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Cook Talk

How can an Amateur Mom Feed 100 at Dinner?
I am faced with my teen's Eagle Scout party in a few weeks. I know family and friends will number about 35, but Scout families and extras are notorious for not RSVP'ing. So I started using the number 100 guests for dinner. Most of the friends I would ask to help will be guests! And I want to enjoy the event myself.

I'm beginning to get an idea of the complexities of cooking and serving for this many guests. More than that, there is food safety. And unknown ovens at the church (though there seem to be plenty and we have free reign). I will have to check out their freezers and fridges.

My son has asked for Italian dinner, 3 course. I was thinking a shredded lettuce and sliced tomato in vinaigrette casserole style with purchased breads from my food processor. Lasagne or meatballs on pasta (meat and vegan) as well as some pre-assembled pizzas from the store for the entree. And purchased brownies/cookies/sorbet for dessert.

Menus aside, is this even possible for me to do for 100? How much help should I have, cooking and serving? If I cook all week ahead and freeze meatballs and sauces, limit my actual cooking to the entree course, plus the salad that morning. Then there is assembly and serving -- even if it's buffet style. Please, how much help would I need?

Yes, with some careful planning and prep and the recruitment of two reliable kitchen coworkers for day of, and about 6 servers to set up, serve and clean up, you can do this. You do not have to cook all week! you are headed in the right direction with the menu.

For entree, look at the spaghetti page for the Baked Sausage Mozzarella Supper for a Crowd. Get the 12x18x3 pans for this or lasagna. This recipe is easier than lasagna. Both are easier than loose spaghetti and meatballs. Guide for amounts for lasagna for 100 is on the same page.

Suggest you reconsider the salad- do something more interesting. Antipasto vegetables, here, would be a better add than just lettuce and tomato. And they can also be done ahead.

14 pounds bread for 100, 3 pounds butter.

Thank you, Ellen! I understand, casseroles are better. I will modify my salad plan.

I will work on recruiting helpers. Two and six is manageable. I feel sure I can get Scouts/parents to help serve and know everyone will pitch in to clean up. So I just need two reliable kitchen helpers. And I'm thinking I need someone to run errands and shop for last minute foods. (In other words, I'd better not put my husband down as one of my full-time cooks.)

Can you tell me where I might learn about how to split the jobs up between us and manage the time in the kitchen that day as we cook? I guess that is kitchen management. It's a lot different producing quantity! Even boiling a larger pot eats time. (Just got a photo - huge 10 burner gas cooktop with two 30" ovens below.)

I will study the times in the recipes...

We have the evening scheduled:
Earlier in day -- set up tables/chairs.
3:00pm access to church kitchen (reserved)
(Is this early enough? We can work at my house nearby until 3pm. )
4:45pm Scouts arrive, prep for ceremony
5:30pm Ceremony (30 mins, 45 allowing snafu's)
6:15pm Seat for Dinner (latest)
7:15pm Cleanup
8:00pm Vacate Church

Have you recommended deadlines for putting the pasta to boil and entree in the ovens, etc.? There are so many other jobs, too. I will do best to make a work schedule. I did read the recipes and techniques, including about pre-boiling and saving the pasta. (Will have to see how much fridge space I'm going to have at home.) I will read until I think I've absorbed.

Please forgive if I am asking questions you have already answered.

Could I also ask about format? Would you suggest buffet style, a seated dinner -- a combination? Below is what I've thought of so far:

I thought of setting out breadsticks/focaccia bread and appetizer/salad on the actual dining tables ahead (family style - not individual plates), or as soon as we get back to the dining hall, so people could go ahead and be seated and eat their first course and visit instead of standing around in line. That would give me time to take the entrees from the oven and set them out to rest.

I've been wondering if there is an advantage to a "family style" table -- where entrees are delivered to each table and those seated serve themselves there? (At Summer Camp, each table designates one person to retrieve foods from the cooks.) Or should I just set up a buffet?

Dessert can be a buffet (set out sorbet during entree) and drinks (no alcohol at Scouts) at a self-serve table.

The logistics - I will feel better when I have a plan.

I appreciate all your advice! Thank you for your valuable site and this forum.

The only thing is, this is going to turn out so well, you will be asked to do it again!

Yes, designating husband as runner/Dad is MUCH more sensible, you need 2 full time helpers.

