How profitable is a catering company?

Data provided here comes from our team of experts who have been working on business plan for a catering company. Furthermore, an industry specialist has reviewed and approved the final article.

catering profitabilityHow profitable is a catering company, and what is the average monthly revenue for catering services?

Let's check together.

Revenue metrics of a catering company

How does a catering company makes money?

A catering makes money by providing food and services to events and parties.

What are the common products sold in catering companies?


Catering companies offer a wide range of products and services to cater to different events and occasions.

Some common products include appetizers like finger foods, salads, and dips, main courses such as meats, poultry, seafood, and vegetarian options, side dishes like rice, pasta, and vegetables, assorted bread and rolls, desserts like cakes, pastries, and fruit platters, and beverages including soft drinks, water, and sometimes alcoholic options. They also provide services like buffet setups, plated meals, and on-site cooking for events like weddings, corporate gatherings, parties, and conferences.

The goal of catering companies is to provide convenient and high-quality food solutions tailored to the specific needs of their clients, ensuring that the culinary aspect of an event is well taken care of.

What about the prices?


A catering company offers a variety of food and services with prices that can vary based on factors such as menu selection, event size, location, and additional services.

Generally, the prices can range from around $10 to $50 per person for a basic meal package, which might include appetizers, entrees, sides, and desserts. More elaborate packages with gourmet options, specialty cuisines, or premium ingredients could fall within the range of $50 to $150 per person.

For larger events or weddings, full-service catering with added features like waitstaff, bartenders, and rentals might start from $100 to $250 per person or more.

Additional services like event planning, custom decorations, and themed setups can contribute to a higher cost.

Service Price Range ($ per person)
Basic Meal Package $10 - $50
Gourmet or Specialty Menu $50 - $150
Full-Service Catering (with staff) $100 - $250+
Additional Services Varies

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Who are the customers of a catering company?

A catering company typically serves a variety of customers, including corporate clients, private individuals, and event planners.

Which segments?

We've been working on many business plans for this sector. Here are the usual customer categories.

Customer Segment Description Preferences How to Find Them
Corporate Clients Large companies and organizations seeking catering services for meetings, conferences, and corporate events. Professional service, customized menus, on-time delivery. Networking events, business directories, industry conferences.
Wedding Parties Couples planning wedding receptions and related events. Elegant presentation, diverse menu options, wedding cake services. Wedding expos, bridal magazines, wedding planners.
Private Celebrations Individuals hosting private parties like birthdays, anniversaries, and family gatherings. Customized themes, finger foods, specialty cocktails. Community bulletin boards, social media groups, local event listings.
Health-Conscious Customers Individuals and groups with dietary preferences or restrictions, such as vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free. Healthy and wholesome menu options, allergen awareness. Health and wellness fairs, online forums for dietary communities.

How much they spend?

In the comprehensive business strategy we've developed, it's observed that clients generally spend between $100 to $250 per event when engaging with a catering company. These figures can fluctuate based on several factors including the size of the event, the menu selected, and additional services like premium options or special requests.

Research indicates that an average client hosts events requiring catering services from 1 to 4 times a year. There are occasional clients who might require catering only once for a specific event, while others, such as corporate clients or frequent party hosts, might engage catering services multiple times throughout the year.

The estimated lifetime value of an average catering customer would be from $100 (1x100) to $1,000 (4x250), assuming the client stays loyal for about a year. This estimation takes into account both one-time and repeat customers, balancing out those who only require service once with those who return for multiple events.

With these considerations, it's reasonable to assert that an average customer would contribute approximately $550 in revenue to a catering company within a year.

(Disclaimer: the figures stated above are general estimates and may not precisely reflect your unique business circumstances.)

Which type(s) of customer(s) to target?

It's something to have in mind when you're writing the business plan for your catering company.

The most profitable customers for a catering company typically fall into the category of corporate clients and high-end event planners.

They are often the most profitable because they place larger and more frequent orders, providing a steady stream of revenue.

To target and attract them, catering companies should invest in professional marketing materials, showcase their expertise through an impressive online presence, and offer tailored packages to suit their needs. Building strong relationships through excellent customer service and timely delivery is crucial in retaining these clients.

Consistency in quality, flexibility, and competitive pricing can also help maintain their loyalty over the long term. Additionally, offering loyalty programs or discounts for repeat business can incentivize these profitable customers to continue choosing your catering services.

What is the average revenue of a catering company?

The average monthly revenue for a catering company can range significantly, typically falling between $5,000 and $50,000, depending on several factors including the size of the business, the number of events, and the cost per person for the catered meals. Let's break it down into three different business profiles.

You can also estimate your own revenue by considering various factors specific to your business model, with our financial plan for a catering company.

