Quantcast

Serving Dinners

INNspiring.com | Innkeeper Forum & Innkeeping Resources

Help Support INNspiring.com | Innkeeper Forum & Innkeeping Resources:

YellowSocks

Well-known member
Supporting Member
Joined
May 22, 2008
Messages
2,179
Reaction score
13
OK... got a call last night from a group here in town looking for a place to hold a holiday dinner. As our long term goal is to earn enough that the B&B will support us, I want to pursue this. I told the lady to come and see what we have, as I'm not sure we're big enough.
I know we've talked about this before, but I'd like input from those of you who have done dinners. I'm looking at doing Kathleen's dinner, with some variations. After discussing it with my sister I'm thinking maybe manicotti or lasagne, salad, homemade bread, and creme brulee. If they want a meat dish, then a little more expensive, and if they want a dessert buffet I could do that, too, for an additional cost per person.
It would be plated, sit down, for 10-12. Naturally, how much to charge is a big question.
There is a real need in our town for something like this...
=)
Kk.
 

Penelope

Well-known member
Joined
Aug 4, 2008
Messages
1,716
Reaction score
0
Go for it!!! I agree. There is a real need in your area for what you have to offer.
Your ideas sound very manageable. Would your dh be available to help? How many people are they thinking? Would it be while you are trying to check in other guests? Would it be at a time when you would have the other guests milling around (read: in your way)?
 

IronGate

Well-known member
Joined
Aug 9, 2008
Messages
476
Reaction score
0
I don't know how much to charge, but try to get them to indicate how much they are planning on spending. Ask them right up front: "Have you given any thought to what you'd like to eat, and how much you'd like to spend?" You'll know instantly whether they're comfortable with the arrangement.
 

JunieBJones (JBJ)

Well-known member
Joined
May 22, 2008
Messages
3,893
Reaction score
0
Be warned, they will pay $5 for a dessert and $2 for a coffee and tip at a restaurant, but will think what you charge is too much. Restaurants get everything wholesale, you do not. If it is a party of 5 more a restaurant charges auto gratuity.
I charged $12 full meal - salad incl, with drink - iced tea or lemonade and they thought it was ridiculous.
Make the person who books it pay for it, they can all pay that person.
It can be fun when you don't have guests. If you have guests, you could have conflict. esp parking etc.
It is a nice holiday event tho, imo. You get to meet more people in your town as well.
 

JunieBJones (JBJ)

Well-known member
Joined
May 22, 2008
Messages
3,893
Reaction score
0
PS I always gave them a choice of menu items - ie caesar salad or fruit platter.
 

EmptyNest

Well-known member
Joined
May 22, 2008
Messages
8,741
Reaction score
1
WHAT HOLIDAY??? Do you want to give up your Thanksgiving or Christmas with YOUR FAMILY???? IS it worth it to you???
If your health dept allows it to be done and you want to give it a try...go for it!
But...make sure you charge enough to cover ALL your costs...including all the time you will be spending prepping, preparing, serving and cleaning up. Who will take care of the boys while all of this is happening???
Do not UNDERESTIMATE the costs. I would be thinking a MINIMUM of $25 per person. And if they balk at that...too bad...do not make yourself a bargain for bargain hunters. You will regret it.
 

egoodell

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 1, 2008
Messages
3,023
Reaction score
0
I would charge what a caterer would charge, or a small restaurant. No less. It will cost more than you can figure in time and supplies. Don't forget, your time in cooking and serving is worth $$ per hour. AND you are working on a holiday which should be charged as double time. That's what everyone else gets for working on a holiday.
Check what they will pay in a restaurant in your area - it sure as heck won't be $25 per person!!!!
Riki
 

EmptyNest

Well-known member
Joined
May 22, 2008
Messages
8,741
Reaction score
1
I would charge what a caterer would charge, or a small restaurant. No less. It will cost more than you can figure in time and supplies. Don't forget, your time in cooking and serving is worth $$ per hour. AND you are working on a holiday which should be charged as double time. That's what everyone else gets for working on a holiday.
Check what they will pay in a restaurant in your area - it sure as heck won't be $25 per person!!!!
Riki.
I suggested a minimum of $25....most of the restaurants offering holiday meals here range from $25 - 30. I am sure it is more in C'ville..but KK is in a small OH town. She should check what is being charged locally and then UP the price for the service she is providing.
 

