Mass Production Cooking/Man hours


My group is hosting a huge event. We are planning on feeding 5000 people.
My main question is 1) how do i calculate man hours for food prep? 2) how do i can i begin calculate cooking time?
We will be working out of a school kitchen that is designed to serve about 900 students.

Hey Clinton!

That is a HUGE question to answer and comes with a lot of other questions to ask yourself.

Ultimately, your man-hours are determined from the menu. In the simplest terms, how long does it take one person to create one dish? Multiply that from the number of dishes. You'll arrive at a number that one person realistically can't manage, so start dividing by the number of hours you want to have the food prepared.

If it is going to take 800 hours, you could have 100 people work 8 hours or 200 people work 4 hours, that type of thing.

There are other considerations. What type of service is this, buffet or table service? What kind of cooking and hot-holding equipment do you have access to? What food items will hold-hot longer than others? What items can be prepared ahead of time and finished before service?

You can calculate cooking time in the same way, but have to divide by oven space. If it takes 45 minutes to cook a pan of lasagna, you need 208 pans to feed 5000 people from a 24-cut pan, and you can fit 4 pans in the oven at one time, then you need to turn the oven over 52 times.

52 times 45 minutes equals 2,340 minute or 39 hours to cook lasagna. Where are you going to keep the first 4 pans hot while you cook the others for 39 hours?  That's obviously not workable.

You've got a big job ahead of you. It takes a tremendous amount of organization and BIG production equipment to pull this off in a reasonable amount of time.

My usual disclaimer: You have an awesome responsibility to assure the safety of this food. Be sure you are familiar with correct cooking temperatures, keep a temperature log, assure the hot holding temperatures, keep a log, and assure the personal hygiene of everyone that produces or serves food.

Get out your calculator out and start multiplying these numbers. Get yourself a written plan.

Mass Production Cooking

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Chef Todd Mohr. CCE


I'd be glad to answer your questions about how basic cooking methods apply equally to cooking for two in your home, or 1000 for an event. Please don't ask me how much to order from the caterer or deli. That's up to them to consult you on. If you are doing the actual cooking, I can help. My expertise is in cooking for more than 100 people. Your questions concerning cooking methods, amount to purchase, portioning, strategies for food service, and food safety for large production are welcomed. There are plenty of recipe websites on the internet. Please don't ask me for recipes. I don't believe in written instructions for cooking anyway. The more information you give while asking your question, the better response I can give. "How do I feed 100 people at my daughter's wedding?" is too broad of a question. "If I plan to offer chicken and beef for 100 people, how much chicken should I purchase?" is a better question. Visit my website at LIKE ChefToddMohr on Facebook Subscribe to ChefToddMohr on YouTube


I'm certified by the American Culinary Federation as a Certified Culinary Educator. I'm currently a Chef Instructor at three different culinary schools in Baltimore, Maryland. Previously an Executive Chef at a large hospital, feeding 3000 people three times daily over 8 different menus. Also a Chef at The National Security Agency in Washington, DC, part of a team feeding 15,000 people twice daily. Then, General Manager/Executive Chef of various Business Dining Cafeterias, feeding thousands daily. My catering company has hosted many large events, feeding up to 1000 people.

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