​Tips For Catering

How Much Food Do I Need?

Things to consider before you start planning a menu and figuring out how to calculate food for your next party.

  1. HOW MANY GUESTS WILL BE ATTENDING. The number of guests you'll be entertaining is the magic number in planning your party food.  Make sure you ask guest to RSVP, but if you don't hear from someone, it's safest to assume he or she will be in attendance.  To ensure you do not have to guess on your head count consider using RSVP Linkto take the guesswork out of your guest list.
  2. TIME OF DAY FOR THE PARTY. The time of day is important, because that can help dictate what types of food you'll be serving. For example, if the party runs over a mealtime you'll be expected to serve something substantial.  A night-time party or mid-afternoon gathering can get by with just appetizers and snacks.
  3. AGE RANGE OF GUESTS. You wouldn't think that the age range of the guests would be important for this aspect of party planning, but consider this: How much food would you prepare for a group of ten teenagers? Now, how much food would you prepare for ten senior citizens? Generally speaking, there can be a vast difference in appetites between ages.
  4. TYPE OF FOOD BEING SERVED. If you're planning on serving a meal, or have lots of food to choose from at a buffet table, you can easily cut back on the snack foods and appetizers for your party. Conversely, if you're relying on finger foods only to fill up your guests, you'll need to plan to have more of them on hand.

Calculating the Amount of Food Per Person

There is no magic formula or standard to decide on exactly how much food you'll need for a party.  Some people will eat more of less than expected, a few guests might not show up, or someone might even bring an extra person or two.  It's best to overestimate the amount of food by just a bit than to run out.  Keep in mind these are only guidelines.  Here are some suggestions for your party planning.

  • Appetizers - For parties in which only appetizers and finger foods are being served, base your estimate on five to eight appetizers per person, per hour.  If there is a meal included, you can cut back to three or four per person per hour before the meal.
  • Full Meals - If you're offering a choice of dishes, try to anticipate which one will be the most popular and have extras on hand or better yet ask your guests ahead of time for their entree choice.  Serving sizes will depend on the dishes, so if you go the buffet route, make sure you have enough for everyone to sample each dish.  Side dishes can be tricky, but you can estimate about four ounces of each dish as a serving.​

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