Managing Food And Beverage: Catering For Large Events


Table of contents
Managing Food And Beverage: Catering For Large Events

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July 24, 2023



July 24, 2023


Table of contents
Managing Food And Beverage: Catering For Large Events
July 24, 2023


July 24, 2023

Catering food and beverage for a significant event can be a daunting task. With hundreds or even thousands of guests to feed, it takes careful planning and coordination to execute it smoothly. As an event manager, overseeing the catering is one of your most important responsibilities. Here’s an in-depth guide on managing food and beverage for significant events.

You must handle much more than just the food when catering a significant event. It’s a complex undertaking from coordinating menus, managing dietary restrictions, hiring staff, renting equipment, and budgeting costs. Get any part of it wrong, and you risk ruining the event experience for guests.

This blog post will comprehensively examine large event catering for professional event managers. We’ll cover critical considerations around planning, coordination, service execution, and more. With the right framework, you can confidently handle catering at events of any size.

Developing Menus and Catering Plans

The first primary task is planning food and beverage menus and service plans. Consider key factors like:

  • Type of event – A formal, multi-course plated dinner requires different catering than a casual reception with passed hors d’oeuvres.
  • Guest count – Are you feeding 100 people or 1,000? Scale and quantities need adjusting.
  • Budget – Set realistic per-head spending targets and find ways to maximize value.
  • Theme or style – Let the event theme or cuisine style inform menu choices.
  • Timing and flow – Plan catering across the entire event schedule and timeline.

For large groups, keep menus simple but appealing. Buffets, food stations, or family-style platters are easy options. Include vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and other dietary restriction offerings.

Work closely with caterers at this planning stage. Their expertise can help build the ideal menus and service plans.

Managing Dietary Restrictions

Regarding dietary restrictions—accommodating them is necessary for any quality caterer today. At large events, you can expect significant numbers of guests with restrictions around:

  • Allergies (especially nut, dairy, shellfish)
  • Vegan/vegetarian diets
  • Gluten-free needs
  • Religious rules (kosher, halal)

Create a transparent system for guests to communicate their needs through RSVPs, ticketing, or event questionnaires. Labelling items with standard allergen information is required for buffets and food stations.

For plated meals, numbered meal choices, colour-coded meal indicators, and labelled place settings can help servers. Having some extra specialty meals on hand for surprise restrictions is also wise.

Hiring Catering Staff

Even with everything prepped, a catering operation won’t run itself at a large event. You’ll need a small army of knowledgeable and experienced catering staff.

Key personnel to have on hand include:

  • Catering manager – Oversees the entire catering operation at the event. They manage the team and liaise with your event point person.
  • Chefs and cooks – Prep, cook and plate all menu items. More significant events may require multiple stations with designated chefs.
  • Servers – Serve plated meals, restock buffets/stations, and clear used dishware. Calculate at least 1 server per 30 guests.
  • Bartenders – Mix and serve drinks (if alcohol is done)—at least one bartender per 100 guests.
  • Dishwashers – Clean dishware, utensils, and glassware throughout the event.

Reputable catering companies will provide trained staff. But confirm numbers, roles, attire, and expectations ahead of time.

Renting Supplies and Equipment

Significant equipment is required to serve meals properly, especially for seated dining. Work with caterers to estimate needs for:

  • Tables, chairs, linens
  • Plates, silverware, glassware
  • Buffet stations, service pieces
  • Coffee urns, water pitchers
  • Cart stands for food platters.
  • Chafing dishes, Stereos
  • Beverage coolers, ice
  • Dishwashing facilities

Find out what inventory the caterer provides vs. what must be rented. Build equipment rental costs into your budget—factor in any table, linen, or décor rentals from other event vendors.

Map out the catering areas and determine the quantities and configurations of equipment based on your guest count and catering style.

Executing Catering Service

With the planning done, it all comes down to flawless execution during the event.

To ensure smooth food and beverage service:

  • Have the catering manager and critical staff do a walkthrough of the venue at least a day before. Identify stations, kitchen access points, power sources and any trouble spots.
  • Confirm the event day schedule and critical timing details with the catering point person. Align when standby times, guest arrivals, service times, and breaks occur.
  • Before guests arrive, check that dining tables are fully set, stations are prepped, and service lines are stocked.
  • Brief staff on their roles and schedules. Especially for served plated meals, the choreography of the service takes practice.
  • Once service starts, monitor and tweak flows as needed. Watch for bottlenecks at buffet lines or stations. Keep an eye on drink levels and restock promptly.
  • Communicate guest restriction needs to chefs and servers. Double-check restriction meals before plating.
  • After the leading service, reset for any dessert course and transition into clean-up mode.

Post-Event Catering Breakdown

Once guests depart, the catering team transitions into a swift and systematic event breakdown.

To close out the catering component:

  • Inspect all service rental items and report any losses or damage
  • Return all rented supplies and equipment
  • Retrieve any stored event leftovers and sort what is reusable
  • Transport remaining waste according to venue disposal procedures
  • Clean all back-of-house kitchen areas thoroughly.
  • Confirm with the event manager that the catering bill will be settled per the contract.

With a few significant events, the catering service will be drilled down to a science. Just stay flexible for the inevitable surprises and last-minute hiccups. With the frameworks above, you can master food and beverage service for events of any scale.


Managing catering and food service is one of the most critical vendor relationships for large event planners. There are endless details to juggle—menus, rentals, staffing, and more. But thinking through the significant steps this post outlines will set you up for smooth execution.

Remember that guests attending an event put significant trust in your food safety and service experience. Build that into every catering choice and plan. With care, testing, and the help of experienced teams, you can deliver exceptional catering even at vast scales. Just tackle logistics one step at a time, and have contingency plans ready for the unexpected. Your guests will gratefully enjoy the fruits of your labour.


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