Recipe For Success: Planning a Big Party

Feeding frenzies!

My biggest job ever feeding 5,000!
My biggest job ever..feeding 5,000 at the Muck Ruckus last August. Talk about stressful!

From time to time we all seem to get an opportunity to throw a large party. Summer is the season of weddings, graduations, and family reunions. I know what a big under taking this can be. Catering food for a large event can be scary and downright paralyzing from the fear of getting someone sick from the food at your party. After owning and running other large-scale food businesses, I have created some steadfast advice that will help you feel confident and have a beautiful party or event.

  • Planning ahead of time is the most important part of having a great party. Take time to sit down and go over all the details from start to clean up. More times than I would like to admit, I would plan out my event and forget the clean up part, costing me extra time and money. Thinking through all of the details will help you avoid big ugly surprises.
  • Plan your storage space carefully, especially for perishable food items. I remember speaking with a gal many years ago about catering her daughter’s wedding. She wanted advice on how to cook large amounts of food at home for 150 people. She wanted to do this herself. The first question I asked was, “do you have enough space in your freezer or fridge to hold 150 pieces of chicken which is equal to 56 lbs or roughly half the size of me? Plus, don’t forget your side items and the space they take up too.” She immediately asked me to cater her daughter’s wedding for her. Large amounts of perishable food must be stored carefully. No wants their party remembered by the fact everyone became ill.
  • Communication is key. You will need other people to pull off a big party. I make a list of everything that needs to be done, when and who will be doing what. Stick to the list and make adjustments as you go. Make sure you communicate this to your friends and family who will be helping you. You will want to enjoy the party too and by taking time to explain what’s going to happen everyone will be on the same page. Then tape it to the wall where everyone can see it. That way, they don’t need to keep coming to you for direction, interrupting you from visiting and celebrating at your own party.
  • Draw it out on paper. I call these valuable visuals, flow charts.
    Here is an old chart from a wedding. The circles are tables not including the chairs.
    Here is an old chart from a wedding. The circles are tables not including the chairs.

    I measure the space where the party will be and how the traffic of people will move around the party. I also draw out the serving tables and where the food will be served from. There is nothing worse than going to a party where no one can get to the food table or the lines are clogged and your great-grandmother faints from standing in the food line to long. Allow a 24” circumference per person when you make your scale model for a party. Cut out the circles and move them around your flow cart to make sure you have enough room for everyone to move freely.

    With some thought you can cater anywhere!
    With some thought you can cater anywhere!
    IMAG0499
    Freezer space it critical with perishable items
    IMAG0229
    Mega amounts of food is scary!

    IMAG0543
    Do you have all the tools?

Taking time to think through these simple items can take you party from disaster to success regardless of what kinds of foods you served. Most people won’t remember what they ate at your party, but they will remember how they felt. Enjoy the process and celebrate each facet of party planning. Planning eliminates stress and can even make it a fun! Happy wedding, graduation, and reunion planning! Summer is finally here.

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