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ANFP Practice Standards: Foodservice Department Catering

Professional Standards of Practice serve as the basis for quality dietetic practice for dietary managers. The standards that follow provide guidelines for dietary managers to sell and produce catered events while maintaining a profit.

Last Updated April 2012

Cost control in foodservice has become a challenge. Internal
customers expect to have food choices at meetings or other
events, scheduled or unscheduled. Yet the foodservice department
has to make sure they are nutritious, safe, and cost effective.

A well-planned menu and checklists are the cornerstones of a successful foodservice department catering program. The Professional Practice Standard outlined here will help nutrition and foodservice
professionals provide quality food and beverages for catered events in an efficient and cost-effective manner.

Standard 1:

The certified dietary manager (CDM) shall ensure that a catering policy is in place in the facility. Catering activities will produce outstanding food and beverages while earning a profit and not interfering with client meal service. Catering activities can be a powerful marketing tool for the foodservice department.


1.1 Ordering guidelines for both internal and external customers.

1.2 Guidelines for defining what determines a catered event (e.g. only
special events, anytime food and/ or drinks are ordered, only standing
committee meetings).

1.3 How items are ordered (e.g. online, using a printed catering menu).

1.4 Guidelines for communicating a response to verify the catering event is accepted.

1.5 Packaging standards for specific menu items (e.g. hors d’oeuvres— 9x12-inch foil pan with lid).

1.6 Standardized labeling, such as dots or colored tape, to identify catering items.

1.7 What to do with leftovers and waste.

1.8 Guidelines for meeting federal and state sanitation regulations.

1.9 Guidelines for how the events are reserved (e.g. reservation request form, phone order, how soon in advance of
catering date).

1.10 Determinations for staffing, including preparation and service (e.g. use of call-in staff, foodservice manager,
regular foodservice staff).

1.11 Determinations for how catered events are set up and delivered (e.g. no functions are delivered during the meal service times, or requests before 7 a.m. or after 6 p.m. must be picked up from the foodservice department).


1.1 The facility has an established catering policy that addresses specific catering needs for the facility. (Policy may address staffing, menu, regulations, pick-up, and delivery).

1.2 Training records are evaluated to make sure all foodservice department staff has received training regarding the catering policy; training records are maintained in the foodservice department.

Standard 2:

The CDM shall ensure that a catering menu is in place in the facility. Menus shall meet the needs of the clientele as
well as the facility.


1.1 A catering menu is established for the facility that capitalizes on current menu items and beverages.

1.2 The catering menu includes foods that can be prepared with available personnel and equipment.

1.3 Both food and beverage items are established on the catering menu.

1.4 Foodservice staff receives training on how to add eye appeal, prepare foods with a contrast in texture and flavor, and keep food costs within the budget allowance.

1.5 The catering menu is evaluated annually or more often as needed to ensure that client needs are being met.

1.6 A checklist is developed for onand off-premise catering.


1.1 Documentation exists to demonstrate that catering events do not conflict with client meal service. (This may be production records or staffing records.)

1.2 Menu changes are made based on the needs of the clientele.

1.3 Records document that catering staff have received training and use the checklists for both on-and off-premise catering.

Standard 3:

The CDM shall ensure that a policy for pricing and charging back to other departments is in place in the facility.


1.1 Raw food costs for all catered items are determined prior to the event.

1.2 Catered events ordered less than a week ahead will have an additional charge. (See sample Catering Request Form that accompanies this Standard.)

1.3 Catered events will be charged back to the departments. This should be based on raw food costs, raw food costs plus labor costs, or a flat charge. (See example at the end of this Standard.)

1.4 Price calculations use a standard, e.g. cost plus a standard markup, cost divided by a meal equivalent. (See examples listed later).

1.5 Costs for food items that are purchased from local deli departments such as veggie, fruit, meat, or cheese trays should be included in the catering menu.


1.1 Documentation exists that demonstrates profit or break-even status from catering events. (This may be a spreadsheet of costs and reimbursements.)

1.2 A method for recovering catering costs is identified and in place.

1.3 Documentation exists for staff training on recording catering events and items.

Pricing Options for Catering
How you price your items for catering depends a great deal on the type of catering you plan to do. For instance, do you
cater mostly small events, such as staff meetings, or do you cater larger events such as a community night? You might
want to track what month most of your catered events occur and on what day of the week. If these days or months conflict with other facility events, you may want to increase the price of your catering. Another consideration is whether you are
doing catering as a service or to increase revenue for your department.

Once you have addressed these considerations, choose a method of pricing your catered events. Examples of the two most common pricing methods are listed below:

Cost Plus a Standard Markup

Some facilities determine the profit margin they want to make on a catered event, such as 75 percent. That profit margin is
added to the raw food or beverage cost of each item. For example, let’s say a catered event includes a tray of two dozen assorted cookies, a large pot of coffee, and five bottles of water.