Case 1: A small local catering service

Average monthly revenue: $5,000

This type of catering service is typically run by a family or a small team, focusing on local or community events, and perhaps some corporate functions. They usually handle events with a smaller number of attendees, and their menu options may be more limited compared to larger companies.

Because of its scale, this business type tends to cater to a maximum of 10 events per month, with an average of 20 guests per event. Assuming the company charges $25 per person, the total revenue from one event would be $500, resulting in a monthly revenue of $5,000.

Case 2: A mid-sized catering company in a metropolitan area

Average monthly revenue: $25,000

This catering business operates in a bustling metropolitan area and is known for its diverse menu and ability to cater to larger events. Such companies often cater to weddings, larger corporate events, or community gatherings and have a reputation that attracts clients.

Unlike the smaller, more local services, a mid-sized company might cater to 20 events per month, with an average of 100 guests per event. At a rate of $50 per person, this business could make $5,000 per event, leading to a monthly revenue of $25,000.

Case 3: A high-end, sophisticated catering company

Average monthly revenue: $100,000

This type of catering service is renowned for its gourmet food, exquisite presentation, and exceptional service. It is the go-to company for high-profile events, weddings, and upscale corporate gatherings. The chefs might be well-known culinary experts, and the menu likely features premium options and ingredients.

With its reputation, this company may cater around 40 grand events per month, with each event hosting approximately 200 guests. Given the upscale service, they might charge $125 per person. Thus, a single event could generate $25,000, with the potential to earn a monthly revenue of $100,000.

All three cases highlight the different scales and potential revenue streams of catering businesses. Actual revenues can vary widely based on the company's operational efficiency, cost management, and client satisfaction, among other business aspects.

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The profitability metrics of a catering company

What are the expenses of a catering company?

Operating a catering company involves expenses for food ingredients, kitchen equipment, staff wages, and marketing.

Category Examples of Expenses Average Monthly Cost (Range in $) Tips to Reduce Expenses
Food Costs Ingredients, groceries, specialty items $2,000 - $5,000 Source ingredients locally, buy in bulk, negotiate with suppliers
Labor Chefs, kitchen staff, servers, event staff $4,000 - $10,000 Optimize staff scheduling, cross-train employees, consider part-time or contract workers
Rent/Utilities Commercial kitchen rent, water, electricity $1,500 - $3,500 Choose a cost-effective location, invest in energy-efficient equipment
Equipment Ovens, refrigerators, utensils, serving trays $500 - $2,000 Buy used equipment, maintain and repair regularly, invest in quality items
Transportation Delivery vehicles, fuel, maintenance $800 - $2,500 Optimize delivery routes, consider fuel-efficient vehicles, perform regular maintenance
Marketing Advertising, website, promotional materials $500 - $1,500 Utilize social media, word-of-mouth, collaborate with other local businesses
Insurance General liability, workers' compensation $300 - $800 Shop around for insurance quotes, maintain a safe workplace
Permits and Licenses Health permits, food handler licenses $100 - $300 Ensure compliance to avoid fines or penalties
Miscellaneous Office supplies, cleaning supplies, uniforms $200 - $500 Buy in bulk, consider eco-friendly options
Contingency Emergency fund for unexpected expenses $500 - $1,000 Regularly contribute to the contingency fund

When is a a catering company profitable?

The breakevenpoint

A catering company reaches the threshold of profitability when its total revenue surpasses its total fixed and variable costs.

In more straightforward terms, a catering business begins to realize a profit when the income generated from catering events, food sales, and any additional services exceeds the expenses associated with food supplies, venue arrangements, staff wages, and other operational costs.

This pivotal financial moment is known as the breakeven point, signifying that the company has covered all its necessary expenses and begins to create profit.

For instance, let's consider a catering company with typical monthly fixed costs amounting to roughly $15,000. Additionally, the variable costs (costs of goods like ingredients, disposable utensils, etc.) can be around $10 per guest.

To estimate the breakeven point for this catering business, one would need to calculate the number of events or guests required to cover the $15,000 fixed costs, plus the variable costs per guest. If the company charges $50 per person for a catering event, then each event contributes $40 towards fixed costs (after subtracting the $10 variable cost). In this scenario, the company must cater to 375 guests in a month or perhaps handle 4-5 large events (assuming an average of 75-100 guests per event) to surpass their breakeven point and start turning a profit.

It's crucial to understand that these figures can fluctuate significantly based on numerous factors such as the business location, the scale of operations, pricing strategies, food costs, and market competition. A high-end catering service, for instance, would inherently have a higher breakeven point compared to a small-scale operation that requires less revenue to cover basic expenses.

Interested in determining the financial viability of your catering venture? Consider utilizing our comprehensive financial plan designed specifically for catering businesses. By simply entering your unique financial assumptions, it will assist you in calculating the precise earnings required to operate a lucrative enterprise.

