How To Plan A Catering Menu

how to plan a catering menu the bailiwik academy

If you currently have a food business, whether home-based or something else, you might be thinking of branching out and providing catering services. While that’s a good idea, especially with food always being part of celebrations, it might surprise you that a catering business is more than just planning the food. How to plan a catering menu, you ask?

Well, that’s exactly what we will talk about in this blog.

Key Takeaways

TL;DR? Here’s a quick summary of what to expect from this article:

  • When planning a catering menu, it’s important to have a specific target market in mind. Focus on that one market so that you can memorize and perfect their needs, which helps you build a good reputation and gets you similar work. 
  • Pricing isn’t just about the food–consider also logistics, cost of food, and other business costs. 
  • Do further research and education to make better business decisions about running a catering events business.

A Quick Disclaimer About This Article

While we will discuss what to consider when planning a catering menu, this isn’t a deep dive into the topic. A food and beverage business or how to plan a catering business needs more consideration and information than just one blog article. So while we can give you some things to consider, we’d also encourage you to learn more for yourself.

For example, one of the courses at The Bailiwick Academy is Branding 101. Another is Bakery Operations. These and other courses might help you with how to create a catering business plan and make better business decisions.

In short, while this is a quick overview, this is not an article that’s an end-all-be-all about planning catering menus. Also, these won’t be in any particular order, but you have to really consider all of these, as these are important for a successful catering menu or business.

Got it? Good.

How To Plan A Catering Menu: Who Do You Want to Serve?

One thing you have to remember is that in business, you have to have a specific target market. You need to decide on who you want to serve primarily. This also applies to having a catering business.

Let’s say you do decide to enter catering. Do you want to serve personal events like weddings, birthdays, and baptisms? Or would you rather look for a catering event for business people weekly? After all, how to plan catering for a wedding differs from how to plan catering for an event in a corporate setting.

The question doesn’t stop there, though. If you decide to serve weddings, would you rather serve high-end weddings? Or would you be happy serving weddings that are budgeted?

Again, the people in these events will be looking for different things. And if you read our feature on Chef Joey Prats, you’d know that he recommends focusing on one product. The same advice counts for the target market: focus on one. 

When you focus on one market, you can memorize and perfect their needs and expectations. Doing this will help you build a good reputation and get you more work for similar people. That’s always a good thing, agree?

How To Plan A Catering Menu: Consider The Logistics

Now that you know who you want to serve, the next thing to consider is the logistics, as these will factor into your costs. As we said, you shouldn’t only consider menu items!

Let’s go back to the target market. Say you’ve decided to focus solely on corporate events. Will you accept only certain corporate events, or will you take on all of them? 

For example, what if you’re located in Laguna, and a potential client wants to get you for a corporate event in Pampanga? Will you be able to accommodate their request?

Aside from the location, here are some other logistical considerations:

  • Staffing – You should determine the number of staff needed, their roles and responsibilities, and their schedules. This includes chefs, servers, bartenders, and event coordinators. Remember, the more you want to give to your clients, the more people you’ll likely need!
  • Transportation – Transportation isn’t only considered if, say, you want to run a food truck. After all, if you’re going on location for any type of event, you should be able to transport the food, equipment, and yourself and your team to the venue. You should also determine the truck size you need or if a van will suffice. 
  • Equipment – If you plan to enter wedding event catering, you should know that you won’t be able to survive on just one kind of chair and decoration. You have to be able to give your possible clients options that will fit their wedding themes. Catering for corporate events is more forgiving, but these clients will still eventually look for options from you. Consider also that catering can come in different forms: buffets, food stations, seated and served, stand-up cocktails, and even outdoor picnics. Do you want to be able to serve all that or just some?

How To Plan A Catering Menu: Pricing

Ever wonder sometimes about the catering cost per person, especially if you feel like it’s too high? Well, here are some factors to consider in how to price a catering menu.

  • Cost of ingredients – This is one important factor in pricing. After all, depending on the market you choose to serve and the types of food they want, you could run up a hefty bill just buying the ingredients alone! Of course, you’re going to charge that to the client. Include also if you’ll serve an alcoholic beverage per person, if they have appetizers, and pretty much anything food related.
  • Labor costs You will also have to factor in the salaries of your chefs, servers, and other staff. In the future, if you add more people, even those not necessarily go with actual events, include those too! They do help with your business, after all. You might even have to raise prices to serve people better.
  • Your equipment and logistical costs – How much did you buy your equipment, such as chairs, linens, and tools for food safety? How much are your transportation costs? Insurance? Factor those in as well. 
  • Your markup – All these mentioned above are just your operational and overhead costs. If you don’t add in how much you want to make per event, you’re not going to make money. And you have to–after all, businesses survive because of profits, not because of anything else. You have to make money.

Once you have all these, divide the cost of the event by the number of guests, and that’s where you’ll get the cost per person. It is important to note that the cost per person will vary depending on the menu, the level of service provided, and other factors. 

How To Plan A Catering Menu: Planning The Food

Oh, look, we’re finally getting to the food! Why did we place this last? Well, it’s probably the easiest for you, especially if you’ve been making food for a long time already. 

After all, you’re reading this because you’re thinking of getting into catering. And that means you already have a preference for your menu, correct?

And it does go back to Chef Joey’s advice about one first. So what kind of food or cuisine do you want to serve? Sure cuisine that will sell is Filipino food, but you can also offer other ones, like Korean and Spanish. 

You can even choose to niche down further and offer only keto catering. However, how to plan a keto menu is much more complicated than the usual kinds. That’s something to consider as your price might go up!

Your price will also go up if you want to give clients options to serve their guests who have special dietary restrictions.

But once you’ve decided on the food you plan to serve, that’s when you can get to the nitty-gritty. You can customize courses, make avant-garde versions of the cuisine, and so on. It will really depend on your target market and what would appeal to them.

Final Thoughts

Ready to get started on making your own catered event menu? Just consider all the following that we discussed in this article. Remember to consider who you want to serve and all the costs that you will incur, and make sure you’ll profit! By doing so, you’ll be well on your way to not only building a catering menu that will impress your guests but you’ll also have a successful catering business that will last a long time!

Speaking Of Menu Choices…

If you’ve decided to go with our suggestion of serving Pinoy food to start, The Bailiwick Academy has a class that’d be perfect for you to start: Chef Anthony Ang’s Pinoy Handaan!

In this class, you’ll learn to make three classic Filipino party dishes that are restaurant quality using Chef Anthony’s recipes:

  • Pancit Overload
  • Crispy Pata
  • And the very packed Lumpiang Shanghai!

Whether you’re catering for a wedding, a corporate event, or even a simple occasion at home, you can be sure that these menu options will make for a menu that will impress! That’s especially since this class has simple, clear and easy-to-follow instructions that will let you master the dishes in no time!

So what are you waiting for? Sign up at The Bailiwick Academy today and get started planning your perfect Filipino food menu by enrolling in this class!


Keep coming back to The Bailiwick Academy blog for more kitchen tips, tricks, and much more!

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