Pricing can be fixed in at least 3 different ways, as follows.
1.Fixed Pricing: With fixed pricing, you would assign a price to your menu item, do this for each menu item and charge the customer on a “per-plate” basis or platter basis. Check if this model suits your catering assignment. Needless to say, in this case, profits would be determined also on a platter basis.
2.Tiered Pricing: This is very similar to fixed pricing but you can pass on the benefit of numbers to your customer. Essentially, more the expected turnout, lower will be the price of each item. You can have 3-4 such tiers with the minimum number of guests deciding each tier price. For example, for greater than 50 guests you could charge $20 for an item; for greater than 100 guests you could charge $18 for the same item and so on. This can be a very cost-effective model provided there is a great turnout of guests expected.
3.Customized Pricing: With the earlier methods, the customer knows upfront what your charges typically would be; however, with custom pricing, you have the freedom to decide the menu and pricing after the customer briefs you about all the details of the event. However, it is still beneficial to have a pricing guide ready for reference even for custom pricing. It will enable you to approximate the estimates better.
The above guidelines for determining the pricing for a menu are not stringent. It is just information about how pricing for a catering job is done. You will in fact need to be flexible if you’re serious about being in the business for a long time. There are many other factors that influence pricing such as the type of customer, your immediate competition in the same area and how established you are in the business. If you’re well-known for the quality of food, customers may not be very rigid about lowering your prices. On the other hand, if you have your close competitors quoting below your rates, you may have to negotiate harder so as not to lose the deal. You may have to provide additional “frills” to add value and differentiate your catering service from that of your rivals. If you’re very new to the business, you may well have to incur losses in your first few assignments just to prove your worth and establish your presence.
Thus, the ultimate profitable pricing strategy is a mix of several factors. Keep an open mind and be optimistic about the outcome. Once you know your market, your client base, etc., you will gradually work out the pricing strategy that is optimum for your catering business. Take each assignment as a challenge and be willing to learn from your mistakes as the catering business is certainly not for the faint-hearted. Many unexpected challenges may arise in the form of lesser than expected guest turnouts or shortage of food during service, weather delays, etc. Once you start your catering business, only experience can help you find your foothold in this industry. With some experience, you will be able to predict and manage most risks and contingencies better and plan everything in a cost-effective manner.