Arriving at a fair price for a party (for the client AND you) can be a little bit of a crazy exercise. Standard catering formulas typically do not work for the boutique in-home catering that personal chefs provide. 

I go through a rather convoluted exercise in arriving at my price and then, after all that, I present the pricing to the client in a very specific way that protects me from the dreaded ‘attrition’ which affects most events – the guest count dropping days before the event.

My pricing is menu-driven

Fussier menus = more time involved = more $$ charged. 

Many courses = more time = more $$. 

Plated menu = precise timing + possible extra pair of hands in the kitchen = more $$. 

You get the idea.

Now, how many hours

Once I have the menu sorted (knowing it might change slightly after the presentation to the client), I estimate how many hours will I spend:

  • Planning
  • Shopping (how many stores?)
  • Cooking
  • Serving
  • Cleaning

Then I take that figure (and add at least 1 extra hour for things I underestimated) and multiply that by my average hourly rate.

There’s my fee. Plus the groceries. Plus the extra hands (server, bartender, dishwasher, etc.). Plus any rentals. 

Wait…one more thing

BUT I’m still not ready to present this to the client. 

I now look at that fee (my hours x my rate) and divide it by the number of guests expected. That now gives me a per person rate (plus all the other items listed previously). 

I look at that fee and think, “Does that seem a reasonable per person price for this particular menu?” Yes? No? Too
high? Too low?

Tweak that fee if it needs tweaking

When you are satisfied that the fee plus the extras is fair for what you will be delivering, you now get to the scary part – presenting that to the client.

Now it’s time to present to the client

NEVER and I mean NEVER present as a per person price unless you are willing to lose money a few days before the event. Here’s why:

Let’s say you’ve said the meal will be $80 pp and you are expecting 10 guests. $800 is a lovely amount of money BUT the day before the dinner, your client tells you 2 guests are not going to make it. You are now looking at $160 LESS than what you had anticipated and yet you will be doing:

  • All the same planning
  • All the same shopping
  • About the same cooking
  • Slightly less serving
  • Slightly less cleaning

BUT if you presented that $800 as the fee for UP TO 10 guests, you are covered. 

I always present party pricing as a fee (typically plus groceries or sometimes including groceries) plus the additional labor, rentals or any other line items FOR UP TO XX GUESTS.

It’s a good method to ensure that you are properly compensated for your work. And yes, I’ve had clients go to their “B” List of guests to fill in any last-minute empty slots.

Totally up to them!