Our two sons scout troop recently celebrated 100 years in existence – 99 years of that being sponsored by the same church. Many of the parents who were involved when our sons were there (1980s-90s) are still involved today and my husband got asked to participate on the celebration committee. As an extension of that (surprise?) I got involved and found myself in charge of the food.
A special church service was held followed by a luncheon, historical displays and an auction to raise funds for camping scholarships for the boys in the current troop. We had a great time renewing old friendships and making new acquaintances. And as usual I learned a few things along the way.
Lesson #1 – budgeting for a catered event can be a real eye-opener for those who’ve never done that kind of thing before. I had to do plenty of education with the steering committee to help them understand what is involved to have food for an event. We discussed the full gamut of food produced by Scout Moms to a sit down luncheon to a finger food only luncheon. With an estimated 200 in attendance, the committee opted for a catered finger food luncheon.
Next was the ‘aha’ moment that finger/appetizer type foods typically cost more than a buffet or served luncheon. Why? Bite sized pieces of food are more labor intensive to produce and one has more ‘pieces’ and more serving options than a full luncheon. As much as I’ve done this type of thing before, I always have ‘lessons learned’.
Event planning tips:
- Make a list.
- Choose the venue and room. How many people do you expect to attend? You want a room large enough to accommodate the crowd, but to be ‘full’ when all are present.
- What is the demographic of your attendees? Be mindful of age groups and any with food allergies. This can define the type food you serve. Decide if you want alcohol to be served or not. If so, when do you cut off serving? A ‘well with no bottom’ is not a good idea!
- Discuss set-up with your committee and with the caterer. For a finger food event I prefer limited tables and chairs only for those infirm enough not to stand. Have some high top tables for those who stand but want a place to prop drinks and plates. Our goal was for folks to mix and mingle, to see displays in the room and to participate in a live auction, so we chose to have a limited number of seats.
- Read your contract! Make sure you’ve discussed any potential issues with your committee and your caterer! Don’t create a ‘story’ in your head that isn’t defined in ink!
- Define who is in charge of what -especially if you are working with volunteers. Too many chiefs and not enough indians can make for a challenging time.
- Who is going to set up the room? Your committee or hired help? Make sure you
have enough time to set up, then leave for a break before the event.
- Food service – make sure you have enough room to place the food so attendees can get to it. And be sure to have a ‘hidey hole’ for extra supplies. And have a committee of folks to help rearrange food trays as they get picked over.
- Be sure you have a cleanup crew!
- Evaluate after the event and make a list of lessons learned!
Then take a deep breath when it’s all over.