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How to cater for 50 guests

Welcome to the world of large-scale catering. Here, we'll walk you through each step, from planning to execution. This guide is designed to help you gain a comprehensive understanding of what it takes to successfully cater for a large crowd and do so with confidence.

group of people eating

Large-scale catering can be an exciting yet challenging endeavour. From ensuring the right quantity of food to maintaining its quality, everything requires careful planning and execution.

However, with the right guidance and a systematic approach, it is possible to cater for 50 guests and make it a memorable experience for all.

In the following sections, you'll find detailed advice on various aspects of catering, from understanding the basics to planning your menu, budgeting, choosing equipment, efficient cooking strategies, clean-up tips, and other useful tips and tricks. We will also discuss the common mistakes you need to avoid when catering for a large group.

Understanding the basics of catering

The first step in learning how to cater for 50 guests is understanding the basics of catering itself.

Catering involves more than just cooking and serving all the food. It’s about creating an experience that your guests will remember. You need to consider the type of event, the venue, the dietary preferences of your guests, the presentation of your dishes, and so much more.

When you're catering for 50 guests, you're not just preparing food for a large number of people. You're also managing a wide range of tasks, from shopping for ingredients to coordinating the service. This requires excellent organisational skills, careful planning, and a clear understanding of your guests' needs and expectations.

With the right preparation and planning, catering for 50 guests doesn't have to be an overwhelming task. It can be an enjoyable experience that allows you to showcase your culinary skills and creativity.

Interested in growing your catering even further? Check out our tips on how to cater for 100 guests.

Factors to consider when catering for 50 guests

When catering for a large group, several factors come into play:

  • One of the first things to consider is the type of event. Is it a formal dinner, a casual buffet, or a themed party? Each event requires a different approach and planning.
  • Another important factor is your guests' dietary preferences and restrictions. Be sure to find out if any of your guests have specific dietary needs, such as vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, or food allergies. This will ensure everyone can enjoy the meal you've prepared. For some food ideas for vegan guests, check out our ultimate guide to vegan mobile catering on our blog.
  • Consider the venue and its facilities. Does it have a spacious kitchen? Is there enough room for a buffet table setup? Are there enough tables and chairs for all your guests?

These are all crucial questions to ask when planning your event.

Planning your menu for 50 guests

Creating the perfect menu is one of the most exciting parts of catering for 50 guests. However, it can also be one of the most challenging.

You want to offer a variety of dishes that will appeal to everyone, but you also need to consider the practicality of preparing and serving these dishes for such a large group.

Start by deciding on the type of cuisine you want to serve. Then, think about the balance of flavours, textures, and colours. A well-balanced menu is not only delicious but also visually appealing.

Remember to consider the season and the time of the event. Some dishes are more suitable for certain times of the year or day.

For example, a barbecue might be a great idea for a summer evening event, while a hearty stew could be perfect for a cold winter night.

Typical food people love

Finger foods

  • Mini sliders or burgers
  • Veggie platter or veggie skewers
  • Mini quiches or savoury pastries
  • Vegetable or fruit skewers
  • Mini vegetable samosas
  • Mini sausage rolls
  • Mini pizzas
  • Mini hot dogs or pigs in blankets

Dinner style foods

  • Baked chicken or chicken breasts
  • Beef or vegetable lasagne
  • BBQ pulled pork or chicken
  • Meatballs with marinara sauce
  • Grilled or roasted vegetables
  • Stuffed bell peppers or mushrooms
  • Baked or smoked salmon

Buffet table options

  • Pasta station with different types of pasta, sauces, and toppings
  • Carving station with roasted turkey, ham, or roast beef
  • Salad bar with a variety of greens, toppings, and dressings
  • Build-your-own sandwich bar with various deli meats, cheeses, and condiments, keeps sandwiches fresh!
  • Soup station with a variety of soup options and toppings


  • Mini cupcakes or cake bites
  • Fruit platter or fruit skewers
  • Mini cheesecakes or tartlets
  • Cheese board
  • Chocolate-covered strawberries


How much food do you need to feed 50 people?

mini quiches with garnish on

To determine the amount of food needed to feed 50 people, several factors need to be considered, such as the type of event, the duration, the time of day, and the dietary preferences of the attendees.

However, as a general guideline, here are some estimates for various food categories:

Main courses

For a plated meal, you would typically need around 140-170 grams of meat or fish per person. So, for 50 people, you would require approximately 7-8.5 kilograms of the main course. If you're serving a buffet-style meal, you can estimate slightly less, 110-140 grams per person.

For example: If you plan to serve chicken as the main course, you will need around 11-14 kilograms of chicken for 50 people if serving a plated meal.

