I don't really cater but I do a lot of cooking for organizations. I classify them by either fundraisers or exhibition.
Fundraising is fun, works for everyone and has become more then a hobby. When we cook, we usually have two or three pots that can handle between 50 and 90 gallons. Here is how it works.
An organization such as the Lions club, 4-h, local churches and even high school bands will book with us in advance. They will pre-sell the stew and should have about 500 quarts or more pre-sold before we start cooking. It usually starts early on a Saturday morning. We show up around 5:30 am with the pots and all the ingredients. We will start cooking the chicken while the volunteers for the fundraiser peel the potatoes and onions. Thru the course of the day, we direct the volunteers on what needs to be done such as stirring and cleaning. We are making sure that our standards for quality and cleanliness are adhered to. Seven hours later, the stew is ready to be put into quart containers and distributed while it is still hot. Another hour or two later, our equipment is cleaned and we are headed home. In this case, the organization is responsible for the costs of ingredients, propane and containers only. They sell the stew for what ever they want to set their fundraiser goals. Typically, a container of stew will cost about $2.50 or $3.00 to make and they will sell for $5 or $6 doubling their money in just one day. We provide the know-how and equipment. Our time is donated and we do not get involved in collecting funds. We can make between 6000 and 7000 quarts per year this way. If we had a catering company, this sure would be a great way to advertise.
The second type of cooking we do is for exhibition. This is a flat rate cooking for any group that wants us to show up and cook that most resembles catering. We charge $500, bring all the ingredients, cook on the spot and even serve. It takes 5 hours to cook. We also bring the spoons, bowls, table cloths, etc. We cook in a 20 gallon pot and serve until it is gone, or until it's cool enough to put in the plastic quart containers. Neighborhood events and folk festivals are the groups that request us for this. It takes a minimum of three to cook one of these pots because of the contstant stirring required. By the time all expenses are taken into account, it comes to about 10.00/hr per person. This is for a 10 hour day including travel time. If we have four people cooking, that rate is less then minimum wage, but the workload is certainly less.
There is not a lot of money to be made this way and we only do it two to three times per year. The stew is great, which is what makes the same people buy it from all the different organizations month after month. Consistency to me is key. I tell people that all our stews are good, but some are certainly better then others (Green potatoes can really mess with the taste of stew).
Just sharing some info from field.