My company is hosting a community event and I have been put in charge

Joined Dec 24, 2015
Hi, I work for a marketing company and one of our clients wants to host a community event at a local park next July.  We are anticipating about 1500 people (which isn't much more than a complete guess to be honest) and in addition to some games and entertainment they want to provide food and beverages to everyone that comes.  I have personally done some BBQ competitions in the past and "catered" decent sized events for friends and family so I have a pretty good understanding of food safety, health department requirements etc.  I am just having trouble figuring out the logistics of everything on this scale.  We are going to serve hot dogs, burgers, pasta salad, ice cream or Italian ice, popcorn, and fresh squeezed lemonade. 

My biggest concern is proper storage.  I am looking at renting a freezer trailer from an ice company since I am estimated somewhere in the vicinity of 3000lbs of ice needed so storing the ice is not a problem, but nothing else can go in that.  I am trying to figure out the best and most inexpensive way to keep 25 10lb boxes of frozen burgers and 20 3 gallon tubs of ice cream frozen as well as 60 lbs of hot dogs and 13 30lb tubs of salad cold.  I don't think 150qt coolers would even be plausible as I would need so many of them.  I am considering possibly just building a couple of large insulated crates out of wood, foam insulation, and plastic paneling.  Are there any other viable options I am overlooking?

I am also trying to figure out the most economical way to hold the cooked burgers and dogs prior to going into chafers for holding.  Does anyone have any idea approximately how many cooked 1/4lb patties would fit into a hotel pan?  I already have one cambro and trying to figure out how many more I would need.  And does anyone have any experience with the sterno heated holding cabinets?  If they are decent I would probably prefer to go that route due to cost.

We have done this on a much smaller scale (~150 people total throughout the day) in the clients parking lot and just did hot dogs.  Every year though we have had a problem with condensation forming inside the bags of rolls due to the humidity and temperature changes between when we start setting up and as the day goes on.  Again using coolers really wouldn't be plausible as we will need around 3000 rolls, does anyone have any suggestions how to deal with that?

I am looking at getting a 5 or 6 foot charcoal grill, but can anyone possibly give me an estimate on the amount of charcoal I may go through?

Lastly (at least for now), can anyone help out with estimating how much of condiments I will need (relish, mayo, ketchup, mustard)?

Sorry for all of the questions, but they need a complete proposal and budget within the next week and these few points are pretty much all that I have left to figure out.  I'd also be open to any other suggestions on anything that anyone thinks I may be overlooking.
Joined Sep 5, 2012
To me 1500 at a bbq is just another day at work, but I'm a professional caterer with 40 years of experience. You need to contact a expierenced catering company and sub contract this event.
Joined Feb 25, 2005
I agree with Lagom. You have no idea what you don't know. Nor do you have the equipment to produce this event.

For example, why would you "hold" burgers and dogs? This will give you an inferior product. I don't think that's what you want to serve at a client's event.

One 6ft grill for 1500 people? We cater an event every year for 1000 people for 4 hours with a similar menu with 3 chefs, 3-6ft grills, 6 servers/runners to replenish and we work non stop the whole event.

While you can do this all on a charcoal grill, you would need to stagger since it takes charcoal time to be ready to cook anything. I'd go with propane. While I love the smell and taste of charcoal, for an event this size, propane is more efficient and cost effective.

If you were in foodservice, you could borrow a refrigerated truck from the vendor you bought your food from. But since you aren't, you would need to find one to rent. Easier then using a million coolers.

You can use dry ice to hold the ice cream or Italian ice but again, you are going to need a lot of coolers to hold that.

Hire a professional. Or a bunch of food trucks.

Joined Jan 31, 2012
Ummm....welcome to Chef talk DataZ. :)
A few of my esteemed collegues appear to be deciding youre incapable
of executing an event of this size, seemingly based upon some of your
uninformed comments. But you came here for pro advice-- and I also
disagree with those assessments for a couple reasons....first, yourenot new
to catering. And secondly burgers dogs and pasta are about as simple a menu
as it gets.

The ice cream is a challenge especially in july, but can be worked out. And you failed to
say where in the world you are. In fact, you left out several important details.
It seems to me that what's throwing you off is the size of this party--understandable
when its several times larger than youre used to. I doubt youd be talking about
holding scores of burgers for say, 300 people. The key until youre used to it, is to
think of this as a smaller event say, 300. And there are 5 of them.
Work the numbers, food and labor and time needed for 300, the setup for it,
amount of condiments, et al.
Then walk it out for 4 more duplicates. Thats a thumbnail of course, you may not need
5 times as many helpers for instance. But in my experience, i can do picnic bbq for 300
in a reasonable time with only one helper. But it also depends on the logistics of the
site, duration of the service, many other infos you havent provided. In this case, as
mentioned in an above post, youll need at least 3 complete cooking/serving stations, preferably spread out to "encompass" the crowd.
So IMO you need to start by unwrapping your head from the number of people and
think in smaller increments.....THEN assemble the pieces into the whole when you
present the proposal.
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Joined Jun 27, 2012
You have no idea what you don't know.
This has disaster written all over it.

