How do you know how much food to prepare and serve?

October 26, 2021Lauren Windle

Successfully catered events require planning and attention to detail beforehand. Careful planning can reduce overall spending and food waste without sacrificing the requests of the client or the satisfaction of the attendees.

As with everything in this world, experience is the best teacher. And – there is a formula (of course!)

At Jacquie’s Gourmet Catering, we start with the final head count. Then, we look at the event details, such as:

  • Is the event formal, like a wedding, or casual, such as a retirement party?
  • The type of party absolutely affects what is served as well as how much attendees eat. (At formal events, guests typically eat one serving, but guests go back for seconds at casual events.)
  • How will the food will be served? Plated or buffet style means servers attend to the tables and guests. Guests are likely to help themselves to more food at a buffet than if it’s plated and served..

General rules of thumb

Caterers think in terms of 1 ½ pounds of food per adult as a starting place. In most situations this is more than enough food – but bear in mind this includes all food. People generally take more of the main dishes and less of the side dishes.

We also usually prepare more of a particular dish if there will be a limited number of appetizers, and less if there will be a substantial variety.

  • In general, we calculate five appetizers per adult per hour for the first two hours of the event.
  • We reduce the number to three per hour for children.
  • We assume a 1-lb. entree serving per adult and a 1/2-lb. portion per child. This entree weight total includes a 4- to 6-oz. protein serving and all the side dishes.
  • We increase the total weight by 20 percent if no appetizers are being served before the entree.

What about desserts?

Jacquie’s Gourmet Catering team plans for one 4 to 6 oz. of dessert per adult guest, and 2 to 4 oz. per child.

It’s easy to count serving slices on a wedding cake, but more difficult to figure out servings of ice cream, custards, and softer, harder to cut slices such as fruit pies.

It’s also a good idea to assume attendees will choose food that looks good to them on a buffet (including dessserts). But whether or not the desserts are actually eaten is another thing.

Jacquie’s cardinal rules:

  • Entrees are always served at their ideal temperatures. It’s important to you and important to us.
  • Everything we serve looks as great as it tastes. Presentation matters.
  • We plan for choosey eaters – such as the person who doesn’t care for the cheese in the sauce or the spice on the main course. We usually have something else to offer. Just ask us.
  • Special dietary needs are important to us, too. We want to know if your guest requires low sodium or gluten free. Let us know in advance for the best outcome, but generally we can offer a palatable substitute on the day of the event.

The most important rule for us at Jacquie’s Gourmet Catering? We never, ever, ever – run out of food. We always have extra on hand – it’s built into every party.

© 2024 Jacquie's Gourmet Catering. All Rights Reserved.
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