The raw food cost is as follows:

  • Cookies: $2.33 per dozen
  • Coffee: $1.30 per 20-cup pot
  • Water: $.40 per 16 oz. bottle

The catering menu price for each of the above is as follows:

  • Cookies: $2.33 x 1.75 = $4.07 or $4.00 per dozen
  • Coffee: $1.30 x 1.75 = $2.28 or $2.30 per pot
  • Water: $.40 x 1.75 = $.70 per bottle

Amount you would charge for your catered event: $13.80 or $14.00.

Food Cost Percent

  • If your facility determines food cost percent using the formula below, you can use this percentage to determine your catering prices. Food Cost divided by Food Sales = Food Cost Percent
  • If your food cost percent is 40 percent, divide each menu price by .4 and adjust the resulting answer to a suitable amount for a menu.
  • Using the above example, if the average meal cost is $2.35 and your food cost percent is 40 percent, $2.35 / .4 = $5.88 or the menu price would be $5.95

Charging Catering Costs to Departments

Meal Equivalent

  • For this method, you need to have determined an average meal cost for your facility. This would be the average meal cost per person and may be determined by dividing the monthly food cost by the total number of meals served. This amount becomes your meal equivalent.
  • For in-house catering, divide your total cost of the catered event by your meal equivalent. Then charge that number of meals back to the appropriate department.
    For example:
    • Average meal cost or meal equivalent = $2.35
    • The cost of the muffins, coffee, juice and milk for an internal function might total $12.65. Divide this amount by $2.35 and you have $5.38 meal equivalent. This helps you track productivity and charge back meals to each department

Using Employee Pricing

If you have a cafeteria and price items for employees in the cafeteria, bill your departments for catered items using the cafeteria pricing.

Summing it Up

If your facility’s foodservice department provides catering—or is considering offering catering services—these guidelines supply checklists and other strategies for success. Refer to them as needed.

Sample Catering Policy | Policy Name: Foodservice Department Catering

Policy Definition
The Foodservice Department provides catering services to the facility for in-house functions. The functions are
expensed to the department ordering the event.

Policy Procedure

  • Each request for service must be detailed on the Reservation Request Form.
  • Requests for service are not considered final until the Foodservice Department has approved the request in writing.
  • The Foodservice Department does not provide table service or beverage service to 'all-facility' pitch-ins or gatherings.
  • Service for off-site events may involve the requesting department picking up the items for delivery.
  • Only coffee and punch will be provided to departments during unusually high catering request times, such
    as recognition weeks and/or teas.

Beverage/Break Set-Up (minimum set-up 30 minutes)

  • Minimum notice of two weekdays once viewed by the Foodservice Department CDM.
  • Minimum 24-hour cancellation notice on beverage and break set-ups.
  • Does not apply to departmental meetings or gatherings.
  • Requesting department may be asked to pick up orders if Foodservice staff is not available to deliver.
  • Coffee carafes, cups, plates, food, and all supplies may not be removed from the meeting room without prior approval of the Foodservice Department CDM.

Meal Set-Up (minimum set-up 1-3 hours, depending on event)

  • Minimum written notice of 10 weekdays once viewed by the Foodservice Department CDM.
  • Minimum 5-day cancellation notice on meal setups. Cancellations after the minimum cancellation notice will
    be charged to the requesting department.
  • The menu to be served for any meal service will be determined by the CDM with input from the requester.
  • Details that need to be considered and communicated are room size, group size, flow of meeting in regards to meal set-up, china vs. paper.
  • Meal count confirmation must be communicated to the Foodservice Department two days prior to the event. The requesting manager is responsible for communicating the meal count confirmation.
  • The requesting manager is responsible for notifying the Foodservice Department when the event is completed.
  • Coffee carafes, cups, plates, food, and all supplies may not be removed from the meeting room without prior approval of the CDM or a supervisor.


Sample Catering Request Form
Event Date: ____________________________
Event Time: ____________________________
Contact Person: ____________________________
Department to be charged: ____________________________
Location: ___ Conference Room
___ Board Room
___ HR Meeting Room
___ Auditorium
___ Classroom


Item Description Price No. of Attendees
Breakfast—Coffee/Donuts/Muffins $3/person  
Pop, Snack, Chex Mix $2/person  
Lunch—Hot Meal Buffet $8-$10/ person depending on meal
Bowl Chex Mix $12/large bowl  
Fruit Tray with Yogurt Dip Varies. Depends on season and amount.  
Case of Pop $9/case  
Candy $1/each  
Pot of Coffee Decaf/Regular $5/pot  
Meat/Cheese Tray with Crackers $2.50/person  

Additional Requests



By Susan Davis Allen, MS, RD, CHE
Susan Davis Allen, MS, RD, CHE is the original author of this standard. It was updated in 2011 by Becky Rude, MS, RD, CDM, CFPP. Allen is an advisor to the Certifying Board for Dietary Managers. Rude serves as chair of that board.