prepping and seeing a recipe through to the very end, and interacting with guests, and seeing the pleasure they get out of eating food I have prepared. We’ll see if I can find an internship with a caterer, and if I like it in practice as much as I do in theory!

The two most important rules in catering:




~ Carolynn



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