Don't be the guy that made someone's kid sick (or failed a long time client).

Contract this one out.


If you want to break into the biz get a job with the most successful caterer in your area and learn the ins and outs on their dime.

Joined Jun 23, 2015
For someone with no experience a week for a proposal and budget.  Don't do this to yourself.  You work for a marketing company and they should not expect you to be a culinary expert.  Spend the week contacting a professional catering company with references.   Good luck whatever you decide.
Joined Feb 8, 2009
I agree with the ones that said "DON'T" do this yourself. It sounds easy but even cooking a simple hot dog and burger for 1500 people takes some skill. The burger has to be cooked and held properly so when it's served it's a good quality burger and not a dried hockey puck. A BBQ grilled dog doesn't hold real well either. A dirty water dog would hold a lot better and give a good quality when held to temp. Cooking for 20 or 25 is one thing, cooking for 1500 is another. I have seen companies that tried to cook for their employees, every time when I asked the people eating the food how it was the answer was awful. Leave it up to the people who know, farm out the food to a caterer. If you don't set out to do it right it will be perceived by the community as uncaring. I would think if it was for the community you would not want it to have any chance to fail........Good Luck
Joined Oct 31, 2012
I would have to agree that an experienced caterer is called for. 1500 people is a lot of people. I"ll throw in that no one does hundreds of people completely by themselves. There are always too many tasks for one person to handle alone. As just one example, who's opening the hotdog packages while who's cooking the hamburgers? And has been noted, you don't know what you don't know until it's too late. Get a professional involved and save yourself some major headaches. You can always help out while they steer the ship. 
Joined Jan 31, 2012
I would have to agree that an experienced caterer is called for. 1500 people is a lot of people. I"ll throw in that no one does hundreds of people completely by themselves. There are always too many tasks for one person to handle alone. As just one example, who's opening the hotdog packages while who's cooking the hamburgers? And has been noted, you don't know what you don't know until it's too late. Get a professional involved and save yourself some major headaches. You can always help out while they steer the ship. 
Well see, not necessarily. Depends on a lot of factors we don't know here, like general layout of the event site, how much time is being allowed for serving, how many people

are available to help, etc. And 5 self contained cooking/serving stations for instance, isn't the same as simply cooking for 1500. I haven't  done events over 2,000,  but I knew 

a caterer who handled sixteen thousand in a picnic type setting in one day. How, because they had years of experience as a caterer? No, because they were organized, 

with 16 serving stations and 2 cooks and 2 servers at each. And several runners to replenish buns, meat, condiments, plates, etc.

Like most catering, it's all, IMO, in the ability to properly manage the event, and  to allow for unexpected contingencies--like dropping a whole box of meat in the dirt,

watching the wind blow down a condiment table, or drop a big plastic tarp across a flaming barbecue, yeah things like that, things I have actually experienced.

And to an extent, this foreknowledge can be passed on, so long as there is a certain aptitude on the part of the event manager. 

Admittedly, the OP shows a decided lack of knowledge of large-group catering methods, but I happen to know there is no shortage of it in here. 

And it still remains my opinion that there is no better place to safely tap into such knowledge as  this very forum. 

Joined Oct 31, 2012
Meez,  I think we agree more than disagree. What you pointed out more clearly than I did was that there are numerous people involved doing all the necessary tasks. Organization is indeed the key but the OP's comment about a six foot charcoal grill and numerous other basic concerns, tells me they would probably be better off hiring someone this time to see how it's done. A picture is worth a thousand words kind of thing. Then they can decide if it's worth it to do themselves the next time. 
Joined Jun 27, 2012
I took this thread to bed with me and thought about the times I was the only food safety educated person on my church bazaar board selling full on BBQ plates (including mayo based salads) and never a complaint from anyone (we clocked over 50 K souls fed a few years ago).

Not to mention the many times I pulled my Jaycee chapter out of the fire (so to speak) when we ran membership drives (always served BBQ chicken and beer) in small towns all across Texas.

As pointed out it only takes a highly organized individual who is educated in food safety plus the drive to learn (and enuf volunteers) to pull something like this off.

Logged in and found @ChefBillyB  had already started class without me lol.

The Blue Bunny Co. is community spirited and always happy to come out with their push carts (so cute and FUN!).

Soda manufacturers will do the same with their trailers (for non profits all you have to do is purchase the product and they will usually wave all the fees ie delivery, setup and rental).

I can add... ditch the pasta salad in favor of bagged chips.

No worries about spoilage and the leftovers don't need to be ditched.

@dataz722  you will need some sort of festival license .

Check with whoever issues these in the party location and see what sort of paper trail is needed to make them happy.

Don't be surprised if they want you to rent commissary space for pre party storage and prep as well as someone who has whatever passes for a ServSafe certificate in your area.

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Staff member
Joined Jun 11, 2001
BTW Community park, local government, community event, and you are a marketing company someone hired to do this?

Why wouldn't your client just hire a caterer?  One and done.

Here check this:  You hire the caterer thus collecting the commision from the caterer plus charging the client.  ;)

(no, don't.  Just tell your client to hire a caterer)
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