Feeding a crowd, more than 10-15 people, takes skill, time, and a lot of cookware. If you’re planning a party or other special event, it can be a huge help to hire out the catering part of the equation. Having someone else to handle the planning, preparation, cooking and cleanup, can leave you more time and energy to tackle the other parts of your gathering – such as the program, entertainment, and other activities you’ll be planning during your special event. The following are our top considerations to think about before hiring a caterer for your next special event.

Quantity of food

How much food you’ll order ultimately depends on several factors – the age of the attendees, time of day, and what activities are planned. A high school graduation dinner is going require more food than a bridal shower held mid-afternoon for example. By and large, people expect larger portions of food at dinner time or if they have been physically active.  Don’t make the mistake of ordering light snacks during a meal time because people will eat much more than you expect.


Determine how long your event may be and when your special event will be held because that will affect food service, too. A wedding reception held in the afternoon after lunch means that lighter fare can be served and may conclude before the dinner hour. Whereas, a more formal reception held in the evening may begin with a cocktail reception and finish with a plated dinner, music, and dancing—potentially lasting much longer.

Another option to consider is if you will be catering your event on site, or will the food be transported? If you’ve ordered a barbecue meal to celebrate a loved one’s special birthday or graduation at your home, a caterer can help plan a good arrival time so the food is set up and served at the correct temperature to keep it safe and tasty.

Style of event

The catering menu you choose should match the function you are planning. A casual lunch buffet after a golf tournament can work very well. Similarly, passed horsd’oeuvres or small snacks work well for a dressier occasion such as a cocktail party. Linens, table cloths and napkins, are generally included in catering but if you need something fancier, party rental companies offer a large range of options and styles for everything you might need – from AV equipment, staging, linens of nearly any color or style, tables and chairs, and decorations.

Types of food service

A number of different options exist for ordering food for a crowd. A fingertip buffet or passed horsd’oeuvres are great options for serving smaller amounts of food. A fingertip buffet is pretty much how it sounds – small bites set out in a buffet line so guests can help themselves. Passed horsd’oeuvres involve staff mingling with your crowd and giving out or “passing” small appetizers.

Buffets which can be staffed or unstaffed can feed a crowd in a hurry for many types of events. Generally people tend to eat more when a buffet is available, but it’s also a pretty efficient way to feed a crowd fairly quickly. A plated dinner with one or more courses can be another more formal option depending on your style of event. Food portions are more controlled and dessert can be pre-plated to reduce the noise of service staff making the rounds to deliver food.

For casual office affairs, boxed lunches or prepackaged fair can be prepared for pick up or delivery, making ordering lunch for the next staff or club meeting simple.

We can help

Smokehouse 54’s professional catering department is skilled at helping you order a delicious, economical menu that works for your special event, whether a casual affair held off site or a wedding reception held in our beautiful dining room which seats up to 250. Contact us today and let us take the headache out of cooking for your crowd.