That is one of the most often asked question in catering.
Well, how much do I need?
For starters, if you order from us you don't have to worry about that. But if you are planning on doing some cooking for your family or a party or maybe a combination of catering and cooking; that is an important question.
What I will do here is give you what we use as guidelines for a few situations. Remember there are many variables in this type of calculation and you have be aware of them all.
First Variations that you need to account for
Time of day
Type of Crowd
What Kind Of Party
General rules for a cocktail party when people are drinking and mingling and there is no meal being served is:
If Hors d' oeuvres are passed:
Make sure to have a few filling items like
mini muffalatas or
mini croissant sandwiches
If budget permits, you could have a carving station with rolls and condiments
If buffet style:
7 to 9 portions per person per hour for 2 hours
4 to 5 per person per hour after that.
People think you save money on the buffet because of less staff, but you need more food because people can grab at their leisure. With passed Hors d' oeuvres people eat less, because they feel like they have to leave something for the other people on the tray.
Passed Hors de ourvers with a meal to follow
General rules are:
Usually this is only for 1 hour
You should make some of these filling so people don't over serve themselves on the buffet. Again, if the appetizers/hor de ourvers are on a buffet you have to up that to:
Also by filling them up on the passed hors de ourvers before you open the buffet you will need little less on the buffet.
Hors d' oeuvres Calculator
Two tabs one for cocktail only party and one for a hour of cocktails then buffet.
General rules are, you want to set up your buffet to lead people through it quickly and to guide them to the filling less expensive items first.
For a full buffet you want to have things at the beginning of the line that are inexpensive yet filling. So, you want to start the buffet with salad, bite size sandwiches, deviled eggs, fruit, cheese and veggie displays. Then you go with a pasta because everyone loves pasta and it is filling. Next go to the sides like mash potatoes, corn grits or rice then the entree that goes with that side like smothered pork, or red beans.
There are some caveats to these rules and you have to adjust to the needs of your crowd. For example if a large group is coming all at once you want to break up the stations, if possible, to different areas of the room to spread people out. Also, if possible, be able to serve from both sides of the table.
If you don't have the room you may want to put the slow serving items like something you have to build such as a taco bar or a carving station or even fruit and cheese and vegges at the end so it doesn't slow up the line.
Serving sizes for a buffet
Salad about 1 oz per person (we find people don't eat this as much as you would think.) If you feel like you have a big salad crowd you could up that to 2 or even 3 oz per person. 1 oz is on the low side but we find it works.
Fruit, cheese, veggies, about 1 oz per person for each item. If you are only having 1 or 2 of these items up that to 1.5 oz per person.
1 entree only:
1 pasta entree would be 6 to 8 oz per person
1 meat entree would be 3 to 5 oz per person
2 Entree's with one being pasta
Pasta 4 to 6 oz per person
Meat 2 to 3 oz per person
Enough sides to go with the item if it is complimentary, such as mashed potatoes and roast beef. You should have 2 to 3 oz per person
about 2 oz per person like green beans
Depends on your crowd and usually the hardest to gage.
We have about 80% of the count in servings. It depends on when the dessert will be served (early or late) Is it something special or something you see all the time. Is it a center piece or just available. Time of day is important too because if the dessert is not presented like a wedding cake until the end of the event a lot of people may have left. (Note to brides to remember that when ordering their wedding cakes)
Issues with more choices:
Makes it more expensive for you or for a caterer
More prep for you if you are doing the work
More display trays
Running out of popular items early
The more choices the harder it is to get the perfect amount.
If you have enough for everyone on every dish you will have too much. If you cut back too much, you could run out of a popular item.
If you are on budget keep it simple. If you are on a budget but want variety, have a cocktail hour for variety and keep the buffet simple.