Long before the day, you will go to the church kitchen and figure out how many casserole pans of what size can fit in the ovens (I assume 2 in that size range). For example, If you are doing 14 9x13, are there enough RACKS to put them all in? These heat the fastest, but take a lot of rack space. If you are doing the larger pans, can you fit in 6 or only 4? If only 4, you may need even larger pans to hold all the casserole, and you may need to rent them.

Putting the salad or antipasto, bread, and dessert on the tables is a good idea, but you need to shift from sorbet to a pudding, custard, trifle or parfait- the ice cream type desserts don't hold.

If you only have the kitchen from 3 PM, you are going to want to have all the food ready to heat or serve when you get there, because realistically you will only have 2 hours before the ceremony.

So the casserole is already made. It can be refrigerated in ziplock baggies to save space. You might see if you can put it in the church kitchen walk-in or fridges, it is a lot of food.

Very first thing, turn on the ovens to 400. After 20 minutes, turn down to 325 and put the tightly covered pans in. Restaurant size or extra wide aluminum foil is very helpful for this, make sure you have enough to cover everything. Have an instant read thermometer with you, this is how you will check the food safety of the reheating. One person has oversight of the casseroles and is a good person to also oversee the set up, volunteers etc.
After one hour, and each 15-20 minutes after if not done, use the thermometer to check the temp in the middle of the middle casserole. Stick the probe right through the foil into the middle of the casserole. When it reaches 165 (time varies depends on what size dishes you end up using), turn the ovens down to 180 to hold.
I always take a couple of cans of tomato juice, in case any of the casseroles start to look dry.

Family style serving is OK, the sausage casserole can be dished up without trauma, you just need good servers-

It occurs to me you need to have a vegetarian entree choice- in a group of 100 this age, there will be some. Could be as simple as a cheesy ziti or mac and cheese. One 9x13 pan, or you could reheat this one top of the stove.

All the items for the salad arrive ready to serve. One person will start in on plating the salad as soon as you get there, it can sit on the tables without danger. If you are doing dressing, you might consider putting a bottle of Ranch and a bottle of Italian on each table, rather than pre-dressing. Ranch is the favorite these days, esp. with the younger crowd, and the salad holds better without the dressing. This person also puts out the bread and makes sure there are salt and pepper, beverage sweeteners and Parm cheese shakers on each table.
This person will be first out to the tables to oversee cloths, set up, etc.

One person begins dealing with the desserts, the chosen item is already made, but needs to be portioned. If you go with a refrigerated item, it needs to go BACK in the refrigerator or freezer as it is portioned, and only go on the table after the Scouts arrive. If you were to change to a baked item, such as cake, cookies or a little plate of 4 tiny bars, or cupcakes with blue and gold icing, it could go straight on the tables and would require less handling. As this person frees up, they assist with setup up of beverages.

You don't mention beverages???

For this festivity, I would do dinner level coffee for the number of expected adults, see the beverage planning page. Put a pitcher of lemonade and a pitcher of unsweetened tea and a pitcher of water on each table- you may need to buy some pitchers, check when you go to the kitchen, get plastic. Plan on about 6 gallons of each. Ice in the glasses, not in the pitchers. Side table with a chest of ice and some extra pitchers of beverages, glasses, etc. somewhere at the side. Severs to carry around and pour coffee.

Coffee cups are at the table.

With that big stove, do consider adding a stove top green veg to the service- broccoli or mixed blend is the obvious choice- frozen is easy- about 22 pounds and 2 pounds of butter. There is a useful page on cooking veg for 100 in the holiday cooking section at the top of the Big Pots index page.

The casseroles will take you a full day to make. Transport it from home in ice chests to help it stay cold.

The rest depends on what you choose, probably take another day.

You want to shop before starting and AM of the day. Box things as you buy for the transport- all the beverage stuff in one, for example.

Get ice and frozen veg, if you decide to use, on the way to the kitchen.

Wear your sturdiest, best support shoes. Take a change of clothes. Wear support hose if you have them.

Hope this helps. If you can, make a donation to support the site, maybe a dime per person. And as they say, Be Prepared!

Thank you so much, Ellen. At my age, I don't think I would ever do this for someone else. But I will keep good records for others and refer them here.

It helps to KNOW that I will have to have all food ready to go before we get there. I want to be as prepared as we can so we can enjoy even the catering operation.

