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Old 11-05-2007, 02:44 PM   #1
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Catering question

Help me brainstorm here for a bit DC friends.

How many menu options do you think is the right amount to begin a catering business? Living in a 90% hispanic population, what menu options, including sides and desserts, would you include in your menu? Your comments and suggestions are greatly appreciated.

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Old 11-05-2007, 02:49 PM   #2
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I do a small amount of catering and don't have a menu.

I make what they want to serve and then charge them accordingly.
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Old 11-05-2007, 03:04 PM   #3
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I agree with Jenny.

If you really want a menu you could have a "sample menu" to give them an idea of the things you can do for them.
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Old 11-05-2007, 03:54 PM   #4
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Miss Dina...

I don't know on what scale you are talking about, but I would start with at least 6 or 8 Entree items, and all of the sides you can think off that would go with them, plus 4 to 6 dessert items, and several drink items. Each of the items would have a price, and from this list customers could build a menu that they liked. You could also build 2 or 3 menus (complete dinners) to show them as examples. Have a set minimum of people..12..25..50 whatever. Charge a 20% Down payment to book with the balance paid 7 to 14 days in advance of the event. No Refunds. Obviously you could do custom items for a customer upon request.

Have Fun!
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Old 11-05-2007, 04:48 PM   #5
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First, make sure you, and anyone you hire can really cook spanish ethnic dishes.
Most people have an affair catered because they don't want to cook the food themselves, not because they cannot cook. It's more about quantity work. Cooking for 25 people is way different than cooking for 4.

Go to 4-5 restaurants and see what on most of the menus. Hispanic ethnic cooking is big on chicken, beef, legumes, rice, corn, potatoes, eggs and flat breads like tortillas (corn or flour). Most dishes are not chock full of vegetables because many locations have a climate that is too arid to sustain above ground , delicate, vegetables. Tomatoes, peppers, onions and corn are the widely used vegetables.

Once you visit a few restaurants, buy a couple of really good cookbooks. Get authentic ethnic cooking books, not something that some bogus television celebrity chef put out. Then, start practicing. If you are not hispanic, yet want to cater to that community, your food has to be as good as 'abuela' made. Remember, the idea people have the party catered is because they don't want to cook, not because they cannot.

I'd have 4-5 light, first course/appetizer type dishes
10 main entrees, 2 vegetarian of the 10
3 rice varieties
4 side dishes, 1 vegetarian of the 4
5 desserts
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Old 11-05-2007, 04:55 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PytnPlace View Post
I agree with Jenny.

If you really want a menu you could have a "sample menu" to give them an idea of the things you can do for them.
I'm not sure that is the best way to go if you are trying to begin a business. At an optimum, you want to have good relationships with vendors, and you cultivate those relationships by purchasing the same items. With repitition of recipe making comes better quality food. Finally, most people who are in the market to have an affair catered don't really know what they want. They look to the professional to guide them and make suggestions when necessary. You have to be able to quote prices immediately. If your brochure isn't polished and professional, there is always someone else in the book who can handle (or merely gives the appearance of being able to handle) the party better.

That's not to say that the catering guide has to be written in stone. Always leave room for interpretation of a family favourite...but, in the end, it's your business. If you don't appear to be in control, you're apt to lose it.
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Old 11-05-2007, 06:53 PM   #7
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I cater in home, smaller affairs. No menus. I do guide them and make suggestions, listen to their needs and imput and personalize every menu accordingly. Been doing it this way for years and it works very well for me. I guess it all comes down to the type of biz you are talking about.
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Old 11-05-2007, 08:24 PM   #8
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I also say no menu you need to first find out what the occasion is and what kind of food they want then go from there giving them a choice of dishes and sides and an idea of what it will cost for how many people.And are you to provide tables and chairs who is going to take care of that.Tables and chairs you can rent but add on a rental fee to your benefit extra help etc.It can really add up depending on what they want.Im sure there is book out there that can help you and others here.Deposits and contracts etc are a must.
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Old 11-05-2007, 09:01 PM   #9
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Thank you all. I agree with Vera. Letting people know what you're about is always a good way to show you're in control and know what you're doing. I love your suggestions on here. Keep them coming.
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Old 11-05-2007, 09:18 PM   #10
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I am not a professional chef, even though I wanted to be when I was younger. I was a business owner for 22 years, as well as having had parties at my home with as many as 40-50 people. I also did the food and drink for my daughters wedding. It would have been cheaper to have had it done, but then, she wouldn't have had a watermelon carved into a swan or a 30" tall hors d'oeuvres tree.
Tell your clients that you will to fix anything they want for a certain price, but also offer them a decent looking print-out, listing your signature dishes, specials, and favorite side-dishes, along with prices per dish for X amount of people.
Also offer popular combinations, (BBQ chicken, baked beans, slaw, mac & cheese, and some kind of dessert) for a set price per person. These meals won't challenge your cooking skills, but they will make you money.
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