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1st Catering Gig..How Much Meat Per Person????


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#1 Ryan Chester

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Posted 01 September 2009 - 07:21 PM

It looks like I will be catering for 50 people on Sept. 11th. I am going to do ribs, chicken, sausage, beans, slaw, salad, and rolls. How much should I cook of each? I plan on charging $20 per head so $1,000.

Any info will be greatly appreciated as I don't have the first clue.

#2 Leonard Sanders

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Posted 01 September 2009 - 08:16 PM

If you are serving ribs, chicken, and sausage then I would plan on 2 ribs per person. A rack of ribs would serve 2 ribs each for 6 people. 8 racks would serve 48 people. I would plan on cooking 9 racks just to be sure. Most cases of ribs have 9 racks in them, so I would get one case of ribs. I usually split chickens in half and cook them--then I quarter the chickens into leg/thigh and breast/wing quarters---if chicken is the only meat, then I serve chicken quarters----but with ribs and sausage also being served then I would cut the leg and thigh apart and split the breasts in two. That way you get 8 servings from each chicken. 7 chickens would provide 56 servings. Sausages are usually four per pound--so 13 pounds of sausage would give you 52 servings.

A common mistake is to think that each person will only take one kind of meat. If customers see three meats. they look good and they will want all three. I make sure that there is enough of each meat to serve each person. You can station a server at the meat trays and have the server ask "Would you like ribs or chicken?" Most people will say one or the other but sooner or later someone in line will say "I want both" ---then the next ten people in line will say the same thing because someone else got both. It is easier to have everything for everybody---they all leave happy. Otherwise the person at the front of the line that was polite and only took one kind of meat will not look at the other guys plate with both meats and get a resentment.

If you serve in a buffet line then line up the dishes in a certain order. Always line the dishes up according to their cost---putting the least expensive first. Usually bread goes first, then salads and coleslaw, then beans then meats. Line the meats up by cost also----sausage first-then chicken, and then ribs. By the time they get to the ribs then their plates are full.
Control your serving sizes by plate size, and serving spoon size. I use Chinet three compartment plates---the small compartments are designed for a for ounce serving. Use a 4 ounce ladle in the beans.

You might think that it would be nice to set out bowls by the beans or by the salad---but it won't turn out nice. People will grab the bowls and fill them to the brim with whatever they want to fill them with---you will lose portion control. When I first started catering I had a server at each dish to insure serving size. I have found that it costs more to pay for extra help serving than it costs to let people serve themselves. This works for me---other caterers think it is crazy. Beans and salad are not expensive---have plenty of beans and salad and have them at the head of the serving line.

If you are making beans from scratch---use bean arithmetic---one pound of dry beans equals 2 cups of dry beans. 3 pounds or 6 cups of dry beans will feed 50 people a 4 ounce serving. I always make extra so for 50 people I would use 4 or even 5 pounds of dry beans. If you use canned beans read the serving size and do the math using a 4 ounce serving for a minimum amount. Salad comes in 5 pound bags and will feed about 30 servings.

So I would get 1 case ribs--7 chickens---13 pounds sausage---2 five pound bags of salad---5 pounds dry beans or canned equivalent. I have never ran out of meat, and always have a little extra.

Others may have differing opinions. Catering is a never ending education.

#3 Thom Emery

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Posted 02 September 2009 - 04:33 AM

Manage the line just like like he said
We have a deal we call the "Championship Plate"
Its one of everything we are serving
"Championship Plate?"
You want to be a champ dont you?"
Most say "why yes"
Then they come back for "that sliced Tri Tip"
They have never had Brisket before and dont know what it is

#4 Bram Britcher

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Posted 02 September 2009 - 06:21 AM

At a future CBBQA U, request Leonard do a seminar on buffet line behavioral studies. :)

Very good info!

#5 Bill Keyes

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Posted 02 September 2009 - 06:50 AM

View PostBram Britcher, on Sep 2 2009, 07:21 AM, said:

At a future CBBQA U, request Leonard do a seminar on buffet line behavioral studies. :)

Very good info!

That's a great idea!

Leonard, are you game?
That was some good reading right there.

#6 Ryan Chester

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Posted 02 September 2009 - 07:42 AM

View PostThomas Sanders, on Sep 1 2009, 08:16 PM, said:

If you are serving ribs, chicken, and sausage then I would plan on 2 ribs per person. A rack of ribs would serve 2 ribs each for 6 people. 8 racks would serve 48 people. I would plan on cooking 9 racks just to be sure. Most cases of ribs have 9 racks in them, so I would get one case of ribs. I usually split chickens in half and cook them--then I quarter the chickens into leg/thigh and breast/wing quarters---if chicken is the only meat, then I serve chicken quarters----but with ribs and sausage also being served then I would cut the leg and thigh apart and split the breasts in two. That way you get 8 servings from each chicken. 7 chickens would provide 56 servings. Sausages are usually four per pound--so 13 pounds of sausage would give you 52 servings.

