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How to Prep Your Catering Proposals for Fall

The harvest season is around the corner, so it’s time to start thinking about seasonal menus! As you swap out gazpachos for stews and berries for root vegetables, you’ll notice that the ongoing supply chain challenges are here to stay for a while longer. Shortages and shipping delays continue to hamper event timelines and test our creativity in the kitchen, so your catering proposals may look a bit different this year.

But as you’re drawing up quotes for autumn celebrations, you might feel unsure about how to plan and price menus that depend on factors beyond your control.

Flexibility and proactiveness are key to creating accurate proposals in a volatile market. Use these best practices as you start to look ahead at events in the fall.

Adjust your pricing to accommodate market fluctuations.

There’s only one thing worse than realizing the star of your fall menu isn’t available for an upcoming event: telling a client it’s going to cost extra to adjust their menu when it’s out of their control. Instead of being the bearer of bad news, consider raising your rates to cover any last-minute changes or rush orders. This isn’t permission to increase your pricing without merit. Keep it reasonable—like 10-15%—to cover your bases and safeguard your profit margins against inflation and inventory shortages.

Update your contract to protect your interests.

The market’s instability shouldn’t eat into your bottom line, but that’s exactly what can happen if your contract doesn’t include a price increase clause. Since many events are planned over the course of several months (and even years), a lot can change between the time a client books and their event day. If inflation continues to surge, you should not be on the hook to swallow those extra costs. Consult with a legal professional to ensure your contract is updated to release your business from liability.

Be prepared to present alternatives.

Nobody wants to tell clients their favorite dishes aren’t available (or will cost more), but it’s a much easier conversation when they know you have some tasty alternatives up your sleeve. When presenting proposals, be transparent about current market concerns and let them know you have a plan B if things don’t go according to plan. Whether it’s a simple ingredient swap or a completely new meal, it’s wise to keep clients in the loop so they aren’t caught off-guard down the line.

Lean into seasonality as much as possible.

Every season offers a fresh selection of produce and meat, which are your best bets for cost-effective menus that win over clients. But planning your menus around seasonality isn’t just about savings; it also makes it easier to source ingredients locally, eliminating the headaches of shipping delays and rising transportation costs. Ask around to learn what is convenient to source in the area, and plan your menus accordingly. For example, if a local farmer is known for their fall harvest of sweet potatoes, you may consider using them for a purée instead of shipping in butternut squashes as you have in the past.

The future might feel unpredictable, but with a few smart moves in your business, you can set up your team, your clients, and your profit margins for a successful fall season.  


Clint Elkins

Clint Elkins is the VP Sales for SB Value located in Charlotte, NC. Clint, a former professional race car driver, was one of the top motorsports promoters in the country by the age of 35. Clint used that experience and passion for business to launch his second career in a sales and marketing. Outside of work Clint enjoys spending time on his family farm and coaching his two daughters softball teams. Clint is also an avid cook and self proclaimed badminton superstar.