Penelope

Well-known member
Joined
Aug 4, 2008
Messages
1,716
Reaction score
0
WHAT HOLIDAY??? Do you want to give up your Thanksgiving or Christmas with YOUR FAMILY???? IS it worth it to you???
If your health dept allows it to be done and you want to give it a try...go for it!
But...make sure you charge enough to cover ALL your costs...including all the time you will be spending prepping, preparing, serving and cleaning up. Who will take care of the boys while all of this is happening???
Do not UNDERESTIMATE the costs. I would be thinking a MINIMUM of $25 per person. And if they balk at that...too bad...do not make yourself a bargain for bargain hunters. You will regret it..
catlady said:
do not make yourself a bargain for bargain hunters. You will regret it.
I agree with Catlady. People's perception is their reality. If you make yourself a few steps above the rest of the choices, you will be in a lot better of a position than if you try to just be the same as the local digs. $25/per person including dessert, drinks, dinner, breads and salad is NOT out of the question. If you go slightly more upscale on food, $30-35/per person would be reasonable.
I think what you are going to come across at first is reisistance to change. No one wants to change what's been in place for so long: mediocre, average food and price.
BE OUTSTANDING. You know you can't do less than your best.
 

gillumhouse

Moderator
Staff member
Moderator
Supporting Member
Joined
May 22, 2008
Messages
15,518
Reaction score
74
OK, first of all a holiday dinner does not mean ON Thanksgiving or ON Christmas - it probably is a dinner party in the holiday season. I know OH allows this so she is OK with rules - in fact Socks knows the rules in Ohio better than anyone.
As for price: $25 to $30 per person, set a maximum number of plates X tax + gratuity = Total; and that is what the charge will be to the person who books the party. IF they want to make each couple pay their share, that is the booking person's problem. No add-ons at the last minute and no cancels. Treat it like a reception would be - total head count by X date and that is the priice paud in full minimum of 1 week before event. (do not buy supplies until money is in your hot little hand!)
Just my 2 cents worth.
 

ginocat

Well-known member
Joined
May 30, 2008
Messages
397
Reaction score
0
I have done Christmas dinner before (not ever again) but it was, in fact, not legal for me to do it. Here I would need a commercial kitchen and a licence to serve food other than breakfast. Think what it would cost in a restaurant and then add a couple of dollars. It will cost you more for food than a restaurant (although you don't have the staff overhead) but you should factor in how nice it is for a group NOT to have to re-locate to a restaurant for dinner. That should be worth something to them. What about wines??
 

riverbendnewbie

Well-known member
Joined
Aug 19, 2008
Messages
68
Reaction score
0
I am doing a sit down for a group of ladies(9) in December and charging 22.00 per plate + tax. Traditional turkey dinner with mashed potatoes,squash,carrots,dressing and all the fixins. Homemade bread,pickles(i made them for the first time),apple and lemon merengue pie. tea and coffee. Oh and a small salad to start.
 

