Outdoor Events: Spring and Summer Planning Guide

Outdoor Events: Spring and Summer Planning Guide

How to prepare for the festival, wedding and outdoor fiesta season

Planning for your event

Foodservice Event Planning

What are you going to serve? This can often be the trickiest part of any outdoor foodservice operation. Considering attributing factors of the event such as weather (or time of year) in the area the event is being held and planning against factors such as high heat or cool, moderate or rainy skies and wind can be difficult. A general rule of thumb is to keep the menu simple. Choose menu items that will hold up in harsh conditions (like severe heat or wind and rain) and that reflect your unique skill set. Make the focal point of your menu something you already do very well and scale that for outdoor foodservice, so you can stand out and be the talk of the event.

Where are you going to serve? It’s very important to know the type of space you will be working with and the resources that will be available. The venue layout will usually dictate what equipment you will need to bring and how it should be set up. If it is possible to visit the venue before the event, that is always a plus. Knowing how many people you will be serving is very important, as this will help determine the amount of food you will need.

Countertop Cooking Equipment

Mentally walk-through the full production. Consider the layout of the space in which you’ll be working and the number of employees or volunteers you will need to execute service effectively. From taking the order to preparing and serving each food item to the customer, imagine how your team would move around the space throughout the event, then tailor your equipment and supplies to follow the “flow” of service. For example, when serving hotdogs using a countertop hot dog steamer & bun warmer or a roller grill, you may want to store extra buns using the undercounter space below for easy replenishing. Counterspace will be your prime real estate, so it’s best to save as much space as possible with compact appliances and keep a tidy stand.

Consider customers need for counter space. Consider your customers’ need for space and condiments. In any event, they will most likely need enough temporary space to use condiments and place down items they may be carrying to access their wallet or shift other food they may be carrying. You want to avoid customers having to juggle items in their hands to pay for food or hold additional items, while other customers are waiting.

Develop smart habits. Have everyone on the team get into the habit of cleaning and tidying as they work. Avoid leaving cleaning tasks for the end of the shift and developing clutter. Make time in your schedule to rotate and replenish inventory before running out of items. Assigning employees for specific tasks may help. When everything stays organized and easily within reach (especially in small spaces), it can make busy times go by smoothly.

Always consider food safety. Take the necessary steps to ensure safe and sanitary practices at events. Check with your local government agency to obtain the proper permits for the city in which you are serving. Make sure you take the necessary precautions when transporting food to prevent food contamination and foodborne illness. Use the best insulated food carrier for your foodservice operation. Most illnesses from temporary events can be traced back to lapses in temperature control. Use instant read food thermometers to monitor hot and cold food temperatures. Keep cold foods cold (below 41°F, 5°C) and hot foods hot (above 140°F, 60°C).

What type of equipment will you need?

The type of equipment you will need depends on what kind of foodservice operation you are providing, whether it be outdoor catering, concession or food stand and what you are serving. For instance, you could be catering at a wedding in which you would need to consider everything from the food service down to the plating and aesthetics, or you could run a food stand at a small street fair. Either way, your equipment must be mobile-friendly and able to keep foods stable and at safe temperatures.

Chafing Dishes for Banquet Dinners

Catering: The best first step to take is to take an inventory of catering or mobile food supplies you may already have and compare that against what you are going to serve for the spring/summer season, as your needs may change over time. Investing in used catering equipment is a great option for those who want to stay budget conscious or are serving a one-off event. If your banquet or catering operation is ongoing, it may be wise to invest in quality equipment that covers the basics such as, buffet stations, chaffing dishes, insulated food carriers and holding cabinets and tableware. For a full catering supply checklist, read the following article, Equipping Yourself for a Great Catering Season.

Concessions: Opening a concession stand or revamping an existing food stand are good ways to make money for little investment up front, as concessions are a growing industry. From traditional hot dog stands to small-scale gourmet eateries, there is no limit to what you can do. And the spring/summer season is the best time to do it.

The most popular concession foods include:

  • Popcorn
  • Pretzels
  • Pizza
  • Nachos
  • Snow Cones
  • Corn dogs
  • Cotton candy
  • Ice cream

Pre-cooked foods are a great idea in order to serve large amounts of people at a smaller cost. Some examples include pre-made sandwiches, chips, roasted nuts, brownies and other baked goods. Store bought foods are another option. There are risks involved with both, like buying more than you can sell and possible spoilage onsite.

Cook-to-order menu items are a great way to provide fresh and authentic foods for your customers and sell at a higher price because you have something unique to offer (and free smells!). And you won’t have to worry about having unsold, cooked food.

Food Truck and Concession Stand Hot Dogs
  • Hot dogs
  • Burgers
  • Corn dogs
  • Loaded nachos
  • Funnel cakes
  • Grilled cheese
  • Brisket sandwiches
  • French fries
  • Chicken tenders
  • Chicken wings
  • Pizza

Knowing what you will serve will dictate the equipment you will need. For instance, pretzels need warming merchandizers. Pizza, brisket and hot sandwiches need some type of countertop convection oven in order to keep foods piping hot and attract crowds with enticing smells. The main attraction for loaded nachos is warm, gooey delicious cheese, which requires a type of food topping warmer. Selling food to order may mean selling at a lower volume due to added prep time. A great way to remedy this is to invest in a ventless, rapid cook oven. These small beasts can cook subs, paninis, nachos, chicken and pizza in a matter of seconds without compromising quality.

Mobile food service:Whether it be a corporate event, branding event or local street fair, there are several ways to bring new and fresh takes on classic street foods like hotdogs, burgers, pizza and nachos. You could try setting up a condiment station bar for guests to add their own finishing touches on food, or some new and different doughs, cheeses, chips, toppings and more.

BBQ Pork Sliders

2019 Eating Trends

In 2019, the trends in food are moving toward healthier options, and veganism is no longer the butt of the joke. Vegetables are making a huge culinary comeback (think roasted cauliflower and cabbage leaf enchiladas) and meat substitutes like the beyond burger and the impossible burger are becoming a restaurant staple.

Outdoor BBQ is still a big hit when done well (no pun). Chefs are bringing new takes to old favorites such as chicken skewers (paired with yogurt for a healthy kick), small BBQ pulled pork rolls (wrapped in dough with layers of cheese) and sliders of all types (from pulled brisket to a jackfruit substitute). Investing in a high performance, reliable outdoor grill makes the most sense if BBQ will be your specialty.

Foods with high amounts of processed sugar are becoming less popular and boozy brands are finding new and inventive ways to serve up healthier cocktails (think orange wine, sangria with all organic ingredients and simple, neat whisky and gin).

Desserts are getting a bit fancier (tahini-banana muffins and creamy peanut-butter snowballs) and heathier with vegan options.

Consider using high-powered induction ranges, countertop griddles, and countertop pizza ovens to create the most delicious and unique menu items that work for you in a small time window. Using the right insulated food pan carrier for your operation is important for transporting pre-cooked and prepared foods to their destination. Every step you take is crucial in creating fun and memorable, social-media worthy experiences for customers and clients to rave about.

No matter what type of food you are going to serve at the event, the specialists at ACityDiscount are happy to help you switch out, upgrade your equipment, or build an outdoor foodservice operation at prices that work with your budget. Browse our online selection, stop by our Norcross, GA showroom or give our sales team a call today at 404-752-6715 ext. 2.