How to Estimate Catering Jobs?

Catering is a highly competitive and demanding business. You will have to always be on top of everything, from finding clients to organizing everything and making sure you get paid correctly.

Since you will have to adapt your offer to your clients' preferences, the most challenging part is to estimate catering prices when you first plan the event with the client. Catering calculations include many aspects, from the food and alcohol to the rental and the staff you provide, not to mention overhead costs.

You need to add all these carefully, so everyone is happy when the event is over, and you make a profit. This is a helping guide on how to calculate prices for catering to help you make the right estimation.

How to Estimate a Catering Job?

Once you gain experience, catering costing will get easier to determine. But if you're still not sure how to price a catering job, we will list the main aspects you need to consider when setting the price.

Indeed, it's a bit tricky because it's just an estimation, but if you take it one step at a time, you will easily determine how to charge for catering. So here are the steps to take to create your efficient catering cost calculator:

  • Find out the guest count; that's an essential part. Your client needs to make an exact list and tell you how many people will participate in the event.

    Indeed, some may not show up, and others may come despite initially refusing the invitation. That's why it's a great idea to have a policy regarding such situations, so you can cover your costs and not lose money.

  • The menu and services your clients opt for are also crucial because it can lead to significant fluctuations in prices. There are usually many variables for every option, and you must discuss them with the client from the start.

    For instance, an hors d'oeuvres buffet, by itself, isn't expensive, but if you add a few stations, the price quickly changes. And then there's the matter of china and glasses you use, as well as the servers. Every special request must be brought up from the beginning to establish accurate catering costings.

  • Once you have set the menu, calculate how much the food will cost you and reach out to your supplier. You will find that buffets are more challenging to calculate if you compare them to individual servings for each guest.
  • Add up all the additional supplies, like tablecloths, chairs, utensils, equipment, and so on. To get a general idea, rentals usually cost between $2 and $6 per person.
  • Bar costs can also affect catering calculations. Drinks will bring you significant revenue, but you also have to provide the supplies and a bartender.
  • Don't forget to add the service charge to the catering costs calculator. That includes labor costs, like servers and assistants, but also administration and coordination costs.

    That's where you adjust the catering prices to make sure you make a profit, once you calculate all the monthly expenses you need to cover. The service charge can be either a flat rate or a percentage.

  • Calculate the total catering prices, adding all the above.

How Do You Calculate Food Cost Per Person?

The first step in determining the caterer's cost is to calculate the cost of all the ingredients. Then it's all about how many people will attend. You need to divide the total price of the ingredients by the number of guests.

It's easier if the client opts for a plated dinner instead of a buffet from this perspective. In this case, you know to include four to six ounces of meat and two side dishes, as well as an appetizer and dessert for every person. You also need to keep in mind how many kids will be attending, as their portions are half the size of an adult's.

What Is the Average Catering Cost Per Person?

To get an idea of how much do caterers make per event, let's take a look at the average catering cost per person. For that, we'll consider a wedding because it's one of the most frequent events in the catering business.

Statistics say that in the U.S., the average catering cost per person is $85. That applies to a wedding with 150 guests, and it includes food, drinks, and the related services, as well as the cake.

Of course, the price can be lower or higher, depending on what the clients want. Buffet bars cost less, but if it's a sit-down dinner and you also add an open bar or cocktail hour, the final cost will be much higher.


Catering prices can vary a lot because every event is different, and people have various preferences and requirements. But the tips we mentioned above will help you create your own catering costs calculator.

Once the event is over, you will also need to bill your clients. To create an excellent invoice, use the WeInvoice template. You'll also find many other user-friendly templates and invoice generators on the website to make your job easier.