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Catering Profit Margin: How To Increase & Calculate


As a catering business owner or enthusiast, understanding the intricacies of profit margin is essential for financial success and sustainable growth. In this article, we’ll explore valuable insights and practical tips on a catering profit margin and how to calculate it. Let’s dive in and discover how to make your catering venture even more profitable!

What is a catering profit margin? 

The catering business profit margin is a significant financial measure that reveals the profitability of a catering business. It reflects the percentage of revenue left as a profit after deducting all the costs related to providing catering services. It shows how effectively a catering company earns money from its operations to its total revenue. 

This metric is crucial for businesses to assess their financial health, manage restaurant expenses, and achieve a sustainable return on investment.

catering profit margin - wedding catering

What is gross profit?

Gross profit represents the variance between total sales and the cost of goods sold within a specific timeframe. However, it does not account for all restaurant operating expenses, such as taxes, bills, product costs, delivery fees, and other related costs.

To compute gross profit margin for catering industry, begin by calculating the cost of goods sold (COGS) and then deduct it from the total revenue using the formula:

Gross Profit = Total Revenue – Cost of Goods Sold

What is net profit?

Net profit is the result of subtracting all operating expenses, including direct and indirect costs such as administrative expenses, taxes, interest, depreciation, and other operating expenses, from gross revenue during a specific period. The net profit margin represents the percentage of revenue remaining after considering all business costs and expenses. This metric provides a comprehensive view of a company’s overall profitability, offering insights into its financial health and efficiency.

To compute your net profit, combine your total revenue with any gains and then subtract your expenses, following this formula:

Net Profit = Total revenue + Gains – Expenses

How do you calculate a restaurant’s profit margin?

To compute your restaurant profit margins, you need to assess the revenue and expenses of operating your business. Begin by determining the total revenue, the combined income derived from food, beverages, and other sales.

Afterward, calculate the Cost of Goods Sold (COGS), which encompasses the direct expenses of producing the food and beverages sold, such as ingredients, packaging, and direct labor costs.

To compute your individual profit margin, simply subtract your total revenue from your cost of goods sold and then divide the result by your revenue. The formula follows 

Profit Margin = (Revenue – Cost of Goods Sold) / Revenue

Example of calculating a restaurant profit margin

Let’s look at an example of a catering business’s results to calculate its profit margin and interpret the result. 

Total Revenue (from food, beverages, and other sales): $25,000

Cost of Goods Sold (COGS): $18,500

Other Operating Expenses (staff wages, rent, utilities, etc.): $4,000

To calculate the profit margin, we have the following:

  • Gross Profit = Total Revenue – Cost of Goods Sold
  • Gross Profit = $25,000 – $18,500 = $6,500

To calculate the operating profit, we have the following:

  • Operating Profit = Gross Profit – Other Operating Expenses
  • Operating Profit = $6,500 – $4,000 = $2,500

The final calculation of a catering profit margin is as follows:

  • Profit Margin = (Operating Profit / Total Revenue) x 100
  • Profit Margin = ($2,500 / $25,000) x 100 = 10%

In this scenario, the catering business achieves a profit margin of 10%. This indicates that out of every dollar of revenue earned, the business retains 10 cents as profit after factoring in the cost of goods sold and other operating expenses.

Now comes another important question for every catering business owner. 

What is the average profit margin for a catering business?

The average profit margin for a catering company varies widely due to factors like

  • the type of catering services, 
  • location, 
  • market demand, 
  • menu pricing strategy, 
  • business efficiency, 

Usually ranging from 7% to 8%, operational costs, food quality, client relationships, and cost management can influence the average profit margin. 

catering profit margin - wedding catering

Can a catering company achieve a 20% profit margin?

According to Eatability, catering has high profit margin, as certain well-established catering businesses have earned a noteworthy pre-tax profit of approximately 25 percent. So, if you decide to launch your own catering business, the possibilities are endless – you may find remarkable success and eventually achieve impressive profit margins. 

Successful catering businesses often work on optimizing menus, controlling ingredient expenses, streamlining operations, and finding ways to increase revenue while managing costs effectively.

How to improve a catering profit margin?

Two effective strategies are available to enhance your average restaurant profit margin. You can either concentrate on boosting your sales or implementing cost-cutting measures to optimize your expenses. You can significantly improve your restaurant’s profit margin by striking the right balance between these two approaches.

Let’s start with the costs associated with running a catering company.

