How to Create an Estimate for a Catering Menu

When launching a catering business, how you price your menu is just as important to your company's success as the quality of the food you cook. As a caterer, your menu needs to be properly priced. You need to find that critical sweet spot where you make a profit without alienating customers by overpricing items.

It's very important that you create an accurate and detailed estimate for prospective customers. As they plan their big event, they'll likely contact various vendors to find the menu and price that work best for their affair.

Creating an accurate and itemized catering event estimate could mean the difference between landing the job and being passed up. Skynova's estimate template can help you create a professional-looking document to submit to potential customers as you try to win jobs.

How to Create a Free Catering Estimate

Using Skynova's free template makes it easier to create a professional estimate that you can customize for each potential customer. Instead of building your estimate from scratch, you can directly create the document on our website.

Simply input all of your important information, including menu items, labor, supplies, and any discounts, and let our template do the work for you. It will automatically calculate a price that's easy for your customer to review. You can then download your estimate as a PDF or send it directly through our software.

Pair the estimate template with Skynova's other software products to streamline your business paperwork. Using a single system for all of your important documents makes tracking payments and accounting easier than ever.

Create Estimate Template

1. Provide Your Business's and Customer's Contact Information

When creating a catering estimate, at the top of Skynova's template are "To" and "From" fields where you should add the name of both parties involved — your business and the potential customer — as well as contact information for both. It's important to include this information because it will help your customer identify who the estimate is from when they receive it. Without this information, they could accidentally delete the email with your estimate, slowing down the process of booking the job.

Before you hit that send button on your estimate, give your contact information a second look. You want to make sure the estimate gets to the right place without any delay. Incorrect contact information will keep the estimate from getting where it needs to go.

2. Add Your Catering Business's Logo

Skynova's customizable template allows you to upload your catering company's logo for an extra professional touch.

It's easy to include on your document. Just click on "Show Customization Options" when you're in the template. You'll be shown several options, including "Logo." When you check the box next to "Logo" an area for your business logo will appear on the document. It will allow you to browse your computer's documents for the image you want to use and then you can upload it.

3. Pick an Estimate Number for Each Job

To keep track of your estimates, pick a number for each job. This will be helpful for your customer's accounting needs, as well.

On the right-hand side of Skynova's estimate template, you can input an estimate number above the date. When you create another estimate, the number will automatically increment from the previous estimate.

Skynova also makes it easy for you to automatically convert your estimates into invoices once your customers accept them, streamlining your paperwork.

4. Provide a Date for Your Catering Event Estimate

Every professional estimate should include a date, which can be included in the "Date" field of the Skynova template. This date will serve as a reference point for your potential customer. Typically, estimates have an expiration date. You can choose the parameters of this expiration date — seven days, 30 days, or even longer — from the date on your estimate.

When the estimate expires, you'll need to calculate a new estimate for the customer if they wish to do business with you. If costs of labor, supplies, or anything else on your estimate have changed since you wrote the previous estimate, the number could look different from what you originally submitted to them.

5. Calculate and Input the Cost of the Menu

As you create a catering estimate, there are a few ways for you to calculate costs. How you charge your customer will be based on their needs and the scope of their event, as well as your business preferences.

Once you determine how you will charge your customers, you can input the menu items they select into your Skynova template. Under the "Item" drop-down menu, you'll select either "Service" (if you're providing servers for their event) or "Product." Then, you'll write a description of that item, such as "shrimp appetizer platter" or "chicken entree."

After this, you'll input the cost of just one of these items under "Unit Price" and the amount your customer has ordered of that item under "Quantity." Skynova's platform will do the math for you, calculating how much each line item will cost your customer based on the item's price and the quantity ordered.

As you price your menu items, here are some common ways to calculate costs:


With fixed pricing, the caterer sets a fixed cost and quantity of each menu item that a customer orders. This provides a clear idea of catering costs. It works best for a buffet-style or family-style event where customers pay for each tray of food, or seated meals with predetermined portions where customers pay a flat fee per guest for a plated dinner (e.g., a wedding reception). You might even consider a catering package that includes a specific course meal and service fees.


Calculating tiered pricing for menus works differently from fixed pricing. If a caterer offers tiered pricing, this means the price per person goes down as the number of guests for a catered event increases.

For instance, the cost per plate for an entree might be $25 per person at an event with less than 50 people. For a larger event with a higher guest count, though, that price might decrease to $20 per plate. Tiered pricing offers a savings incentive for customers hosting larger events. You'll also save money by ordering food in larger quantities.


Custom menu pricing offers more flexibility for your customer, as you're creating a custom estimate based on their needs. It might take more time to create this estimate — you'll need to account for food costs, labor, event staffing, the size of their guest list, and more — but many customers will appreciate this flexibility.

These customers could have other needs, as well. Maybe they want an hors d'oeuvres hour before dinner is served or they might ask that you bring all serving dishes, including flatware. Depending on the meal and experience they want, you can offer various add-ons for an additional cost.

6. Provide Special Offers or Discounts

As a catering company owner, it sometimes makes sense to provide customer discounts and other special offers. This will help you draw in new customers and also retain ones who've ordered from you. You might want to consider a welcome discount for a first-time customer. If one of your regular customers refers new business to you, you could offer them a discount on their next catered event as a thank you.

Skynova's estimate template makes it easy to include any discounts offered. To input a discount in the template, select "Discount" under the "Item" pull-down menu. Write the type of discount under "Description," such as "referral" or "first-time customer."

Then, enter the discount amount under "Unit Price." Skynova's platform will automatically deduct the discount when calculating the final estimate for your customer.

7. Include Any Needed Notes

The "Notes" section of Skynova's estimate template is an area to include any additional information you might want to share with your prospective customer. You could use this section to explain discounts applied to their estimate. If you've waived any tasting or consulting fees, mention that here. If your estimate expires after a certain amount of time or you require a deposit by a specific date, this would also be a place to add this information.

Best Practices for Caterers to Use

Skynova's free estimate template makes it easier for you to create estimates while working with customers. Providing them with this document could make an impact as they select a caterer for their event. Using our software streamlines the communication and accounting process for both parties, allowing you to build a better — and, hopefully, long-term — relationship with them.

Of course, providing a professional-looking estimate is just one piece of running a catering business. Here are some other practices to consider as you create your menu and grow your company.

Understand the Variables That Will Affect Your Catering Prices

Numerous variables could affect your menu planning and catering prices from the seasonal availability of produce and other ingredients to the date and time of the event you're catering. For instance, if you're hired to cook for a holiday event, that's a busy time of year for many caterers and you might consider increasing prices because of high demand.

Include Pricing Beyond the Menu

Don't forget that your time is valuable. As you price your catering services and create an estimate for your customer, remember to charge for delivery if they ask you to drop off their order at the venue and prep time if a customer requests these services from you. If it's a full-service event where you provide wait staff or a carving station, always include labor costs.

Research Your Competitors

As you set your menu, research and review other caterers in your area to ensure that your pricing is competitive. You don't want to undercut yourself, but you also don't want to overcharge customers — they're likely going to look at your prices next to your competitors.

Skynova Makes Estimating Catering Jobs Easy

You might be a culinary genius who whips up great food in the kitchen, but running a food service company can be difficult. Providing accurate estimates and tracking your company's accounting is an important part of any business.

Guide your small business to success by taking advantage of Skynova's software products and business templates. No matter what your business needs are, we're here to help you grow.