Will shift from sorbet -- might just buy a decorated bakery cake. Dessert can be entirely non-refrigerated. Oops, had thought fruit cups from chopped frozen fruit in bags, one of the items I was thinking of sending my husband after that day so I don't have to keep these frozen at home. Will have to rethink that, especially when I look at fridge space. If we have time to do it in the 2 hrs, I could put a large bowl with small plastic cups on a pan of ice at the table? (I am pretty sure there is an ice machine.) I want a healthier dessert option and I think fruit cups are easy if we use frozen fruits and let them self serve?

My family is Vegetarian, as are friends, so will have to make a couple of those casseroles Vegan after a head count of who is coming. And there are enough young kids that perhaps some Mac and Cheese without tomato would be wise. Could I use a stovetop recipe?

Let me make sure I understand about Family Style serving. Can a server just take the casseroles/veggies to each table, and let most of the guests serve themselves onto their plate? They can ask about the need for special entrees for Vegans or young kids, and run those individually as needed? Someone at each table will surely take charge, you can count on that. Mom's abound, and leaders amongst the Scouts. I think this saves us in the kitchen from having to dish up all those plates, and a lot of running for the servers, and portion control can work itself out at each table.

And at that point, with entrees on the table, I can cut off the ovens, hug my boy, sit down and enjoy my guests until cleanup?

I had not decided about beverages -- a whole 'nother can of worms -- very much appreciate the direction to keep me from spinning my wheels. Coffee scares me a little, and is a nicety many Scout adults won't expect at such a function, but I will find the beverage page and read up.

(And thanks for mentioning the donation -- I had not noticed a donation button and was wondering how you managed to respond to all these questions and keep the site running. )

You're solid- and the design is just so you can sit down and have that Mom time.

Yes, the servers take the dishes to the table- I think the idea of special orders from the serving time is perfect.

Yes, stove top for the vegetarian option would be fine. I have a really good classic mac and cheese with a stovetop variation on the Big Pots page.

The fruit cup with frozen fruit is a good idea, and you won't need a separate ice bath, it will do fine. Adding fresh green grapes is very attractive.

You know, more work, but you could do the casserole meatless or with soy burger, and maybe do meatballs separately.

Thanks, Ellen. I was originally thinking for the Vegetarians, a spinach/mushroom version of the casserole.

What do you do for the lactose intolerant?

I did start wondering what do I do if neither entree works for someone?! Good caterers know how to handle that.

Speaking of that, one of those entrees I'd considered originally was an angel-hair Pasta Pomodoro I remember from Olive Garden -- angel hair, basil, tomatoes, and parmesan. Extremely simple. Could leave off the parmesan. Should I have some of that in a pot just in case? It's getting a little complicated.

I am going to print out the recipes, and take a long hard look at the difficulty for me here at home.

Today we saw fruit popsicles. If I still wanted, and IF the church has enough freezer space, my husband thought we could stow boxes of popsicles until dessert time, and just pass them straight out to the kids until they're gone. Cut down on other desserts. It adds a fun element? Some adults would want one, too. Is this a bad idea, or if not, would you leave off the fruit cups if you served popsicles?

Every one likes popsicles and you certainly could skip the fruit if you use them.

How about this: make 3/4 of the sausage for 120, for 90 servings. Make 2 dozen servings of one of these vegan pasta dishes and it will do for both vegetarian and vegan requests, AND lactose intolerance. If you made it with gluten free noodles, it would even cover that. I don't much care for gluten- free noodles, but some are good- just make a practice dish to see that you like it.

Good cooking.

Thank you, popsicles it is. I will try to keep the fruit if I can, it's healthy, but only if I feel I can manage. I saw your biscotti binge and it's giving me bad ideas. I had meant to just buy assorted cookies and even brownies...

Going for less chef time where I can. I will keep looking at recipes with the goal of 90 meat/24 or 30 Vegan. I do have Vegan and even raw recipes but some may be too complex for the time or have to be made immediately before serving.

Since I have 3 weeks (barely) to get the menu manageable, I actually think the biggest factor in choosing the menu is refrigeration and freezing space. (Still working on that.)

I have been reading all I can find on Ellen's Kitchen about food safety and cooking pasta and planning an event.

I found the link to a chef's plan for an event on your wedding pages and am trying to develop something similar. I especially need to make a clear timetable for the food prep up to the event, written down. There sure is a lot to learn.

