Food portions for catering

Updated February 21, 2017

The hardest part of catering a party is determining how much food you will need. Without the proper guidelines, you could easily run out of food and have the party turn into a disaster. There are several factors you must consider when determining food portions for catering: how many people are attending, how long the evening will be, the timing of the courses and the type of food you are serving. And just to be safe, always round up when determining the amount of food and drinks you will need.


For parties, expect that people will drink about three beverages each. If you are serving coffee, remember that the most coffee is consumed in the morning, later afternoons and after they eat their meal. Coffee drinkers will usually consume about three drinks every 4 hours. It is important to remember to bring cream and sugar substitutes for those who can't eat dairy or real sugar.


When serving breakfast, expect your guests to eat about 142gr of the main entrée, and two to three side dishes of about 113gr each. Add bread or a starch and a sweet "dessert." If you are serving fruit salad, expect your guests to eat 1/2 to 1 cup, or three to five pieces of fruit per person. If you are only offering pastry, allot about two pieces per person.


Planning the portions for appetizers varies by the type of function you are catering. If you are planning an evening function with no dinner, provide enough food for 10 to 15 pieces per person. Keep in mind that people tend to eat more when appetizers are served buffet style rather than passed on trays. For an evening function with a dinner, allot three to five pieces per person. If you are planning appetizers for an early afternoon event prior to a meal, plan on your guests consuming one to three pieces per person.


Allot 142gr per person for your entrée, with two to three sides that are 113gr each. Remember to also allow one to two pieces of bread or a starch, and a dessert for each person. If you are serving buffet-style sandwiches, plan on each person eating 113gr of meat and 56.7gr of cheese per person, or one to two sandwiches each.


When serving dinner, you should plan to serve a 5- to 7-oz portion as an entrée, and two to three side dishes. If you are serving a vegetable as a side dish, you should allot 113gr, but if you are serving beans or pasta, only serve 56.7gr portions. Also serve bread and 28.4gr of salad without dressing.


If your dessert is a pastry, such as cake or tart, plan on your guests consuming one slice per person. If you are offering a creamy dessert, such as pudding or mousse, allot 113gr per person, and plan on 142gr portions if you are serving ice cream.

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Melissa McKean is a freelance writer based in Milwaukee, Wis. McKean has an expertise in web and SEO copywriting and has worked on both B2C and B2B lead generation and e-commerce websites to improve search engine rankings and usability. McKean has a bachelor's degree in advertising from Kent State University.