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You've Decided to Host a Dinner - Now What?

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Whether you're hosting an elegant dinner or a potluck meal, having an efficient plan and the right equipment ensures a successful party.

Finding the right equipment for your special event is not that difficult. You may even have an appliance in your pantry that has been just waiting for this special social. The first step is making a sound event plan and sizing the equipment to meet the need.

Organization is very important. You'll want to ensure that everything you need to make this event happen is ready, that work spaces are not congested and the full meal is ready for that serving moment. A delayed and cold hot buffet can be a let-down for guests, not to mention a real health concern. Be focused, organized and everything will fall into place for the perfect party.

Make a Plan for Hosting Your Event:

Once you've chosen a date and place, you need to make an overall plan. This should be a time schedule of sorts so you know when meals will be served, to how many guests and what events will transpire before and after the meal. This will provide an idea of how long you need for cooking and serving, as well as time to allow for food storage and clean-up. Remember to allow some time for natural delays or late guest arrivals. In other words, your schedule should allow some flexibility if the need arises.

Ensure you have adequate help with cooking, serving and cleaning up after the event. You should also plan for enough workspace for the cooks and to allow placement of needed appliances.

For a detailed holiday hosting plan, read my Holiday Readiness for tips and hosting resources.

Make Your Guest List:

If this is a large function and numbers are difficult to predict, you'll need to calculate an estimate of how many people you should prepare for, and whether these are all adults or an age mix. The number of guests and whether children will attend will help you to estimate food quantities, decide on serving options and prepare for seating of your guests.

Plan for a Safe Event
  • Always plan on having a first aid kit available at any social function.
  • When it comes to food handling, you should take certain precautions to ensure the health and safety of your guests.
  • Ensure foods are maintained at the correct temperature, served promptly and stored safely.
  • For events that are held outdoors, provide adequate supplies for hand cleaning and disinfecting food serving or storage areas.
  • When outdoor barbecues or hot fryers are involved, plan on extra care, space and help to ensure the safety of those cooking and the younger guests.
USDA Safe Food Handling

Meal Planning: Setting Up
  • From taking the meat from the freezer the day before the event to the actual dinner, these Host a Stress-Free Dinner Tips will help you through the event.
  • Formal dining requires setting each place at the table.
    How to Set the Table
  • Buffet serving provides setting up options. You can partially set each place at the table or allow guests to collect their cutlery and all necessary tableware as they serve themselves.
  • Large plates are usually set up at the beginning of the buffet food table.
  • Condiments and seasonings can be placed on the food table in one or two areas, or placed on guest tables.
  • Allowing for two lines of persons, one on each side of a buffet table allows for quicker flow-through.
  • Provide sufficient table space for food tables, as well as to comfortably seat guests while they eat.
  • Beverages and desserts are often set up on additional tables, making it less congested and easier for self-serving.
    Folding Tables - Practical Solutions
  • Other Items You Need to Set Up:
    • Linens - these can be disposable or fabric.
    • Lighting to enhance or set the mood.
    • Favors for each guest table and/or centerpieces and suitable decorations for the occasion.
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