Speaking of time, I have decided to try to hire a third person -- someone to act as a sous chef to help me cook the day before and manage the kitchen for the event. I can focus more on directing during the dinner than on trying to physically get a third of the jobs done myself. I can add some nice touches to the food that way, take care of guests. Less stressful.

Also, if one person fails to show (!) we might have to drop some of those touches but I will hope to still have two helpers.

Do you have suggestions for hiring helpers on your site? Ah, I found this in a thread: "Church ladies, local diners (that close after lunch) the local college are places to look for these...". ( I think just another mom would be good for me to work with. But would you recommend a culinary student or experienced kitchen worker instead? ) I took a look at Craigslist to get an idea of the hourly wage for different food service jobs its a start.

I am going to call a friend who has catered tomorrow to see if she has any suggestions and I started "putting the word out" today to the first friend -- "Do you know a homeschool mom who wants or needs to make some money?"

Here's a question: I usually feed people we hire for all sorts of things -- guess I grew up that way. But if the helpers are busy, when do they eat themselves? (I am making sure to schedule a break for my family and the sous chef to clean up and have lunch, then pack the vans. I am working the schedule backwards from that deadline. )

Thanks for being so encouraging -- I wasn't sure I could do this. I just might with help!

Hiring someone is a fine idea, and your friend who caters would be a good source, - or maybe even a good person? Usually, we eat after everyone is served (kitchen) or at clean up. It helps to make sure there is plenty to drink- kitchen work is hot- and that includes you- a drink of something about every hour.
My friend who caters will probably still be celebrating her Sabbath, not working. But she might know some people. The "sous chef" is the most critical - help during the week cooking. If I can get that, and end up not finding other helpers that night or they do not show, friends/family would pitch in, I'm sure. I just don't want them to have to.
Ellen, I got word today that we might not be able to use the church ovens? We're waiting to hear. Maybe they will at least let us warm foods.

My friend who caters (occasionally) says we can manage fridge/freezer space amongst us, and suggests I buy the entrees from a chef she knows and pick them up that afternoon instead of hiring a sous chef. He would prepare them at his restaurant. She said he is reasonable and good and does good Vegan. If the ovens are out at the church, she has access to chafing (warming?) dishes.

Chafing dishes change the service from family style, I guess -- I liked the idea of family style for many reasons. I like guests staying at the table when they are visiting, they don't have to stand in line, but it seems slower plating and transporting individual plates to a table, as well as needing real servers.

Not back to the drawing board yet, waiting to hear about church and chef.

I have had a similar situation. Your friend's solution is very good. The chef might be willing to cook the entrees in table size portions, especially if you supply the aluminum pans; or you could serve to family size platters/bowls from the chafing dishes. All they are is warmers.

Be aware that it takes about 45 minutes heating to bring the chafers to safe heating temps for the food; start them in time.

Thank you! If the chef works out, I will enjoy putting my own touch on the other courses as much or more than making 14 casseroles, and will be a lot less worried that what I don't know about food safety will make someone ill. :)

While that makes me a lot more confidant, I do lose some choice over the recipes. She said the chef will probably want to use his own. I understand but would have liked to use recipes I have tried. I guess I can try to send my recipes so he gets an idea of what I want.

Ellen, I have decided I am just going to do crockpot soup, 3" sub sandwiches, and salad. No pasta casseroles.

Crockpots relieve the worry about food safety, I think -- given I can't use the church kitchen to warm things and my own oven is broken at home (trying to replace now). Not buying entrees from a chef relieves the strain on the budget. We want to keep the focus on the reason for the event, not on the production of a meal.

I still need to plan. I understand from your pages that I can make the sandwiches the night before and refrigerate -- assuming I pre-assemble the meat and cheese and bread for portion control instead of just putting out ingredients. Will have to decide.

I believe I can pre-cook a lot of the soup ingredients, have all staged in the freezer or fridge, then start them in the crockpots the morning of the event.

Should I still hire helpers? If so, do you have any advice on for when and for what? The Scouts will pitch in to clean up and carry things out, I'm sure.

My concern is, if you don't get help, you will not be able to even attend the ceremony

What you could add to that menu is a cold pasta salad, which is inexpensive and can be made a few days ahead. Very nice would also be fruit plates, or maybe olives and pickles.

You need the help starting at 3 PM to set up. 5 or six, some to start in the kitchen, some to start setting up the table area. If they don't have to clean up, you are just talking 2 hours help.

