Planning the catering for any large event is a tall order, but when it's something that's open to the public, there are a few extra difficulties to take care of. When you're not sure how many people are attending, or what they can and can't eat, it's tempting to order or prepare a huge selection of dishes and far too many of them.
But that just means more work and expense, and it doesn't need to be that way. Instead, follow these tips and make sure nobody goes hungry, without spending a fortune and ending up with tonnes of leftovers.
Try to estimate numbers
It's not always possible to work out even a rough estimate of numbers but do what you can to get an idea. With open events, you could look into the numbers of attendees for previous occasions you've held, or compare similar events that have taken place in your area.
If it's an indoor event, don't forget to take into account the venue's capacity – but think about how likely you are to fill it completely.
Limit your guests
If you're unable to find any basis for an estimate of numbers, limiting the people you allow into the event can help you keep control of food levels. This gives you a definite number so you can work out how much food to prepare without any going to waste.
Alternatively, you could keep allowing people in, but warn in advance that food is limited and may run out. Doing this allows you to limit how much you provide, perhaps underestimating the number of attendees, but without causing unnecessary disappointment.
Cater to different diets the easy way
There are lots of different diets to think about, but covering them all is easier than you might think if you combine requirements into single dishes.
For example, you can make food that doesn't contain any gluten or nuts to cater for people with allergies and intolerances, but also vegan so those on a plant-based diet can also eat it. This significantly cuts the number of different things that need to be prepared, and with a bit of careful planning, you won't end up with dozens of dishes just to make sure everyone can eat.
Cut out anything risky
Keep things relatively simple and more people will be able to eat them. Although spicy food is fairly popular, there are people who can't stand anything hot, so you might end up with a lot left.
Avoid anything that doesn't have wide, general appeal and you should find all your dishes go down a treat.