Two different examples of how to price a catering job, and things to consider to make sure you are charging appropriately and not losing money.

When it comes to how to price a catering job, Personal Chefs do it differently than big catering companies. The number one most important thing to consider is your niche or your style of cooking and your ideal clientele.

The per person cost of a delivered Tex-Mex lunch in disposable aluminum pans is very different than an elegant seated lunch for a ladies club consisting of multiple plated courses.

And they should be priced accordingly.

personal chef serving dinner party

A lot of people bandy about the “1:3 Rule”. This is the rule that your food costs should be 1/3 of your price.

This isn’t a perfect rule, nor is it universally applicable BUT it’s a good general place to start until you have a few jobs under your belt and are comfortable with coming up with pricing.

One of the assumptions of this rule is that you have overhead like a lease and staff. Not so for Personal Chefs.

Another thing to consider is that the larger the job, the more your food cost PER PERSON will go down because you can purchase in bulk.

Here’s how to price a small catering job using the 1:3 Rule:

Dinner Party for 8


  • Simple green salad with Champagne Vinaigrette
  • Chicken with Sherry Mushroom Sauce, Smashed Potatoes, and Garlicky Green Beans
  • Flourless Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Sauce

Food costs: salad $12, entrée $ 39, sides $11, dessert $20

Total Food Costs: $82

Using the 1:3 Rule since the cost is $10.20 per person, you should charge $30.60 per person, or $244.80.

That’s why I don’t use this rule when I’m calculating pricing. 

After food costs, I would only make $162. That means I didn’t price this catering right.

After at least an hour back and forth with the client, an hour to shop, and two hours on site not to mention drive time this wouldn’t be worth my time. I’ve been a Personal Chef for over 12 years though. This might have been worth it when I was starting out.

The time to profit ratio is also one of the reasons why I prefer regular weekly chef services as opposed to small casual event catering.

Another way to calculate catering pricing is to go off your hourly rate. If you know a small dinner party will take you four hours, and your hourly rate is $60, you would just add on the food cost and then give that as a quote to the client.

Be careful with this system though. If someone came to you and wanted dinner for 8 for this menu:

Spring Greens with Candied Pecans, Dried Cherries, and Chèvre

Beef Wellington, Potatoes Dauphinoise, Bacon Wrapped Asparagus

Cream Puffs Filled with Homemade Vanilla Bean Ice Cream & Browned Butter Caramel Sauce

plated salad by personal chef for dinner party

Not only are the food costs higher, but this menu is more labor intensive so it will take you more time.

So while the 1:3 Rule is a good place to start, always consider your hourly rate too so that you can price your catering right to make a profit.

Remember, it will always take you longer than you think it will when you’re starting out.

And even if it’s only four hours of work, you are giving up a whole booking date to this event so you need to make sure however much money you’re going to make will be worth your while.

Have you done some small event catering already? Leave me a comment and tell me how it went and if you were happy with your pricing.

How To Cook A Personal Chef Service

Get paid to do what you love without spending tens of thousands of dollars and years of your life on culinary school.

In this guide you’ll get:

  • Discover the personal chef service you can provide for paying clients, that keeps your nights and weekends for you.
  • Step by step plan that will have people loving your cooking and keep them coming back for more.
  • Techniques that Personal Chefs use when getting paid to cook, that amateur cooks don’t know about.
  • What you must do to get great quality ingredients and better service at the grocery store.
  • Exactly how to plan, shop, and cook efficiently to maximize your profit.
  • Don’t miss the PRO TIP on page 7 for the easiest way to get free marketing for your personal chef business.

Download the guide to learn how to cook a personal chef service so you can get paid to do what you love.