If you have more than one kind of soup how will you serve?

Platters of sandwiches could be on the tables. You would want to have mayo and mustard on the tables

You are right. I still need help, thank you.

I keep forgetting there'll be only 2 hrs there before guests start to arrive, 2.5 hrs before the ceremony.

My husband and son -- if they are not running errands -- have to stop at 4:45 to join the people participating in the ceremony. My goal is to stop at 4:45pm myself (to rest and clean up -- 5:15pm latest! (5:30 ceremony)

I know you have way too much to do to comment on everyone's individual plan! But I'll put it here with all its errors for the next person reading the thread:

-- Week ahead: Freeze some soup ingr's if possible (pre-browned ground meat, for instance, sauteed onions).
-- Mon. shop for dry ingr./paper.
-- Tues. prepare favors (wrapped chocolates) and guest book. [Headcounts due today.]
-- Wed. prepare/sort/organize boxes.
-- Thurs. shop for cold ingr..
-- Fri. 7am pickup breads, last min ingr?

-- Fri. 10am COOK. 1 souschef (+me):
Prepare all soup ingr. -- batches ready. Assemble sandwiches? (3" sub -- meat/cheese/bread only). All refrigerated overnight.

-- Sat 7am, pickup desserts.

-- Sat 9am. souschef (+me) soup in crocks; salad/sandwich trimmings cut&binned&bagged, refrigerated;prep beverages; prep additions to soup;
-- Sat 2-2:30pm pack vans;

-- Sat 3pm. hire 3 to setup/decorate tables (with me=4) @ 2 hrs;

-- Sat 3pm. hire 2 kitchen helpers to unpack food in van and deal with food/beverages the whole time, help with cleanup; stay to 8pm. (Considering the crockpots of soup will arrive ready to plug in, there's salad, sandwiches, breads to set out, beverages to set out and a dessert buffet with coffee to stage and portion.)

There are a lot of tasks for setup and cleanup including packing and unpacking the car at each end -- I am trying to make a list. I see your list on "From the Plan to the Pan to the Table" and am starting there. (And I saw "Ron's long service" list linked to as well, which helped some.)

Okay, I found your advice again on the Wedding2 page and went back and started assigning people/times to my list.(quote below):

"Two people can set up tables for 100 in about 15 minutes. Setting and decorating takes another 30 or so. Usually, for the first 100 people you need about three people to handle most of the on-site food prep, and about three people to serve. [snip] You need one person to oversee the beverage service (assisting, pouring, getting replenishments). "

I was allowing more time to set out tables, and probably underestimating other tasks and forgetting them.

p.s. I haven't decided what to do about soup service. If we seat for salads, then I might just have to set up a self-serve table for soup and sandwiches. That would stagger the demand. Once the soup is out, can the kitchen helpers also replenish beverage pitchers on the tables at least once?

This is a short dinner -- seat at 6:15 latest and done by 7:15 likely because we have to be out by 8pm. Maybe I need to keep one or more of the setup crew through to help with cleanup so that my husband and I can keep visiting with guests.

That looks workable. Get as much as possible actually on the tables. This is one reason to have some help- it takes another round of care after setting the tables.

Consider some vegetarian sandwiches since you have known vegetarians-

One thing you can do is freeze soup in 1 gallon ice cream containers, which fits perfectly in 6 quart round slow cookers. You might consider having one meat soup and one dairy free veg soup (potato corn chowder or broccoli made with soy milk?), if you are putting out on the buffet. In that case, for 100 people, you would do 6 gallons meat and 4 vegetarian.

Do put crackers and maybe bread sticks on the table (8 pounds) and some butter or dipping oil.

2 cleanup helpers would give you more visiting time, and if one went home to help unload the van...

Also, the only thing I don't see on the schedule is the SPA DAY you have scheduled for yourself the next day...

Thanks so much. You are right, I will need to collapse the next day even if I have help!

I haven't specified, but am always portioning off the Vegan part as well as for food allergies. We'll probably have more than the normal crowd, but I can mostly get a headcount of known Veg's to make sure, closer to time, then add some for extras.