Biggest threats to profitability

The biggest threats to profitability for a catering company can include fluctuating food costs, as prices of ingredients can rise unexpectedly, cutting into profit margins.

Additionally, intense competition in the catering industry can lead to pricing pressure, making it challenging to maintain profitable rates.

Seasonal fluctuations in demand may also impact revenue consistency, with slower periods potentially causing financial strain.

Poorly managed inventory can result in food wastage and increased expenses.

Lastly, unexpected events like health inspections, food safety incidents, or equipment breakdowns can incur unexpected costs and damage the company's reputation, further threatening profitability.

Find more threats in the SWOT matrix for a catering company.

What are the margins of a catering company?

Gross margins and net margins are key indicators of the financial health of a catering business, helping to measure its profitability.

The gross margin is the difference between the revenue earned from catering events and the direct costs of preparing the food and providing service for those events.

Essentially, it represents the profit remaining after subtracting costs directly related to the catering service, such as ingredients, cooking supplies, staff wages, and transportation.

The net margin, however, encompasses all expenses the business incurs, including indirect costs like administrative expenses, marketing, rental of the business location, and taxes.

Net margin offers a comprehensive view of the catering company's profitability, considering both direct and indirect costs.

Gross margins

Catering companies generally have an average gross margin in the range of 30% to 50%.

For instance, if your catering business generates $15,000 per month, the gross profit may be roughly 40% x $15,000 = $6,000.

Here’s a practical example:

Consider a catering company handling an event for 100 guests, with each guest costing $50, leading to total revenue of $5,000.

The direct costs associated with this event, including ingredients, staff wages, and transportation, amount to $3,500.

Therefore, the catering company's gross profit from this event would be $5,000 - $3,500 = $1,500.

Thus, the gross margin for this event would be $1,500 / $5,000 = 30%.

Net margins

Typically, catering companies might see an average net margin ranging from 5% to 15%.

Using a simplified approach, if your catering business earns $15,000 in a month, the net profit might be approximately $1,125, representing a 7.5% net margin.

Continuing with the same example:

The catering event for 100 guests generates $5,000 in revenue, and direct costs are $3,500.

However, there are additional indirect costs, such as marketing, insurance, administrative costs, and rental fees. Assuming these amount to $1,000.

After considering both direct and indirect costs, the catering company's net profit would be $5,000 - $3,500 - $1,000 = $500.

In this scenario, the net margin for the event would be $500 divided by $5,000, resulting in a 10% net margin.

It's crucial for business owners to recognize that the net margin (vs. gross margin) paints a more accurate picture of the actual earnings of your catering company, as it takes into account the total expenses involved.

So, what's the bottom line on earnings for a catering company owner?

Understanding that the net margin is your go-to metric for gauging the profitability of your catering company is crucial. It essentially reveals what portion of your earnings remains after covering all operating costs.

Your profit level will inevitably hinge on the effectiveness of your business strategies and operational management.

Struggling Catering Owner

Earns $800 per month

Starting out with a basic setup, opting for lower-quality ingredients, limited menu options, minimal marketing efforts, and overlooking opportunities for competitive pricing and package deals, your total revenue might hover around just $4,000.

Given the high costs of logistics, manpower, and food preparation, among others, you might struggle to maintain a net margin beyond 20% if expenses aren't kept in check.

Under these circumstances, your monthly take-home would barely touch $800 (20% of $4,000).

For catering business owners, this represents a financial low point, emphasizing the need for strategic planning and efficient operations.

Mid-tier Catering Owner

Earns $6,000 per month

If you're running a standard catering service with a decent variety of menu options, reliable service, and occasional marketing initiatives, you could see your total revenue bump up to around $30,000.

With a tighter rein on your operational costs, negotiating with suppliers for better rates, and perhaps even some economies of scale, you could realistically aim for a net margin of about 30%.

This scenario would see you bringing in around $6,000 each month (30% of $20,000), reflecting a stable, if not particularly adventurous, approach to catering management.

High-achieving Catering Owner

Earns $50,000 per month

At the top end, if you're dedicated to excellence, offering a diverse, high-quality menu, exceptional service, strong branding, and effective marketing, your revenue could soar to $200,000 or more, thanks to premium pricing and high-volume contracts.

Efficient management, including optimizing staff deployment, bulk purchasing, and minimizing waste, could help push your net margin to around 50%.

For the exceptional catering business owner, monthly profits could reach an impressive $50,000 (50% of $100,000), serving as a testament to what's achievable with dedication, smart strategies, and a relentless focus on quality and customer satisfaction.

Dream big, and start with a comprehensive business plan for your catering company. The sky's the limit for those ready to commit to the hard work and strategic planning required in the catering industry!

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