How To Feed 1200 Guests in 90 Minutes!
Yesterday, we had the privilege of catering an employee appreciation luncheon for 1200! The challenge here, in addition to the sheer scope of the event, was that the employees were still working and wanted to eat quickly if they had to. Our goal was to get all 1200 employees through the line in 90 minutes. How did we do it?
Increase serving lines. In years prior, this event had four double-sided serving lines. We increased this to six double-sided lines and moved all the vegetarian/vegan options to their own line. We did this for two reasons: one, vegetarians and vegans have trouble hunting and pecking through lines to find items that suit their dietary needs, which slows the line. Two, it is insensitive to make vegetarians and vegans peruse items that could be against their religious beliefs or bothersome to even see. We had one volunteer posted in front of the vegetarian line just to make sure they were guided to that specific line.
A runner and a poster per line. We assigned two employees to each line: one to run to our cook tent to refill food, and one to stay and monitor the line for silverware, plates and napkins. We stored backups of these items in a crate under the front of the line for easy restocking. This ensured that there was always a Simply Fresh employee available to answer questions and assist with any needs.
We had two managers monitoring the whole line and using walkie-talkies to stay ahead of refills. For example, as two lines were running low on items, we would call ahead so that when we ran out for the refill minutes later, it was waiting and plated. At no time were we going out with empty hands to empty hands.
As the crowds started to subside, we closed a line, pushing the crowds to the remaining five lines, and using the closing line to refill the next line. About ten minutes later, we closed two more lines, again pushing the remaining guests to the remaining three lines. Ten minutes before the close of service, we had only the vegetarian line and one line open. Closing these lines allowed our staff to begin cleaning up and packing our equipment, thereby speeding up the time we had to keep tents up in the back of the venue.
It was a terrific event, and the hosts and employees were very happy with both the quality and speed of service. If you plan it right, and allow plenty of time for setup and communication, you CAN feed 1200 people in 90 minutes! However, if you don’t want to – WE CAN!