Ellen's Kitchen is on Facebook! Come see, like, share!

I have been asked to cater to a group of fishermen in September. It would be breakfast...probably buffet style, a sacked lunch ( for on the boat) and a buffet dinner. This will be for approx 60 men for 4 days. How do I figure the cost? It should be cheaper than a normal one day event because of the number of days? I am a little lost. Any advise would be appreciated. Thanks for your time.
I would not expect the cost per day to be much less; outdoorsmen are big eaters and 2 of these meals are buffet, which means they will eat more than a plated meal. Also, you need to tell me if this starts with lunch or dinner and ends with breakfast or lunch, in other words, how many meals each of the 4 days. Also, are you doing all the beverages, what are the kitchen arrangements, will you have any help, and have they state4d any food preferences or diet restrictions? Also, are they adventurous eaters (orzo pasta salad) or mac and cheese types? Write back.
Hi, thanks for the response. They are a group of farmers and mostly meat and potato guys. When I say buffet..it will be set up that way but normally we serve them from the buffet...they do not actually put the food on the plate themselves...if that information helps.

It would start with breakfast...normally...eggs, bacon, biscuits and gravy sausage, breakfast tacos etc varying on each day.
The sack lunch is normally some type of sandwich, although I would like to try and do something a little different each day such as one day a sandwich and maybe a sausage wrap the next and not sure after that as they are tired of just sandwiches which they have been served from another caterer in the past. and then normally chips, a fruit and a candy. It has to be something they can have in a cooler in a boat that is not messy....

the dinners will be brisket and sausage with the normal sides one night, beans, potato salad,cheesy potatoes, pasta salad veggie tray, and a dessert. Steak one night, baked potato, salad, roll and dessert and veggie tray. Third night fried catfish, french fries, cole slaw, hush puppies and dessert. The 4th night will be Mexican food. Enchiladas, rice, beans and dessert. The last night normally steak again but I will probably add one more choice for a night such as chicken for those who do not like fish.
I have helped cater this group before when I worked for someone else but was never in on the pricing. I now own a cafe and have been asked to do this on my own. I will have 3 people helping me and my husband who will cook the steaks and fish. A kitchen and all cookware will be provided by the motel they are staying at for no charge as I know the owner and have arranged for the group to stay there so he is letting me use the kitchen and dining room at no charge. All dinnerware will be disposable. They are not a hard to please group of men. Beverages will be sweet and unsweet tea.

I know I am asking a lot from you...I would just hate to overcharge the man as he is very nice and if I do this right it will become a yearly thing for me. Thanks for any advise you can give me. Angie

Well, Angie, the basic idea about on site catering is, the meals charge out at about what the same meal would cost at a restaurant.

This is a pretty high cost, high labor menu. Do you know what they have paid in the past? Are you and your husband the full staff? What refrigeration do you have available, and is it just a single regular stove?

Cost of catered week
Here are some lunch ideas;

Empanadas or pasties

Impossible pies

Muffins- sweet or savory, or scones

Spanakopita or other little pastry bites

Sides might include:
Fruit cups (with no sugar added)
Applesauce in flavors such as pomegranate or cranberry-raspberry (also with no sugar added)
Nuts or seeds in a shell (if age and allergy appropriate), such as pistachios, peanuts, or sunflower seeds
Raw veggies (ready to pack) such as carrot sticks, sugar snap peas, or celery sticks
Cheese sticks -- available in 2% sharp cheddar, part skim-milk mozzarella, pepper jack, and more
Healthy snack bars (individually wrapped) with 3 or more grams of fiber, less than 10 grams sugar, and no more than 1 gram saturated fat.
Yogurt in individual containers

For safety's sake, consider packing lunch with a reusable ice pack. Better yet, freeze a small water bottle or box of 100% juice.

Ellen...just want to say you are an awesome lady! How you can answer all the questions you get asked is amazing and I want you to know how much I appreciate your time. :)

The meals will actually be at a different kitchen than my cafe. The kitchen at the motel I will be is not being used at the moment by the motel and I will have full access. It has everything you can imagine there...I am actually very jealous...lol It has several ovens....a 6 burner gas stove...prep tables. buffet warmer tables...it has it all.

My husband is just helping with cooking the steaks and the fish and brisket as that is normally not the sort of things I cook in my cafe. My cafe is a small lakeside cafe that does mostly burgers and such.

I do not know what my employer charged this man when I worked for her...I never asked as I didn`t think it was my business but I know it was in the thousands I believe, it is hard to say because he also rented the 23 room motel at the same time. (A bit of background...he owns a business and brings 60 of his clients here as a way to say thanks for their business. He rents the motel rooms and feeds them for 5 days at his own expense...if that helps you any) He will not mind paying what it is worth...I just did not know if there was a different way you charge people when it is something done over so many days and so many times a day. I hope I am making sense here :)

The staff I will be using will be me, 2 of my employees ( as one has to run the cafe,) my sister and then my husband on the nights I need him to cook what I mentioned above.
This is a very easy to get along with group of men...like I said...nothing fancy...farmers who just like a good home cooked meal.

Thanks again for any advise. Angie

Sorry...just a quick thought...my menu is not set in stone. That just happens to be some what we cooked when I helped before. I also tried to find easy items that I am familiar with cooking and some items that I remembered they liked. Like I said...they are not hard to please...if you have any suggestions that you think would be better I would love to hear them if you have time. I know I am taking alot of your time and you have many more people to help :)
OK. Staff and kitchen look good.

The menu is a real heart-stopper; maybe you can lighten it up or healthify it. How about roast turkey instead of the brisket and use more turkey for sliced meat or "chicken salad" sandwiches? People love mock Thanksgiving dinners. How about a really good soup as part of some dinners, and lots of fresh-cooked breads at breakfast and dinners? People love these and they are low cost for the caterer.
Fruit trays at breakfast, with a cereal/yogurt bar each morning, along with the egg dish.

As to costs; $15 the first night plus $30 per person per day would not be out of line.You know you need a written contract and liability coverage, right?

Do read this article:


For first estimates, we look at food costs times 4.
Here is another:

You also need to get familiar with:


Be sure you arrange for a room at the motel yourself and staff, for rest times, breaks, sleep.

Here are some breakfast thoughts.

You might need to be up at 4 am to bake off the muffins, pastries, make coffee/tea, package fruit cups, setup.

Everything prepped the night before so all you need to do is add liquid and bake, plug in coffee pot, turn on stove.

Biscuits with ham or sausage gravy, good country ham should not be an issue. Cream Gravy, made at your kitchen and heated on site (chafer).

Biscuits OK room temp, or warm. I cut mine in squares to expedite making them and having no waste.

Egg Strata, potatoes, onions, egg, cheese: cambro to keep warm if you can't do just in time, the potatoes will bulk up the dish and you won't have to worry about cold hash browns.

Fruit: Can be made day before, better to make day before from a time perspective. Good to have every day. Stewed fruit one day is an option, or a nice side at dinner.

Baked goods: puff sheets filled with stuff: chocolate/coconut, fruit, cream cheese & dried fruit...people love chocolate at breakfast. Puff gives you oooh factor, is available frozen and easy to work with and relatively cheap. You can bake these things off early and they are good room temp....waffles and pancakes aren't and really are difficult to cook in bulk if you are making from scratch. Baked muffin squares, see the recipe in Big Pots.

Cheese Grits, use stone ground....can be made in casserole form and will hold heat in a cambro. Again, cheap filling, yummy. Ham that day.

Oatmeal setup is another good one. See the baked oatmeal recipe. A bunch of toppings around a roaster or chafer or soup pot of oatmeal.