A common mistake is to think that each person will only take one kind of meat. If customers see three meats. they look good and they will want all three. I make sure that there is enough of each meat to serve each person. You can station a server at the meat trays and have the server ask "Would you like ribs or chicken?" Most people will say one or the other but sooner or later someone in line will say "I want both" ---then the next ten people in line will say the same thing because someone else got both. It is easier to have everything for everybody---they all leave happy. Otherwise the person at the front of the line that was polite and only took one kind of meat will not look at the other guys plate with both meats and get a resentment.

If you serve in a buffet line then line up the dishes in a certain order. Always line the dishes up according to their cost---putting the least expensive first. Usually bread goes first, then salads and coleslaw, then beans then meats. Line the meats up by cost also----sausage first-then chicken, and then ribs. By the time they get to the ribs then their plates are full.
Control your serving sizes by plate size, and serving spoon size. I use Chinet three compartment plates---the small compartments are designed for a for ounce serving. Use a 4 ounce ladle in the beans.

You might think that it would be nice to set out bowls by the beans or by the salad---but it won't turn out nice. People will grab the bowls and fill them to the brim with whatever they want to fill them with---you will lose portion control. When I first started catering I had a server at each dish to insure serving size. I have found that it costs more to pay for extra help serving than it costs to let people serve themselves. This works for me---other caterers think it is crazy. Beans and salad are not expensive---have plenty of beans and salad and have them at the head of the serving line.

If you are making beans from scratch---use bean arithmetic---one pound of dry beans equals 2 cups of dry beans. 3 pounds or 6 cups of dry beans will feed 50 people a 4 ounce serving. I always make extra so for 50 people I would use 4 or even 5 pounds of dry beans. If you use canned beans read the serving size and do the math using a 4 ounce serving for a minimum amount. Salad comes in 5 pound bags and will feed about 30 servings.

So I would get 1 case ribs--7 chickens---13 pounds sausage---2 five pound bags of salad---5 pounds dry beans or canned equivalent. I have never ran out of meat, and always have a little extra.

Others may have differing opinions. Catering is a never ending education.

Wow..Great Info. This is most helpfull. Thank you very much!

#7 Leonard Sanders

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Posted 02 September 2009 - 10:50 AM

I up up to almost anything.

Couple of things I forgot to mention.

When buying paper plates for a catering, make sure that you buy plenty. Even though Chinet paper plates are extremely heavy---many people will take 2 plates and double them up. Folks are used to cheap flimsy plates, so they double them up. Running out of plates is bad. Same thing with napkins--people never take "one" napkin--they grab a handful.

When I first started catering I would put bottles of various dressings next to the salad. I wanted people to have what they wanted. What a bother! Your serving time will double or even triple if people have to stop and decide, and then put on their own dressing. Then someone else in line will stop the line and ask if you have "Fat Free" dressing, or something else that they don't see. I make a salad---put dressing on it and set it out---take it or leave it. I have found that 99 percent of customers are happy and 1% is gonna bitch no matter what you do---so instead of focusing on the 1%--I focus on the 99%.
Ranch dressing is by far the most popular---I sometimes use creamy caesar for Caesar Salad---and for fancier events I use fresh spinach with dried cranberries, pecans, feta cheese, and balsamic viniagrette. One kind of dressing will speed up your serving line.

Know every ingredient in every drop of food on the table. You make your own rub so that helps. People have allergies, and will ask--I have had people ask if there was garlic, or pepper, or numerous other things that we all use. They are allergic.
Many people have gluten allergies----many BBQ sauces are thickened with gluten containing products. I always keep an "Epipen" on hand in case of anaphlactic shock. Read labels of sauces and dressings that you are not sure of. The most common asked about ingredient is MSG.

Ask 100 barbecuers "How can you tell if your BBQ is a success?" You will get 100 different answers. BBQ folk get proud when someone says "That is the best tri-tip that I have ever had." Don't get too excited---if you caterer often-you will here it often. It is the best tri-tip they ever had because they just had it, and it is fresh on their mind. I guess that is better than hearing it was the worst they ever had. The easiest-most direct way to get people's opinion of your BBQ---a method that never lies----look in the trash can after the tables are cleard. Ask Thom Emery---trash cans never lie

#8 Tim Mar

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Posted 02 September 2009 - 11:38 AM

Great information on catering Leonard! The only thing I didn't see was your consulting fee for giving up the trade secrets... ;) One more thing Ryan, if you really want to get into catering, the Franchise Tax Board will want to collect sales tax on your prepared food.

#9 Ryan Chester

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Posted 02 September 2009 - 11:59 AM

Got it. Thanks for all the tips. I WILL NEED THEM!!!