YellowSocks

Well-known member
Supporting Member
Joined
May 22, 2008
Messages
2,179
Reaction score
13
We're talking Christmas party for a business women's club, on a weeknight in December.
I'm legal, no worries. (I'm just limited in the amount of meals I can serve per week.)
In talking with my sister about it this morning (she's a business woman and lives here) we were thinking $12.95/pp plus tax. She liked $10 for manicotti and $12 for chicken, plus another $3 to do a dessert buffet. She's the one who suggested the creme brulee... says no one else in town makes it, and it's what she always orders when she's at a business dinner... elegant and just the right amount after a big dinner. She and I were also figuring out how we could do the tables... I think we can seat 12 in two tables of six.
We'd do it on a weeknight and dh would help (at least with the kids). She sounded like she wants to come help, too, although the reality is she has a life, too, and I'd try to make it as much in advance as possible.
She recently ate at a Friday night buffet held by a catering company here in town. In her words, NEVER AGAIN! The food was all pre-made food service grade (GFS or Stouffer's), mac and cheese and so forth. The drinks were a girl behind a table pouring pop out of two liter bottles. The price was $15pp (actually, I thought it was $18). What they do have going for them is volume (we have a lot of large people in town) and she said the dessert buffet was good.
She said the dinners she gets invited to they try to keep the cost down so that people will come. But you're right, she certainly wasn't thinking $25pp (the first number that came to mind).
I'm going to call the catering place and ask what they'd charge to cater it here, and also call the restaurant where this club has met in the past. I think they probably just get salad bar there, but if it's evening that's $8 plus drink and tax. To my mind, $10 is too little, regardless what I serve. I'll also call the classy place in town (which has meeting rooms and which would be a good alternative for this group) and see what they charge. I had guests go there this weekend and say the food was fantastic but the price was cheap, $40 for both of them.
It will be good publicity for me, and a good trial run to see if we can make dinners here work out. We're going to need more income in the long run, and this sounds like a potential source.
=)
Kk.
 

Mini

Well-known member
Joined
Aug 7, 2008
Messages
269
Reaction score
0
I don't think it would be worth your time, effort and ingredients for less than $20 pp. I did it once for $16 pp and that is when I learned it was not enough.
If the group is a work group, they most likely can afford it especially if the company is paying for it.
 

seashanty

Moderator
Staff member
Moderator
Joined
Jun 2, 2008
Messages
5,692
Reaction score
11
don't forget the labor involved. the shopping the cooking the setup the serving the cleanup ... plus gratuity if you want to add that in. i guess you could start low and then evaluate whether or not it was worthwhile at that price.
i really wanted to do dinners here in winter when nothing (really, NOTHING) is open for miles and miles. i could have had guests if i could have provided a dinner at nite. but no exceptions, not allowed.
i had in mind a limit on the number of people. and a fixed price and set menu. i thought it would be lovely. still do. especially, if you have help! i love staying at inns and b&b's and going down to dinner. love it!
 

egoodell

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 1, 2008
Messages
3,023
Reaction score
0
I would also require credit cards to reserve. Picture you have all set and you get half show up. "Oh I changed my mind". People book restaurants all the time and then don't show.
When they do that here on a holiday they are CHARGED for that. Make me work on a weekend and then not show? I don't think so!!!
Riki
 

JunieBJones (JBJ)

Well-known member
Joined
May 22, 2008
Messages
3,893
Reaction score
0
Oh yeah and one final comment. I have worked in fine dining restaurants and the wait stay were eager to snatch up the best guests (gratuity).
Two guests wait staff run the other way from, even if they had tables available - ALL WOMEN. (True 100%. Ten times the work) and FOREIGNERS (they don't tip in their own countries, so do the same in The States)
 

JunieBJones (JBJ)