Sides and vegetables

Depending on the variety and number of side dishes, you can estimate around 110-170 grams per person. This can include items like rice, potatoes, salads, and steamed vegetables. For 50 people, you would need approximately 5-7 kilograms of side dishes.

For example: If you plan to serve mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables as sides, you will need around 2.5-3.5 kilograms of mashed potatoes and vegetables each for 50 people.

Appetisers and snacks

If you're planning on serving appetisers or snacks before the main meal, you can estimate around 3-4 pieces per person. This can be adjusted based on the duration of your event and the type of appetisers being served.

For example: If you plan to serve finger foods like mini quiches or sliders, you will need around 150-200 pieces for 50 people.


For desserts, you can estimate around 1-2 servings per person, depending on the variety and size of the desserts being served.

For example: If you plan to serve a variety of desserts like cakes, cookies, and fruit tarts, you will need approximately 50-100 servings for 50 people.

Remember, these estimates are just general guidelines. It's always best to consult with a professional and consider specific event details, dietary restrictions, and preferences to get a more accurate estimate.

How to cater for 50 guests on a budget

Catering for 50 guests doesn't have to break the bank.

With careful planning, you can create a memorable event even on a tight budget.

  • Choose ingredients that are in season and locally available: These are usually cheaper and fresher.
  • Pasta, rice or potato-based dishes: Consider serving dishes that are filling but inexpensive to make, these can be made in large quantities without costing a lot.
  • Minimise waste: Plan your portions carefully to avoid over-catering. Any leftover food can be stored properly and used for another occasion.

Catering equipment essentials when hosting 50 guests

Having the right equipment can make a huge difference when you're catering for a large group.

You'll need enough cookware, serving dishes, utensils, and storage containers. You may also need equipment like warming trays for hot food or chafing dishes to keep your food at the right temperature.

It's also important to have sufficient tableware for your guests. This includes plates, glasses, cutlery, and napkins.

Don't forget about extras like serving spoons, tongs, and dishware for condiments or sauces.

Finally, consider the clean-up. Make sure you have enough garbage bags, cleaning supplies, and storage containers for any leftovers.

Efficient cooking strategies for serving 50 guests

Cooking for 50 guests involves more than just multiplying your favourite recipes.

It requires careful planning and efficient cooking strategies. One of the best ways to save time and effort is to choose dishes that can be prepared in advance. This way, you can spread out the cooking over several days and avoid last-minute stress.

Another good strategy is to use one ingredient in multiple dishes. For example, if you're roasting a chicken, you can use the leftovers to make a salad or a soup. This not only saves time but also helps reduce waste.

Finally, don't forget about presentation. Even the simplest dishes can look impressive with a little extra effort. Use garnishes, sauces, or decorative elements to enhance the visual appeal of your dishes.

Clean-up tips after catering for 50 guests

After the party is over, it's time for the less glamorous part of catering: the clean-up.

But with a few clever tricks, you can make this task easier:

  • Cleaning as you go: This might seem difficult when you're in the middle of cooking and serving, but it can save you a lot of time and effort once the guests have left.
  • Disposable tableware: This can drastically reduce the number of dishes you'll have to wash later. Opt for eco-friendly and biodegradable options to minimise waste.
  • Tackle big items first: Wash and store any large pots, pans, and utensils that you won't need for the rest of the clean-up process. Then, move on to the smaller items like plates, glasses, and cutlery.
  • Enlist the help of a few friends or family members: Assign specific tasks to each person, such as washing dishes, wiping down surfaces, or taking out the trash. This way, the workload is divided, and the clean-up gets done faster.
  • Properly store any leftover food: Use airtight containers and refrigerate or freeze them promptly to maintain freshness and prevent spoilage. Leftovers can be enjoyed for another meal or donated to those in need.

Other tips and tricks for successful catering for 50 guests

In addition to the essential aspects, we've covered so far, here are some additional tips and tricks to ensure a successful catering experience for 50 guests:

  • Create a timeline: Plan your tasks and create a schedule to stay organised and ensure everything runs smoothly on the day of the event.
  • Delegate responsibilities: Don't be afraid to ask for help. Assign specific tasks to trusted individuals to lighten your workload and ensure everything is taken care of.
  • Communication is key: Maintain open lines of communication with your clients or event organisers. Regularly update them on the progress, discuss any changes or concerns, and clarify expectations.
  • Test your recipes: Prior to the event, try out your recipes to ensure they taste delicious and are well-received. This will give you the opportunity to make any necessary adjustments or substitutions.
  • Consider dietary restrictions: Be mindful of your guests' dietary restrictions and preferences. Offer a variety of options to accommodate different needs, such as vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free dishes.
  • Practice portion control: To avoid both waste and shortage, carefully plan your portions. Consider the average appetite of your guests and adjust accordingly.
  • Create a beautiful display: Pay attention to how you're displaying food on your dishes. Use attractive platters, garnishes, and colourful ingredients to create an appealing visual display.
  • Stay organised: Keep your work area clean and organised throughout the catering process. This will help you work efficiently and minimise stress.

