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Old 12-23-2006, 05:30 PM   #1
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Question for the Collective

What are the 3 biggest mistakes new guys make when it comes to Q'ing for $$$? Since I believe the this is the single greatest resource for Q on the net, your opinions are worth something

Please include in ( ) how many years you've been doing the catering gig. For example, mine would look like (O)
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Old 12-23-2006, 06:00 PM   #2
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4 years here

1: thinking you know what people like

2. thinking because you're friends and neighbors tell you that
you have good q that you can make it to everyone else's liking.

3. thinking because you can grill a fabulous dinner in your
backyard that you can do it for 100 people anywhere.
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Old 12-23-2006, 07:08 PM   #3
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That's really a great question. I can't wait to see some of the other responses.
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Old 12-23-2006, 08:39 PM   #4
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1. Trying to get legal
2. Underpricing your goods and services.
3. Failing to get at least half the money up front.
4. Underestimating how stressful and labor intensive is the endeavor.

I dont cater.

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Old 12-23-2006, 08:48 PM   #5
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1) Biggest mistake a newbie can make is to give too much food to impress client... next time they call, and you now give them 1/4 lb per person, you're toast , after you gave them somewhere around 1/2 pound per person the first time... or 3 extra pounds of slaw or beans, or the extra rack of ribs you had after the cook, or the extra 4 pounds of PP you had after doing a 20 pound shoulder..

2)Being late to deliver is a killer

3) not communicating with the client through the entire process... like not calling the day before to confirm delivery, order, and other needs they might have

Been catering on and off for over 25 years, ranging from just doing small , drop and go caterings, private chef, line cook at 2,000 person event, or handling a wealthy client and 30 guest for 2 weeks at a private estate.

on edit .i'm gunna add a fourth mistake.. Thinking you can impress EVERYONE at the affair... believe me there are food idiots that do nothing but nit pick, and break cannoli's at some functions, and most of em dont know squat about food, or what tastes good.. and most of em need to miss a few meals, besides.. they aint pushed away froma plate of food in 6-7 years.. ok maybe 8 years
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Old 12-23-2006, 10:34 PM   #6
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1. Under pricing yourself... you can always go down with prices later, but it's tough to go up on repeat customers... it's all about profit right?

2. Trying to have too many things to impress.....keep it simple, but stay away from burgers and dogs....anyone can cook them.

3. Not having a routine and feeling overwhelmed... not being organized is a killer.... for impressions on client and for interest in yourself ever doing it again. Plan, Plan and RE-PLAN.
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Old 12-24-2006, 02:29 AM   #7
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11 years here. I think Bob and Joe are right. I did dogs one time and lost my butt, plus had sore arms for days from turning the dumb things. Don't ever EVER toast a bun because every one else will want one too.
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Old 12-24-2006, 07:35 AM   #8
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I think Smokey Joe is talking about me. :P
(1) year
I agree with everyone so far.
All I can add is you need to be prepared for bad weather. The client sets the date, and you go for it.
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Old 12-25-2006, 12:05 PM   #9
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Great Responses from all. After carefully reading and re-reading the posts, I've arrived at these conclusions:
A. To borrow a line from Clint Eastwood, a man gots to know his limitations. I guess a gut check on skill level is a good starting point. It would be best to offer only a couple, maybe three types of meats. Stick with what you do best in the beginning. In my case, that would mean staying away from ribs (too much variance in the quality of the outcome).
B. Don't give it away. Set your price, and and stick to the contract. (Downpayments, amount of food, serving time and so on)
C. Know your local regs/laws. My brother in Tenn tells me anyone can set up a roadside shack and sell Q without much fuss from the Health Dept. Others report that where they reside that if you are cooking on-site (private property) that the Health Dept has no authority. Where I happen to be, they are sticklers for a commercial kitchen or the right to use one -goes to dishwashing. It don't matter where you are in the County, they got the authority and the manpower to enforce it. A 3-hole sink with on-demand hotwater heater like I see mounted as an option on the Klose pits would satisfied the folks here.
D. Know what gigs not to get involved with. I was asked if I would smoke a couple of whole pigs at a wedding reception last summer. I thanked her for thinking about me but declined cause I don't have the equipment and on top of that I've never done one personally. I've seen it done, they look pretty forgiving to me
E. Develop a system and stick with it, call it organization. Back in the day when I was commanding troops, the "backwards planning" method was widely used. To apply those principles to the task at hand you would start the timeline when the event was to start and go from there. Event start (Plug in the time) start the cook (plug in the time), setup (plug in the time), arrive at site( plug in the time), you get the picture.

