Table setting for a wedding

Ordering the Perfect Catering Portions for Your Event

Community

When you have an event catered, you will need to know several factors to figure out the correct portions to order. Several things will affect what and how much food you need to order, including the type of event, time of d ay, duration of the event, number of attendees, and most importantly, your budget. The following is a breakdown of how to plan for the perfect amount of food and beverage for any event.

Type of Event

There are different types of events that usually determine what will be on the menu. Social events can include many types of gathering such as cocktail, retirement or birthday parties, and they will call for beverages, desserts and appetizers. These are best served using buffet style catering. Corporate gatherings can be a formal sit-down affair or a casual in-the-office meeting. Weddings can be substantial formal events or more relaxed outdoor gatherings. For formal sit-down meals, you will need more main portions and side dishes. For relaxed, casual events, you will need more appetizers and desserts.

Time of Day

If your event takes place during a main mealtime of the day, guests will want more food. These events can include breakfast, lunch, or dinner. However, events taking place between mealtimes will require less food. Think of things like brunches, afternoon tea, birthday parties, and evening events such as cocktail parties.

Duration, or How Long the Event Will Last

How long your event will last will help you determine how many portions of food or drinks you will need. You can figure this out by considering the type of food, the number of guests, and the number of hours the event will last. If you’re having a short casual event of 2 hours or less, you can plan on about 1–2 drinks, 6–8 appetizers, and 1–3 deserts per hour per guest. For formal extended events with sit-down meals, you can estimate about 1 ½ pounds of food per guest overall. More extended events with buffets will require more food, as guests will go back for seconds and thirds depending on how many hours the event lasts.

Number of Attendees

When you account for your guest list, you can make the assumption that only about 50% of them will actually show up. To avoid not having enough food, order enough for 75% of your guest list. It is easier to account for the number of guests you will need to feed with RSVP events—plan for 100% attendance, then add 20% more for the unexpected plus ones.

Your Budget

No matter the type of event, time of day, duration, or number of guests, your budget will determine the menu. A smaller budget might make you consider holding your event at an off-mealtime of day, while a large budget will allow for more formal mealtime and sit-down events. Your budget needs to include servers, costs of cutlery and dishes, tables, chairs, and decorations. You might choose to separate your budget to a certain amount just for the food and drinks and another budget for all rentals, decorations, and contracted services such as waiters, DJs, photographers, etc. Remember to include your contractors in your menu ordering, especially for lengthier events where they will need to be fed.

Food and drinks are an important part of any event, and running out of either would certainly hurt the mood and reflect poorly on the planners. We hope this list of things to consider and recommendations will make it easier for you to order the perfect amount of libation next time you’re helping to plan an event.

Menu