Common mistakes to avoid when catering for 50 guests

While learning how to cater for 50 guests, it's important to be aware of common mistakes that can occur. By avoiding these pitfalls, you can ensure a smooth and successful event.

Here are some mistakes to watch out for:

  • Underestimating the time and effort involved: Catering for 50 guests requires careful planning and coordination. Don't underestimate the time it will take to prepare, cook, serve, and clean up after the event.
  • Not having a backup plan: Unexpected situations can arise, such as equipment malfunctions or last-minute cancellations. Always have a backup plan in place to handle any unforeseen circumstances.
  • Overcomplicating the menu: While it's important to offer a variety of dishes, avoid overwhelming yourself by trying to create too many complicated recipes. Stick to what you know and focus on quality rather than quantity.
  • Neglecting to communicate with the venue: If you're catering corporate events at a venue, it's crucial to communicate with the staff to ensure you have access to the necessary facilities and equipment.
  • Ignoring food safety practices: Food safety should be a top priority. Make sure to store and handle food properly, maintain proper temperatures during cooking and serving, and avoid cross-contamination.
  • Not considering the flow of the event: Plan your menu and service in a way that ensures a smooth flow of food and minimises congestion. Consider the layout of the venue and the order in which dishes will be served.
  • Failing to prepare for dietary restrictions: Always inquire about your guests' dietary restrictions and preferences in advance. Failing to accommodate these needs can lead to unhappy guests and potential health issues.

Catering for 50 guests with confidence and ease

disposable cutlery and plates

Catering for 50 guests may seem like a daunting task, but with the right knowledge and preparation, it can be a rewarding experience.

By understanding the basics of catering, considering important factors, planning your menu, being mindful of your budget, and using efficient cooking strategies, you can successfully cater for a large group.

Remember to pay attention to details, communicate effectively, and avoid common mistakes. With practice and experience, you'll gain the confidence and skills needed to cater for 50 guests with ease.

Our catering liability insurance team can help you to find the best covers to suit you and your mobile catering business. Please call us on 01926454907 to speak to one of our friendly team members or get a quote online.

Frequently asked questions

Vegan / Vegetarian food ideas for a large number of guests?

Catering for a large crowd can be challenging, but with the right Vegan/Vegetarian food ideas, you can impress your guests while sticking to your dietary principles. Think hearty veggie burgers and hot dogs, grilled veggies, pasta salads, and decadent vegan desserts.

Don't forget about creative appetizers like stuffed mushrooms or skewered tofu. A build-your-own salad or taco bar can also be a hit, offering a variety of fresh vegetables, beans, and vegan cheeses. These ideas not only cater to those with dietary restrictions but also offer delicious options that even meat-eaters will enjoy.

Vegan / Vegetarian dessert ideas for many guests?

You can't forget about the sweet ending to the meal - the dessert. Here are some Vegan/Vegetarian dessert ideas that will not only satisfy your guests' sweet tooth but also cater to their dietary preferences. For a fruity delight, consider a vegan apple crumble or a refreshing fruit salad.

Vegan chocolate cupcakes or a decadent vegan chocolate cake can surely please the chocoholics in your crowd. For something simple yet satisfying, vegan cookies or brownies are a great choice. Remember, with these vegan/vegetarian dessert ideas, you're not just serving food, you're serving inclusivity and thoughtfulness.

How to manage cutlery when catering for a large number of guests?

Managing cutlery when catering for many guests can seem like a daunting task, but with careful planning and organisation, it can be a breeze.

Start by ensuring you have enough cutlery for each guest - a simple rule of thumb is to have two of each item per person. Next, consider the layout. Arrange cutlery in a way that is easily accessible and makes sense to the guests, often this is in the order they will use them.

Lastly, remember to have a designated area for dirty cutlery. This will make the clean-up process faster and more efficient. With these tips, you'll master how to manage cutlery when catering in no time!

Should I offer leftovers to guests after the event?

Whether or not you should offer leftovers to guests after the event can be a tricky question. It really depends on the context and the kind of relationship you share with your guests.

If it's a casual gathering among close friends or family, they might appreciate taking home some of the delicious food. In such cases, offering leftovers could be seen as a warm, hospitable gesture.

However, for formal events or when hosting people you're not very familiar with, it might be best to avoid doing so as it could be perceived as being thoughtless or inconsiderate. Ultimately, it's all about reading the room and understanding your guests' comfort levels.

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