Catering for parties is a challenging task that involves multiple dimensions and possibilities. Right from the issue of sourcing the ingredients, creating a menu, setting up wine pairings and segregating serving arrangement, the intricacies involved in catering a party is much.

However, one of the most important aspects of the catering process is calculating the quantity of food that will be prepared for guests. Note that the implication of this calculation are manifold. Once the quantity of food is not enough, it can embarrass the host and if it is more than the requirement, the food will go to waste, not speaking of the unnecessary cost of producing in excess.

There are a lot of factors that affect the calculation and plans you have to make when catering a party, these include the length of the party, the type of food you will be serving, the composition of men, women, and children in your group, as well as the richness of the food you plan to serve. The time of your party is also very crucial.

Have it in mind that an after – dinner cocktail party might require much less food than an all – afternoon barbecue. Not all parties or events feed equally and you shouldn’t feel pressure to overfeed if it is unnecessary. You only have to make sure you do your research and find out the type of food that is appropriate for each setting when entertaining.

One of the major attributes of a great caterer is the ability to judge just the right quantity of food to be prepared and just like it was stated above, there are several factors that can influence that decision. Here are some of the most important ones.

6 Factors That Will determine How Much Food, Meat or Pasta Per Person When Catering for a Party

1. Type of Party

What is the nature of the party? Is it a business event, a wedding or birthday party, or just a simple tea and snack gathering? Note that understanding the kind of party will go a long way to help you deduce vital clues. For instance, a business event is more or less a formal event whereas a wedding or birthday party can be more casual.

Have it in mind that at formal events, guests normally eat one serving and rarely get seconds, while a casual party it is the direct opposite where the guests almost always go back for seconds.

2. Number of Guests

This is a no – brainer and perhaps the best indicator of how much food should be prepared. Knowing the number of attendees to a party is the most important aspect of the planning process. It offers you the opportunity to calculate portions in bulk and avoid wastage. If you are contracted to offer catering services, request this figure two to three days before the party to allow time for planning.

3. Time of the Party

Also note that the time of the day will indicate the amount of food a guest would consume at a party. It is always advisable to enquire from the host when the function will be taking place as this determines the amount of food served. For instance, there may be only one serving in an after – dinner party but two in an all – afternoon setting.

4. Service Arrangement

Another factor that will influence food quantity is the mode of serving. You should consider if the food will be served as a buffet or plated. Both the arrangements are very different from each other. For instance, in a buffet – style event, guests usually help themselves to food whereas in a plated arrangement, there is a tendency for guests to eat less since the food and the table is being served by the server.

5. Budget

This is also another crucial factor and it is always advisable you discuss details of the budget during planning to avoid under-delivery or overshooting. Some hosts will want to minimise expenditure while to others money is not a problem. Discuss the expected menu and point out items that may be costly.

6. Draft a Menu

A menu specifies the food items that will be prepared and served in the event. Type of food items also plays a vital role in deciding the quantity. For instance, a menu dominated by deep-fried and rich foods will not require large quantities to be prepared as such foods generally fill people up quickly.

Nonetheless, a menu made up of lighter food items like seafood, salads, and snacks will need slightly larger quantities to meet likely demand. These factors mentioned above will surely influence the amount of food you are meant to prepare and the various portions you have to consider per person. Here is a simple guide to point you in the right direction.

  • Beef fillet: 200g per person
  • Beef joints on the bone: 320g per person
  • Canapés: 4 – 5 with drinks; 10 – 14 for main per person
  • Chicken breasts: 1 per person
  • Whole chicken: 1.5kg will feed 4
  • Fish fillets: 180g – 200g per person
  • Lamb chops: 2 per person
  • Cubed lamb: 225g trimmed per person
  • Lamb cutlets: 3 – 4 per person
  • Mince for burgers and pies: 170g per person
  • Mince for pasta:110g per person
  • Pasta: 80g for a starter; 100g for main per person
  • Potatoes: 110g – 185g per person
  • Shelled prawns:150g for a starter; 300g for main per person
  • Rice: 60g for a starter; 30g for a side dish per person
  • Soup: 300ml for a starter; 500ml for main per person

Tips and Guidelines to Consider

First and foremost, note that no single formula can explain how to calculate food portions when catering but there are general rules of thumb to guide you. Always consider these “rules of thumb” and write down your initial thoughts, also make room for adjustments as time goes.

  1. Calculate five appetizers per adult per hour for the first two hours of the event. Reduce the number to three per hour for children. For example, a catering party with 20 adults and 10 children would require a minimum of 130 individual appetizers per hour for the first two hours, for a total of 260 pieces.
  2. Figure on a 1 – lb. entrée serving per adult and a ½ – lb. portion per child. This entrée weight total includes a 4 – to 6 – oz. protein serving and all the side dishes. Condiments like sauces, dressings and salsas are not factored into this weight.
  3. Multiply the weight by the number of guests of each age group. Increase the total weight by 20 percent if no appetizers are being served prior to the entrée.
  4. Plan for 4 to 6 oz. of dessert per adult guest and 2 to 4 oz. per child. Use the higher end of the weight range for each guest if there was no appetizer course served. Multiply the estimated serving weight per person by the total number of each age group to get a dessert weight total.
  5. Always round up your estimates, don’t round them down.
  6. Anticipate which food selections will be most popular and serve more of them than the general portion guidelines suggest. For example, shellfish appetizers are always popular, so serve as much as your budget allows.
  7. Also assume your guests will taste everything on a buffet, but the tastes will be small. However, overall consumption per individual will be greater than if there were fewer choices.
  8. Take care of special requests
  9. People tend to eat more at buffets than when servers are available
  10. Always leave an allowance to cater for last minute attendees.
  11. Add “bulk” items to your menu. For a sit – down dinner have plenty of bread to fill in any hungry spots. When hosting a cocktail party, nuts, olives, pretzels, etc. provide a little extra security that you will have enough for all but requires no extra work.

Conclusion

It is imperative that every guest leaves happy and satisfied with the food and service but it is equally important that food does not waste. That is why calculating the food you need for a particular event is significant. These guidelines should help you understand how to calculate food portions for catering

Ajaero Tony Martins