How to calculate food amounts for a party

Updated April 17, 2017

Many party hosts feel the pressure of making sure they have enough food for the amount of guests they are expecting to the party. You want to make sure you order enough food so that each guest gets enough, but you don't want to have a lot of leftover food after the party that will go to waste. Learn how to calculate how much food you will need for a party like the pros do.

Determine how many guests you expect to attend the party. For relatively large parties, insert RSVP cards in your invitations, with sufficient postage, so that your guests can send them back to you with the number of guests attending per family. For smaller parties, call the guest to confirm how many people will be attending. While you won't be able to determine an exact figure, you can estimate the number of guests.

Decide on the menu. Plan how many different types of appetizers, desserts, and drinks to serve. Also, decide on the main dish and any side dishes to serve.

Calculate the amount per guest. Use the Birmingham Party Planning food chart (see resources) to calculate how much food you need per guest. Find the type of food and beverages you're serving and multiply the portion amounts by the number of guests. For example, if you're serving shrimp appetizers, the rule of thumb is to plan for four pieces of shrimp for each guest. If you are expecting 20 guests, then plan for 80 pieces of shrimp (4 pieces of shrimp X 20 guests = 80- pieces of shrimp).


Have food containers available to pack leftovers for your guests, so that the food doesn't go to waste.

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About the Author

Shreya Mehta graduated from the University of Massachusetts with a Bachelors degree in business administration with a double concentration in finance and MIS. She attended Bentley College to obtain a MBA in finance and Masters in IT. She has been working for a financial software company for the past three years as an associate content manager.