Well-known member
Joined
May 22, 2008
Messages
3,893
Reaction score
0
We're talking Christmas party for a business women's club, on a weeknight in December.
I'm legal, no worries. (I'm just limited in the amount of meals I can serve per week.)
In talking with my sister about it this morning (she's a business woman and lives here) we were thinking $12.95/pp plus tax. She liked $10 for manicotti and $12 for chicken, plus another $3 to do a dessert buffet. She's the one who suggested the creme brulee... says no one else in town makes it, and it's what she always orders when she's at a business dinner... elegant and just the right amount after a big dinner. She and I were also figuring out how we could do the tables... I think we can seat 12 in two tables of six.
We'd do it on a weeknight and dh would help (at least with the kids). She sounded like she wants to come help, too, although the reality is she has a life, too, and I'd try to make it as much in advance as possible.
She recently ate at a Friday night buffet held by a catering company here in town. In her words, NEVER AGAIN! The food was all pre-made food service grade (GFS or Stouffer's), mac and cheese and so forth. The drinks were a girl behind a table pouring pop out of two liter bottles. The price was $15pp (actually, I thought it was $18). What they do have going for them is volume (we have a lot of large people in town) and she said the dessert buffet was good.
She said the dinners she gets invited to they try to keep the cost down so that people will come. But you're right, she certainly wasn't thinking $25pp (the first number that came to mind).
I'm going to call the catering place and ask what they'd charge to cater it here, and also call the restaurant where this club has met in the past. I think they probably just get salad bar there, but if it's evening that's $8 plus drink and tax. To my mind, $10 is too little, regardless what I serve. I'll also call the classy place in town (which has meeting rooms and which would be a good alternative for this group) and see what they charge. I had guests go there this weekend and say the food was fantastic but the price was cheap, $40 for both of them.
It will be good publicity for me, and a good trial run to see if we can make dinners here work out. We're going to need more income in the long run, and this sounds like a potential source.
=)
Kk..
YellowSocks said:
We're talking Christmas party for a business women's club, on a weeknight in December.
I'm legal, no worries. (I'm just limited in the amount of meals I can serve per week.)
In talking with my sister about it this morning (she's a business woman and lives here) we were thinking $12.95/pp plus tax. She liked $10 for manicotti and $12 for chicken, plus another $3 to do a dessert buffet. She's the one who suggested the creme brulee... says no one else in town makes it, and it's what she always orders when she's at a business dinner... elegant and just the right amount after a big dinner. She and I were also figuring out how we could do the tables... I think we can seat 12 in two tables of six.
We'd do it on a weeknight and dh would help (at least with the kids). She sounded like she wants to come help, too, although the reality is she has a life, too, and I'd try to make it as much in advance as possible.
She recently ate at a Friday night buffet held by a catering company here in town. In her words, NEVER AGAIN! The food was all pre-made food service grade (GFS or Stouffer's), mac and cheese and so forth. The drinks were a girl behind a table pouring pop out of two liter bottles. The price was $15pp (actually, I thought it was $18). What they do have going for them is volume (we have a lot of large people in town) and she said the dessert buffet was good.
She said the dinners she gets invited to they try to keep the cost down so that people will come. But you're right, she certainly wasn't thinking $25pp (the first number that came to mind).
I'm going to call the catering place and ask what they'd charge to cater it here, and also call the restaurant where this club has met in the past. I think they probably just get salad bar there, but if it's evening that's $8 plus drink and tax. To my mind, $10 is too little, regardless what I serve. I'll also call the classy place in town (which has meeting rooms and which would be a good alternative for this group) and see what they charge. I had guests go there this weekend and say the food was fantastic but the price was cheap, $40 for both of them.
It will be good publicity for me, and a good trial run to see if we can make dinners here work out. We're going to need more income in the long run, and this sounds like a potential source.
=)
Kk.
I am worried about you in this, as you are a giving person and like to go all out and knock their socks off. This of course, being a top character trait, but the price will not reflect this to the guests. $3 for a dessert boofay? That is less than buying "a" dessert even at Denny's.
Like mentioned if this 'group' went to a restaurant automatic 15 or 20% gratuity added. Add it in for your "staff" if they are helping. They will not tip, they will assume it is included in the price.
Luncheons I did for 10-12 ladies took ALL of my family running the entire time. I am not exxagerating and I am the ultimate preplanner organized individual. I had food that didn't require all my attention when the guests arrived.
So my advice on that is to get that point person(s) and in advance give them the run through of the whole thing. 12 noon luncheon HALF of them were here by 1130!!! (already dolled up, hair done etc). YES it put me out, I was in finishing up and getting ready to serve shortly. So i had to get them drinks, show them restrooms, etc etc. The drinks were not out at 1130.
They would come in every 2 minutes - "Oh I just wanted to show Cecelia the kitchen! Don't mind us" and iIn they came. The point person arrived AFTER all the other ladies. I have had red hats, grits, garden clubs to name a few. I did this year one. Our town wants me to do it, they call from the town office to book luncheons here.
I undercharged big time. Then the one lady who just simply dropped her plate of food. Her check bounced TWICE and I had to pay fees on it (she wrote me a check for the breakage and it was a vintage slavic plate in a collection I have). Inotice your guestimate price of $10-12 and others are saying $20-25. See what I mean. That is HALF what others are suggesting.
Lastly if 5 do not show, too bad. Payment by the point person is up front - easy to tell her you require it to PURCHASE the food items. If they don't show they are told they have to pay anyway, and it is not your problem. Then - add in some fresh flowers - even two bouquets will suck profit out of you. Just two.
Lastly, oops, my second lastly - sound like a preacher - any-hoo remember LESS is more. Less is more elegant, since we have a tendency to over do it. Most importantly these ladies will eat like birds. Seriousely, they will yak yak and pick at their food. So a dessert and coffee shouldn't be a boofay with many choices. Make it simple and elegant.
My last two cents. :)
 