Three catering expenses impacting your catering cash flow are 

  • Food costs: Ingredients, packaging, and basic preparation costs. For a standard catering business, food costs typically range between 27% and 29% of gross sales.
  • Labor costs: This encompasses all employee wages, salaries, overtime, and other labor-related expenses. For a standard catering business, labor costs should be approximately 16% to 17% of gross sales. Thus, preparing the menu for a catering job that generates $1,000 in revenue should cost between $160 and $170 in labor expenses.
  • Other costs: Comprises costs associated with having a commercial kitchen, marketing, operational expenses, credit card processing fees, repairs, etc. Experienced caterers often operate their own kitchens, whereas new caterers are inclined to rent space in shared kitchen facilities. In either case, overhead costs, including rent and utilities, typically amount to around 9 percent of a caterer’s gross revenue.

How to decrease expenses

Below, you can find some restaurant business strategies that can help restaurant owners lower expenses and direct operating costs.

1. Implement measures to minimize food waste

To reduce food waste in your catering business, you can consider using the following strategies:

  • Plan your menu carefully based on the number of guests
  • Monitor inventory to avoid excess food spoilage
  • Serve appropriate portion sizes to prevent leftovers
  • Get creative with surplus ingredients in new dishes
  • Donate excess food to local charities
  • Compost food scraps and non-edible waste
  • Educate staff on the importance of waste reduction
  • Manage buffet stations to minimize waste.
  • Store ingredients appropriately for longer shelf life
  • Use recyclable or biodegradable packaging

By following these steps, you can minimize food waste and operate your catering business more sustainably, leading to cost savings. 

catering profit margin - food waste

2. Negotiate prices with vendors and suppliers 

Food and equipment costs are not set in stone; they can fluctuate over time. To ensure cost efficiency and improve your restaurant’s profit margin, contact your vendors and suppliers every few months to discuss potential reductions. Engage in negotiations to secure better prices on equipment and food, allowing you to reduce costs and increase overall profitability.

3. Decrease restaurant utility bills 

You can lower your catering company’s utility bills by adopting energy-efficient practices like

  • investing in energy-efficient kitchen equipment and lighting
  • optimizing water usage,
  • educating employees on energy-saving practices

Implementing these energy-saving strategies can significantly reduce utility bills and operating costs in your catering business, leading to substantial cost savings. Moreover, it contributes to a more environmentally friendly operation, promoting sustainability and responsible resource management.

catering profit margin - utility bills

4. Reduce employee turnover 

Firstly, you need to determine the best approach for your business: hiring employees on a contracted basis or opting for hiring through a temp agency. Weigh the pros and cons of each option to make the most suitable choice for your catering business. 

Hiring regular staff may cost more because you need to give them enough hours to make it worthwhile. But working with temporary workers can be less efficient since they may need to learn how things are done in your business. Consider which option works best for your catering business.

Once you choose between keeping employees on staff or contracting with a temp agency, find ways to decrease employee turnover. For instance, consider providing benefits and additional skill training or offering more flexible working hours. These efforts can help retain valuable staff and create a more stable and skilled workforce.

How to increase revenue

Below, you can find some strategies restaurants use to make more money by increasing sales revenue and achieving higher net profit margins.

1. Integrate online ordering on your restaurant’s website

Consider incorporating an online ordering system directly into your restaurant website to boost sales volume. You can sign up with UpMenu to activate online ordering software and configure it to add the option to your website. This allows customers to order directly from your site, increasing sales and improving customer convenience.

Online Ordering System
Start selling food online
Set up commission-free ordering for your restaurant's website in minutes. Boost revenue while saving on third-party fees

2. Manage and optimize your menu 

Regularly analyze your menu to assess the popularity of each item and make necessary changes. Lower food costs by sourcing more affordable ingredients or offering smaller portions. Create a well-structured menu by categorizing items based on their profitability and popularity to optimize your offerings and boost profitability.

To build a profitable menu, check our article on menu engineering

catering profit margin - menu optimization

3. Provide sales training to your servers

If you have a physical location of your catering company and a dining area, train your servers in cross-selling and upselling techniques. Your wait staff plays a crucial role beyond taking orders; they can effectively encourage customers to explore and order additional menu items.

4. Implement a loyalty program 

Implementing a loyalty program is a valuable strategy to enhance your restaurant’s profit margin and foster customer loyalty. Customers can enjoy rewards such as complimentary drinks and delicious dishes by offering points and stamps.

