Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Catering Services

Last night the family ordered in and picked up a wonderful dish called Handavo from a private home catering business. Although the economy is sliding and uncertain, the value we get from home prepared meals that we don’t have to prepare ourselves is much higher than the value we get from new clothes, new cars, fancy vacations to exclusive resorts or dining at premier restaurants. It is a simple trade-off that makes up about 10% of our total food budget including dining out. The balance of our budget is 60% at the grocery store which includes some prepared foods and 30% at restaurants which is mostly carry-out.

The question did come up as to what is a fair price. I am sure that our caterer has a loose formula based on preparation time and ingredients cost. I am currently investigating another measure, cost/pound. While this is certainly not an exact science, it is the science utilized by Whole Foods and local grocery chains to charge for prepared offerings.

In my first calculation, the Handavo was going for $7.62/lb which is pretty reasonable ($10 for a 1 lb 5 oz tray). Finally I am reporting back with a food scale measure. Whole Foods Indian hot bar currently charges $7.99/lb for less labor intensive dishes. However Whole Foods does offer non-vegetarian items such as Chicken Curry and Bombay Turkey Meatballs. The real treat with the Handavo is that the three of us will enjoy it for two meals and the ability to custom order.

The comparison is based on Whole Foods being a volume business enjoying lower ingredients costs, while a home caterer has lower overhead and a different tax structure. The other unfortunate factor is supply and demand. We currently do not have any Indian restaurants nearby, nor do we have the time and desire to prepare meals ourselves. We are therefore a slave to market prices.

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