When you have a guest list of 50 people, it becomes a real catering event. If you have never provided food for such a large party before, it’s important to make sure you have all the necessary details in place. But with a little know-how about how to cater, coupled with the proper planning, you can keep everything running smoothly for total guest satisfaction.
Determining Food and Beverage Quantities
Finding the right balance of how much food and beverage to provide for a large party can seem nerve wracking at first. But with some careful planning and a handy chart to use as a resource, you can find just the right amount of items to prepare for the party. Most food and drink menu items are measured in ounces, quarts or gallons, while others are typically measured and consumed in pieces or drinks.
Items Measured by the Each
Alcoholic drinks are measured by the drink rather than by the ounce. This is because 8 ounces of liquor is significantly more alcohol than 8 ounces of beer, and people usually alter their drinking quantities accordingly.
Appetizers and Bread
Appetizers and bread are also measured by the piece. Caterers rarely measure these in ounces, as an ounce of cheese is substantially different than an ounce of bread.
Items Measured by the Ounce
To ensure there is enough fruit, meat and main entree sides it’s best to measure them all out prior to preparation. For example, make sure you have at least 5 ounces of meat per person before cooking the meat, as the weight will begin to change once it is cooked.
Calculating Food Amounts for 50 Guests
The amount of food needed for any party depends on a variety of factors. These biggest factor to consider is the type of guest being catered to. For example, a group of football players will eat significantly more food than a party for the Red Hat Society.
However, for a baseline measurement the following chart lists out the typical quantities for a two-hour duration:
Two-Hour Party Food Planner for 50 People
Calculating Beverage Amounts for 50 Guests
As with food, the amount and type of beverages you need will depend on who is attending the event or party. If you are catering a New Year’s Eve party, you may need extra champagne and alcohol. If, however, you are catering a party for children, you would need to plan on providing other special beverage options like chocolate milk or juice boxes.
The following chart can assist in determining the amount of drinks needed for a two-hour party:
Two-Hour Party Beverage Planner for 50 People
If your party is planned for longer than two hours, plan on serving proportionally more drinks and appetizers. The amount of entrées and desserts should remain about the same.
Preparing Food On-Site
In general, the more food you can prepare ahead of time, the easier the service at the event. However, there are many reasons to prepare certain menu items onsite. Some dishes, such as steak, fish or most fried foods, do not hold and transport well, since they will likely become overcooked in a warmer or grow soggy in a container. In other cases, you may want to prepare on-site to engage attendees and diners, or to save on labor costs.
Here are some ideas for preparing menu items on-site:
- Exhibition cooking. Sushi rolling, pizza tossing, flambé, teppanyaki cooking and other exhibition cooking styles can provide extra entertainment at an event. It also ensures that the food is served fresh and hot, and can help save on food costs since dishes can be made to order, reducing waste. Invest in the following to help pull off some exhibition cooking:
- On-site grilling and smoking. Use outdoor grills, tailgate grills or outdoor charbroilers to grill on-site at your event. For hamburgers, hot dogs, bratwurst, fish and steaks, you can start grilling about 30 minutes before the event. For slow smoking of ribs, chicken, wings and other barbecue, get started very early in the day or even the night before.
- Do-it-yourself desserts. Save on labor by offering dessert stations where event attendees can create their own desserts. The classic make-your-own dessert station is a chocolate fountain displayed alongside dippers. Dippers can include fresh fruit, cake or brownie pieces, pretzels and more. Other successful do-it-yourself dessert stations include ice cream stations, where diners can add their favorite toppings, or cake and cupcake decorating stations where guests can add their own sprinkles, fresh fruit, chocolate chips and frostings to personalize their cakes.
Storage and Transportation
Plan on bringing 12 or more full-size food pans filled with food. To keep the food in these pans cool, you will need to bring between eight and 12 top-loaded food carriers, or about four front-loaded food carriers. Each carrier should be used for either hot food or cold food, but never for both. Additionally, you may want to bring warmer and chiller packs to help keep your food cold or hot for a longer period of time, especially if the venue is at a far distance from the kitchen where you will be preparing the food.
For transporting your beverages, a 5 gallon beverage carrier will come in handy for each type of beverage served. If the event is only providing one cold, non-alcoholic drink, then you should only need one 10 gallon beverage carrier for the whole party.
One buffet will easily service 50 people. For ease and portability, the buffet can be set up on a skirted 6- to 8-ft banquet table. For full-service catering, bring beverage tubs or beverage dispensers, chafing dishes and reusable catering dinnerware. For drop-off catering, bring aluminum food containers, disposable table linens and disposable party tableware, since you will not be able to return to pick up your buffet ware.
When catering outside for a picnic or outdoor party, you’ll need some specialty items to ensure that all health and fire codes are met and that none of your equipment or supplies will become damaged.
Here are some extra items you can bring for outdoor catering:
- Event tent. An event tent will allow you to shelter the buffet, dining area and kitchen at an outdoor event. This is especially important if you will be creating a temporary outdoor kitchen or if no shelter is available at the event location.
- Ice caddy. An ice caddy lets you to keep ice cold for long periods of time, even in the hot sun.
- Portable hand sink. If there is no outdoor hand sink available at the event location, a portable hand sink must be used to meet most health codes.
- Tailgate grill. The portable grills can be driven straight to the venue site.
- Electric chafing stoves. For outdoor areas with open-flame restrictions, round or rectangular chafing stoves should be use in place of gas chafing fuel.
- Chocolate fountain wind guards. If you will be using a chocolate fountain on a windy day, a chocolate fountain wind guard must be used to ensure that the chocolate will not blow sideways and spill outside of the fountain bowl.
These guidelines will help you cater a party for 50 people without running out of food and drink or encountering unexpected obstacles. By following these tips, you may have some food and beverage left over, but in a pinch you will be able to accommodate extra guests or diners that are hungrier or eat more than expected.
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