It really helps to know how much of each I need. I've always heard that "recipes don't stretch" and not understood until reading your pages (I think I found a thread on stretching recipes) that this applies to baked goods and recipes for instance that have salt in them due to the way foods cook in quantity. Other factors affect multiplying quantities for servings, say serving 100 or 200. What affects the latter is more how it's served (for example buffet or table service) and what it's served with (for example multi items on a buffet so everyone wants to try every type), the time of day due to appetites, etc.. Lots of nuances and experience there!

I need to start hiring people, putting the word out. I fear finding the right people is an art!

Fear not. You will either get great help or great stories!
ROFL. Thanks for the reminder to keep a sense of humour about all aspects of serving a dinner for 100! I will learn from it, that's for sure. My hat is off to those who do this often.

I hate to keep modifying plans but maybe we could say I am honing it. I have 2 weeks now. It's possible my cooktop/oven (which failed 1.5 weeks ago) is not going to be delivered and replaced in time without a lot of stress and I try to eliminate stress.

I am going to serve only sandwiches, as soup seems more fit for a buffet and I don't really want a buffet. I am going to use the crockpots for Italian meatballs and serve bowls of those with platters of meat/cheese and fixings, beside baskets of bread for the main course.

It's still fitting with the Italian theme. People can make their own Italian Sub Sandwiches at the table. It's easier I think to dish up meatballs and will still sort of make this a hot meal instead of just cold sandwiches. I can buy them - then, I can use my own Vegan meatball recipe for Vegetarians in a smaller quantity.

So, salad/breadstick/antipasto type course; meatball or meat subs; dessert buffet.

Maybe this thread will in a roundabout way help someone else who is searching on "no ovens." Many churches do not let people use their kitchens, I am finding.

Thanks again for all the help!

Sounds like a great plan! I would put sliced provolone on the tables with the sandwich makings, about 1 1/2 ounces per person. Also, a shaker can of Parm.

Most people don't realize that you can often agree to hire in one of the church cooks and get use of the appliances, if they are working. Institutions are understandably worried about the extraordinary costs associated with repairs on ill-used commercial equipment- it really is different.

I once agreed to cook for a camp of 150, visited the kitchen prior to assess the equipment (it affects menu plans), only to discover upon arrival that ALL the portable/ movable equipment, such as industrial meat slicer, blenders, mixers, and chafers had been removed. It was an interesting week...

Have fun, Susan.

I'm more relieved just knowing not to count on anything the church has. I will even take my own extension cords for crockpots.

Now after reading some of your pages, I am wondering how many tables I can actually fit in that hall. lol I will have to go measure next week. But I hope I WILL get a better headcount because, since people won't RSVP, I posted and am going to keep repeating something my mother never would have let me get away with: "Dinner will be served after the ceremony to those who reply with a headcount by [date]." lol I didn't put that on the actual invitation, though. Just "Please reply with a headcount" and contact info. I figure people are just reading right past RSVP now.

I have to admit I've never eaten a Meatball Sub, or any Italian-themed sandwich. (Calzone's being out of the question for ovenless me.) Parmesan and provolone sounds like a great addition. I did not grow basil this year. I am probably going to just buy jars of spaghetti sauce for the meatballs. I saw your comment saying that's why warehouse clubs were invented -- for us moms trying to plan our first big event. :)

I think this final "tweak" to the plan is the last of any account other than final quantities. A whole day has passed and I have not felt uncomfortable about some aspect of producing and serving it. So it must be within my comfort zone and limitations now. If I can hire some people, I won't even need a week at the beach or spa to recover.

Ellen, questions about beverages:

I have so far [61 definite +15 assumed coming = 76], for my "Dinner for 100" so far. (Plus around 20 still hard to reach or later additions.)

My current spread of ages is:

....52 adults -- at 8 tables
....16 teens -- 3 tables
....8 kids under 12yo (4 seated with teens, so 20 there; 4 others with parents)

Not all tables (rectangular seat 8) are full. We are eating family style. Beverages and salad will be on the tables initially.

I am considering setting an 8oz bottle of water at each place. Does this work instead of pitchers of water?

I think the teens are wanting sodas. A friend said just give them what they want. Please, how would this modify your beverage advice? (6 gal water, 6 gal lemonade, 6 gal iced tea, coffee for adults). Should we substitute for part or all of the lemonade?

And what percent of the tea should be pre-sweetened if any? ( I think I understood I should make all the tea plain/decaff and have sugar/sweeteners on the table? )

Can I just place a gallon of tea on each table? That would be twice the tea you recommended? I was thinking it's easier than fooling around with tea pitchers. (We have a use for the gallon water containers, too. I was about to buy them anyway. I don't have a use for this many pitchers.)