Loyalty Program
Create a Loyalty Program for Your Restaurant
Boost customer loyalty and transform one-time restaurant guests into regulars with an easy-to-implement loyalty program

5. Run promotions and special offers

Think of running promotions in your restaurant to attract new customers and increase the net profit. Create discounts and special offers for your customers to encourage them to buy more and enjoy exclusive benefits. As an illustration, consider offering a discount on the selected menu items or extending a special offer for a client’s first order.

catering profit margin - promotions

Key Takeaways

  • Catering business profit margin is the percentage of revenue left as a profit after deducting all expenses, including the cost of goods sold and other operating costs
  • it is vital to comprehend and effectively manage the key factors that impact profit margins, including food costs and labor expenses
  • Increasing sales through implementing an online ordering system, a loyalty program, promotions, and catering services can positively impact profit margins
  • Reducing costs by addressing food waste, negotiating with suppliers, optimizing labor schedules, and adopting energy-efficient practices can lead to higher profit margins
  • Regularly reviewing and optimizing your menu to focus on high-profit items can improve profit margins
  • Striking a balance between boosting sales and implementing cost-reduction measures is crucial for securing long-term profitability and success in the catering business

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Restaurant profit margins play a crucial role in catering businesses. Effective marketing efforts are vital to attract customers and boost the net profit margin. Through marketing, catering businesses can create a strong brand identity, showcase their culinary expertise, and gain valuable customer insights to improve their services. 

This helps generate more sales, retain existing customers, and stay ahead of competitors, ultimately contributing to higher net profit margins and overall success in the catering industry.

Quality is vital for catering businesses, influencing their success and reputation. It serves as the foundation for building a brand and earning customer trust. Several vital aspects underscore its importance:

  • Customer Satisfaction: Providing top-notch food, beverages, and services ensures a positive experience, fostering repeat business and referrals.
  • Reputation and Brand Building: Consistently delivering high-quality products and services gives a competitive edge, attracting new clients through positive reviews and recommendations.
  • Client Retention: Quality service and products promote customer loyalty, leading to return business and word-of-mouth referrals.
  • Differentiation: Maintaining high standards sets a business apart from competitors, appealing to discerning clients willing to pay more for excellence.
  • Compliance and Safety: Ensuring food safety and meeting regulations prevent legal issues and public health incidents.
  • Flexibility and Adaptability: Quality catering businesses accommodate diverse client needs and dietary preferences, broadening their customer base.
  • Employee Morale: Delivering exceptional service and food boosts staff morale, fostering a positive work environment.
  • Event Success: High-quality food and service enhance catered events’ success and memorability.
  • Cost Control: Investing in quality yields long-term cost savings, as satisfied customers require fewer reworks and refunds.
  • Growth and Expansion: Maintaining high-quality standards attracts new clients and opportunities for business growth.
The average profit margin in catering, also known as the net profit margin, typically falls within the range of 7% to 8%. This key financial metric represents the percentage of revenue left after deducting all expenses, indicating the restaurant’s overall profitability.

Achieving a net profit margin of 7% to 8% is considered reasonable in the catering industry, as it accounts for various factors such as food costs, labor expenses, utilities, and other overheads. It’s worth noting that the actual restaurant profit margin can vary from one restaurant to another based on their specific business model, location, pricing strategy, and efficiency of operations.

For restaurant owners and managers, monitoring the net profit margin is essential for assessing the business’s financial health. Striking the right balance between revenue generation and cost control is crucial to maintain a healthy profit margin and ensure the restaurant’s long-term success.
Catering events can be profitable, depending on event size, operational efficiency, pricing, and cost management. Key factors affecting profitability include:
  • Event Scale: Larger events generate higher revenue but require more resources, impacting costs.
  • Pricing and Costing: Appropriate pricing that considers expenses is essential for profitability.
  • Efficiency: Efficient planning and execution reduce wastage and boost profitability.
  • Menu Selection: A well-balanced menu can increase sales and customer satisfaction.
  • Repeat Business: Satisfied clients and referrals contribute to profitability.
  • Seasonality: Peak seasons can offer more significant profit opportunities.
  • Overhead Costs: Proper management of expenses maintains profitability.
  • Competition: Market competition can affect pricing and profitability.
Catering businesses should plan carefully, control costs, and prioritize customer satisfaction to maximize profitability.

Achieving a net profit margin of 7% to 8% is considered reasonable in the catering industry, as it accounts for various factors such as food costs, labor expenses, utilities, and other overheads. It’s worth noting that the actual restaurant profit margin can vary from one restaurant to another based on their specific business model, location, pricing strategy, and efficiency of operations.

For restaurant owners and managers, monitoring the net profit margin is essential for assessing the business’s financial health. Striking the right balance between revenue generation and cost control is crucial to maintain a healthy profit margin and ensure the restaurant’s long-term success.
Agata Kubiak - Padkowska

Agata Kubiak - Padkowska

Digital content creator, passionate about helping restaurants to start selling online.

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