Anyone have anything to add?
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Old 12-25-2006, 12:22 PM   #10
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good summary.

I'd just add that when you've done the contract, call a day or 2 before
the event and double check EVERYTHING. I went 2 a wedding a couple months ago that was fabulously catered, big crew, chocolate fountains
and such....and no drinks.

Contract did not state caterer would bring drinks. customer just
assumed.
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Old 12-26-2006, 07:18 AM   #11
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WOW, another reason to get EVERY thing in writing.
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Old 12-26-2006, 04:13 PM   #12
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Well, I didn't actually make all of these (except the first one)

1) Make certain you have a large enough cooker to cook "comfortably" for the group you intend to max out at.

2) Make certain you can get one or two existing gigs before you invest if possible.

3) Do not let people talk you into trying to be "something you are not." Keep growth slow and easily managed.

oh, (3) years.
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Old 12-26-2006, 05:12 PM   #13
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Great advice guys. I'm starting into it this coming year and welcome any advice or thoughts. Woodman, I got your first one covered I think.
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Old 12-27-2006, 08:37 AM   #14
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Old 12-27-2006, 09:37 AM   #15
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Peter wrote:
Quote:
One I could add is to expect the unexpected ..... like the wedding for 200 we did. All was going well when at serving time a small plane crashed across the road from the site killing the grooms brother and his pilot
Guess a guy could bring an extra first aid kit to the event

One of life's lesson's I've learned is not to plan everything in detail. Generals would tell you the war plan get's modified right after the first bullet flys. Feel bad for those folks, but there's not much an average Joe could do there except hang around a sell Q to the NTSB

If we get enough responses and I'll edit them into the "Ten Commandments" or some akin to that. Think I'll leave the airplanes out.
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Old 12-27-2006, 09:50 AM   #16
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I like the idea of the 10 Commandments of Catering.
Love this section, too, thanks for all the info.
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Old 12-27-2006, 04:08 PM   #17
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1) Thou shalt not EVER make anyone sick!!!!!!
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Old 12-27-2006, 04:38 PM   #18
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About 5 years ago on a job (whole hog only) These stupid people started to put out tater and Mac salad about 4 hours before the hog was to be done. I told the people " I can't have this happening!" answer was "we have no more room in the two refrigerators" So I sent the stupid husband to the store and told him to get 20 to 30 pounds of ice. He looked confused but went and got it. I then went next door and asked to use the round kiddy pool that was empty. I then took the pool and set it on top of a 5 foot round table they rented and filled it with the ice and stuck all there mayo bace salads in there. A table skirt covered the round pool to make it look nice and life was good again. NOW if some one got sick at that gig, who's the first guy there going to blame? You got it, ME!
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Old 12-27-2006, 04:55 PM   #19
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BTW a full hotel pan will fit in a kids plastic sled too. That does you south boys no good, but I have used them. Customers are so stupid sometimes. I have the huge refer I can put on the back of my rig, but they don't want to pay the eatra rental fee. $25.00 Go figure. :scratch


The top swings up, and the other ss door swings down. Runs on a simple 120 volt outlet. It's a old milk cooler, it will freeze things too when switched from chiller to freezer. No fans to dry meat out.
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