happyjacks

Well-known member
Joined
May 30, 2008
Messages
493
Reaction score
0
Dinner for 8 is fairly common for me and I've learned alot about what works and what doesn't.
First off, as others have said, the $12.95 price you mention is way way way way way way way way too low. Especially if A) you want to provide a good product and good service; and B) if, as you say, you want to add a revenue stream. PLEASE, I beseech you, spend some time and math on this in two ways:
1. Research prices at a nice, sit down, full service restaurant. Off the top of my head, I'll guess salad $5, pasta dinner $14, dessert $7, soft drink $2, coffee/tea w dessert $2. I'm up to $30 already. Maybe restaurants in your town are different, but I would be stunned if they do nice, full meals for 13 bucks.
2. Write down your menu. From that make your shopping list. Then figure out what the groceries will cost you. Don't forget garnishes and any perishable decor (flowers). Don't forget your utility costs for cooking and cleaning up after the meal. Then figure out how much time you will spend on this dinner: menu planning, shopping, food prep, dining room prep, cooking, greeting, plating, serving, cleaning up afterwards (the kitchen, the dining room, the bathroom that the guests used, the laundry from the table linens). Don't forget to count not just your time spent, but anyone elses. All man-hours need to be paid for after the groceries are bought. Add the cost of groceries plus reasonable wages plus a profit for the business and your number will be higher than $12.95 pp.
If you can get the numbers from 1 & 2 in the same realm, you've got a feasible starting point.
As for the menu, stick with things that can be prepped in advance as much as possible. This might not matter so much when you're doing one mid-week dinner, but if you're trying to set up a business model that will work on a grander scale, then this is important. I've done alot of weekends of "dinner, breakfast, dinner, breakfast" for a full house, and it's challenging, even with two fridges.
 

stephanie

Well-known member
Joined
Aug 7, 2008
Messages
124
Reaction score
0
KK, I think you're being far too generous! Like the others have said, $12.95 is a BARGAIN, especially if you're not charging for the space use.
I plan a handful of corporate events (for-profit and not-for profit) each year and I'd think $12.95 was cheap for a breakfast! I've paid more pp for alcoholic drink service (one of the most lucrative items for you to serve, btw, since you can mark it up 500% and requires no prep), but in a more urban setting.
This is how the hotels I've worked with have charged:
  • Room rental fee (this minimum charge protects you from the hassle you will go through and the inconvenience to your guests if you end up preparing a full meal, blocking off a guest space, and only 4 people show up) = $100-600 if you're also getting the food/service fees
  • Food and Beverage: IF you charge a room rental fee, I could see your "Food & Beverage" charge being around $12 (this way, they get a better value if more people attend, up to your max), but I've never seen below $20 for a private, catered dinner outside of a restaurant
  • Staff: this is entirely up to you, since you are the staff, but hotels charge me $100-200 per staff person
  • Tax
  • Gratuity: "recommended" or required, but don't stiff yourself!
In the interest of full disclosure, I'm a NY-er and my cost expectations are skewed, but I've also planned events and seen catering menus in suburban areas and have rounded down from there.
In the end, you'll do what you feel is right, but we don't want you to sell yourself short!
 
Top