#10 John Jackson

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Posted 02 September 2009 - 12:23 PM

View PostBram Britcher, on Sep 2 2009, 07:21 AM, said:

At a future CBBQA U, request Leonard do a seminar on buffet line behavioral studies. :)

Very good info!

I will volunteer to be one of the studied if required

#11 Leonard Sanders

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Posted 02 September 2009 - 04:36 PM

Tim----it is not the Franchise Tax Board-----it is the State Board of Equalization. In most counties they want 8.25% of all money collected. So on Ryan's $1000 sale they would require $82.50. Also if you cater for any businesses expect to get a 1099 form at the end of the year.

#12 Tim Mar

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Posted 02 September 2009 - 08:30 PM

View PostThomas Sanders, on Sep 2 2009, 05:36 PM, said:

Tim----it is not the Franchise Tax Board-----it is the State Board of Equalization. In most counties they want 8.25% of all money collected. So on Ryan's $1000 sale they would require $82.50. Also if you cater for any businesses expect to get a 1099 form at the end of the year.

Gina cuts the check for the yearly sales tax. All I know is that I'm required to send money to somebody in Sacramento and it's not Dave Hill. :no: When all is said and done... I think the state of California makes more money off my business than I do. No wonder the state and I are both broke.

#13 Leonard Sanders

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Posted 03 September 2009 - 06:53 AM

The big difference is
The state of California owes you-----you receive an IOU

You owe the state----you pay or get a lein or get attached and you will pay penalties and interest

Actually it would be good to include in a catering and vending class a whole section about California sales tax laws. It is not simple. It seems like a small catering company doing a few events a year could figure out their own taxes---but bookeepers and lawyers are almost needed. Restaurant Depot and Cash and Carry ask for your "State Board of Equalization number"
Then their cash register does not charge you sales tax. If you buy bleach or soap or cooking utensils---you are not charged sales tax. You must keep track of these and when you file your quarterly report pay "use tax" on any taxable item that you did not pay sales tax on when you bought it. Styrofoam containers used to sell a "To Go" meal that the customer paid tax on are exempt from use tax. The containers are considered part of the meal. However the plastic ware and napkins are not.
If you rent a BBQ pit it is taxable unless you can prove that you paid sales tax when you purchased the BBQ pit. If Tim Mar bought his Tucker BBQ pit in Georgia and never paid Calif sales tax on it----and rents it out---it is taxable, however if it is licensed in California---then the DMV collected sales tax on the value of the BBQ pit and to rent it is non-taxable.

Many caterers are billing food and labor seperatly because labor is not taxable----don't let the state catch you doing that.

#14 Marsha Norlock

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Posted 03 September 2009 - 11:06 AM

California State Board of Equalization.... ugh, I know them all too well!

Even for those of us who have done catering it is good to read ideas from others. I can always learn something new, always. Thanks Leonard!

#15 scott gomes

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Posted 03 September 2009 - 02:47 PM

As many caters there are in the CBBQA, i think a class would very beneficial, lets try to put one with the class they have at Casa De Fruta, Hollister.

DO IT !! JUST DO IT. :rolleyes:

#16 Ron Henderson

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Posted 04 September 2009 - 10:20 PM

Great info. Nice knowledge!!!!!!!

#17 Ryan Chester

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Posted 14 September 2009 - 08:47 AM

Thanks to everyone for all the great info, it was a tremendous help. The event went off without a hitch and was a huge success! Leonard, the three compartment plates were great for controlling portions and the specific buffet order worked out perfectly. Gary, thanks for your side dish secrets, everyone loved them! No one had a clue it was my first gig and loved the food. Thank god my buddy Brian Marks helped me out because I completely underestimated the amount of work it takes to cook for, feed, and clean up after 45 people. I have a new found respect for caterers because IT IS A TON OF WORK!!!! If I learned one thing I could share with others who are thinking about doing catering, it would be to prepare as much of the food at home as possible. If I have to cook onsite again, it will come with an additional cost. I had our 36 ft. trailer with a full kitchen but there is nothing like having a real kitchen with a real sink and all your stuff.

I'm ready to do it again!!!

#18 David Towne

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Posted 14 September 2009 - 09:39 AM

At home? You mean at a licensed commercial kitchen?

#19 Ryan Chester

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Posted 14 September 2009 - 09:47 AM

Exactly.

#20 Leonard Sanders

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Posted 14 September 2009 - 12:16 PM

Ryan-----cooking before hand in a facility is "way" to easy.

My Grandson has asked me "Papa, why do you do everything the hard way?" We cook everything on site --from the dry beans---the potatoes, dinner rolls, baked desserts like peach cobbler, bread pudding etc-----and we cook 'em in cast iron dutch ovens over a fire. People love the food and love the watching----but you are correct! Can you say "Labor intensive."

Glad you had a great outing on your first catering job-----keep up the good work.

Right now I am cleaning and oiling a truck load of cast iron and wondering if I should change my ways.




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