What would you do?

The dinner is going to be short -- an hour to eat, 45 mins to clean up. Time probably affects the volume of beverages, so I thought I'd better mention this.

I might not serve coffee. (Not quite sure about equipment.) Not sure if that affects other beverage quantities.


Yes, you can put the jugs on the tables. You could put a gallon of water and a gallon of unsweetened tea with sweeteners. When buying/making tea in bulk, I usually go with 1/3 unsweetened, but in this case, let everyone sweeten- you don't want to put 2 gallons on the table. Bottled water individually is OK, but more expensive, and a lot will be wasted.

OK not to serve coffee in this situation, not essential with popsicles, anyway.

It is OK not to serve sodas! If you do, you could put a 2 liter of cola and a 2 liter of diet cola on each table, with water. Let someone pass over tea.

Put ice in all the glasses. Let people pour what they want. This is no big deal...

Thank you - you make it so simple! :) I will go with that plan.
Ellen, below are my final quantities. Could you check them for me, please? I have only bought dry stuff; fresh and frozen tomorrow; party Saturday night.

(My headcount has gotten a little fuzzy. Lost a few, gained a few. Some with "+1" might be coming alone? A few assumed coming are going out of town or haven't heard from them? Earlier in week it was 76 [52 adults; 16 teens; 8 kids under 12yo).

I am setting up 10 tables of 8 with room for an 11th if we get more out of town calls. If some unplanned Scout families show up they can eat - but at a table in the next room or pull up a chair, lol. So I thought I'd plan on 12 tables of 8 for food quantities, or 96. (Close enough to 100.)

We are eating family style.

12 parmesan/romano shakers (one/table +)
2 cups mixed olives/table
12-13x9x2" platters Italian green salads
[4 bottles ranch for teens, even though salad is dressed in a vinaigrette]
15 13-oz loaves focaccia (Sam's), one per table with extras for those who ask.

ENTREE: Meatball Subs, chips
30lbs (5bags) 5/8oz meatballs,
15-24oz jars marinara (jars/6-lb bag)
50 cups (100 1/2cup servings) mozzarella
(Friends encouraged using this instead of provolone as we don't have a way to toast the subs on sit and a budget savings; have not bought yet.)

6lbs 7/8oz Vegan "Better Than Meat"balls
(one 7qt crockpot)
--in a homemade chunky Italian sauce
Sliced Vegan cheese 2/person @ 10 people?
1 qt homemade Vegan parmesan substitute

48 16" Sam's Hoagie rolls
(4-4"/roll = 96 servings)

4 bags wavy potato chips (10.5oz size?)
4 bags sourcream & onion chips
10 bags mix of parmesan/sea salt pita chips (9ozbags -- very popular here)

For lo-carb guests: lg. crockpot green beans.

Theme-wrapped Hershey's miniatures on table as favors, one/guest.

Sam's half sheet bakery cake, ordered
... ( white/buttercream serves 30-50)

Sam's flat of brownies, Pillsbury (serves 48?)

Bowl mixed fruit (frozen 6lbs + 2lbs grapes)

Nat'l frozen fruit bars or popsicles, 48

Possible assorted cookie tray (non-chocolate)
[All depending on what I find at the store]

My friends keep reigning me in from adding in complications like 2nd entrees. I barely got the pot of green beans past them. So this is the menu we're going with.

Thank you for all the help!

Looks good. Just a couple of suggestions.

Jimmy John's, the fastest growing sub shop chain in the country, uses sliced provolone exclusively and they don't toast anything. If not using, I suggest sliced jack; shredded mzzarella is both rather tasteless and rather chewy, IMO.

Looks good. Just a couple of suggestions.

Jimmy John's, the fastest growing sub shop chain in the country, uses sliced provolone exclusively and they don't toast anything. If not using, I suggest sliced jack; shredded mzzarella is both rather tasteless and rather chewy, IMO.

PS, have fun.
TY Ellen. On your advice we did find provolone. I just did not have time to write earlier! Maybe it's the area here. The mozzarella was very popular. (We kept it and put it out, too, in bowls.) Several friends also said it goes well here when they serve meatball subs to the youth groups, so maybe it's regional taste. Adults liked the provolone.

As you expected, I had to have a LOT of help to prep for this party. Everyone pitched in as normal with Scouts, and a dear friend hired in and helped me cook the afternoon before and the day of, then managed the food prep while I was at the ceremony.

I hired four reliable teen workers who loaded, unloaded, and helped set up tables and food, then cleaned up along with the Scouts, and a few moms helped with the last minute food setup. A lot of work, with multiple people. ( If I could have found more reliable people to hire for the night, to save them having to do that, I would have and should have. People did not answer my ads. )

I would be interested in knowing how to run a less labor intensive party without just ordering in pizzas, or without hiring a caterer. I guess part of it's the way I planned it all, and the menu I selected from the beginning. And trying to run it at the same level of quality I would for a smaller dinner party at home, even though we used paper plates -- created a lot of extra work.

Thank you for the followup. Sounds about right- as you can imagine, if you had had the 3 cooks and 6 front helpers, as is usual for 100, it would have been even easier.

How many people did you feed and did they seem to enjoy? Was the amount of food about right?

Dishes like one of my make-ahead wedding chickens with oven-baked rice pilaf are very simple for large groups. Something like buffet service with a taco or potato bar are also a bit easier.

If I did this over again, I would definitely serve as a buffet.

The good side is guests and family were able to sit and really visit until cleanup.

The downside was first the larger food waste as some people didn't show or decided not to stay but the food was out on the tables unused. (There was a sports conflict. Be careful selecting a date!)

But even more, all the serving dishes multiplied by the number of tables created a huge amount of extra work at every stage. Ellen's first advice on hiring that many workers was definitely needed.

Hope this helps the next person attracted to this thread.

Ellen, I set 10 tables for 8 in the end, and we had one unused, maybe two partially full, an odd seat here and there? I'd guess about 60 people in the end. (Way off from 100.)

I knew the problem before with people not RSVP'ing, assuming one Scout -- and then whole families showing. I did NOT expect Scouts to tell my son one of two of their parents AND in some cases siblings were coming -- but almost ALL the parents dropped a lone Scout off! Two personal friends came alone when their large families were expected. It all adds up.

I had a LOT of leftover food, since given a spoken headcount of 76, I made salads and meatballs for 12 instead of 10 tables just in case. It seems crazy in retrospect! lol

I'm going to return the unopened/unused chip bags -- we had too much food and almost none got opened.

We had some leftover tea but many were happy to take a gallon of sweet tea home. (Oh! I've never made tea in volume before. We had to stop that morning and make double the concentrate when it came out too weak. One of those snafu's that can add stress. Didn't think we could make it ahead, though. And everyone really did like it in the end. )

My son had bought 16 2-liter bottles of various soft drinks, almost none were left, most were opened, and most remainders were taken home by someone going out the door.

The friends who helped me with the party each took home at least half or 3/4 of a crockpot of meatballs for their families; a few other friends took bread and smaller servings or took a meal for a Scout who had to stay at another function and couldn't make it. I'm happy it went to good homes.

I had way too many desserts, as we panicked last minute when we couldn't get the bakery cake, didn't count in the confusion, and bought too much. But the cakes were very popular and my sous chef took a whole platter of cake to her church next day, someone else took a small cake to something, etc..

We forgot to put out popsicles! They are in the freezer there and can be served Tuesday night at Scouts. So I way overestimated all the food. Inexperience. Live and learn!

Sure enough, even as we were setting tables, one of the Scoutmasters came to me and said, "When did you take up catering!?" lol I had to explain that this wasn't only a Court of Honor, it was a family reunion, our son's 18th b'day, and his graduation from highschool all rolled into one. And that I would never be doing it again!

But other than my overdoing everything -- and I feel badly about my sous chef working so hard (even though I paid her, she is a friend) and a few Scout friends/ladies pitching in working so hard to get the food out at the last.

It would have been so much easier on them if it were a buffet... oh yes, and there was a lot of more cleanup for everyone than if I'd done it differently... my inexperience. Talking with friends after, they say that's why their church functions have given up seated dinners.

I think from other people's viewpoints, the party was a success. Everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves. We actually got to sit down and visit with old friends we had not seen in years. (I have not been able to do that in many years of buffets. I'm always working the buffet, or if I do sit, people are up and down to go get food. Very distracting.)

And my son had a great time and really appreciated the effort. :)

Good for you. Thanks for the followup.
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