How Much Food Do I Need For My Event?

2011 Jun
Food Portions

How Much Food Do I Need For My Event?

by Louis Gervais / In Tips & Advice

When planning an event one of the most common questions people ask us is ‘How much food do I need?‘. Underestimating and having your guests leave hungry is just as bad as overestimating and having platters of wasted food. So how are you supposed to know how much is enough? We asked our Event & Sales Manager Heather Wright for her advice…

There are many different factors that will effect how much food you need for your event; whether it be a cocktail reception, company barbecue or a formal, plated wedding dinner.
While there is no set equation for portioning, by taking into consideration the following factors you will have a much clearer idea of how much is enough.

FACTOR 1- What time of day is your event being held?

  • Breakfast events are most often perceived as brunches and you should be prepared to offer a balance of filling proteins, expected baked goods and refreshing fruit. Don’t underestimate the hungry morning eater!
  • Surprisingly, lunches require the least amount of food. Simple and refreshing menus are essential to ensure that your guests are satisfied without being too full to enjoy the rest of your afternoon event. Ensure that you focus is on quality versus volume or variety and your diners will enjoy a refined mid-day meal without needing an afternoon nap.
  • Dinner guests have the highest expectations in terms of variety and volume. To ensure that guests are able to enjoy a substantial offering and variety allow a good portion of your evening to dining so that guests can indulge without leaving feeling too full. Reception canapes, relaxed dinners and late night snacks are all excellent tools for offering variety and volume at a relaxed pace. Rely on your caterer to help set appropriate volumes of food and a comfortable flow to service.

FACTOR 2-What is the guest mix?

  • Children under 13 will likely eat 1/2 an adult portion and most caterers will offer a discounted ‘child rate’.
  • Teenagers, while less adventurous than most adults, have voracious appetites and portions should be substantial to ensure they are satisfied.
  • Adult appetites vary greatly and a caterer will rely on you to interpret your guest list and provide direction as to portioning. Not surprisingly, men tend to have have larger appetites and events with mainly male guests should allow for larger portioning than is standard
  • Seniors have perhaps the smallest appetites of all and you can plan for smaller portions
  • International guests-consider that our neighbour’s to the South are fairly renowned for their large portions and appetites so ensure you prepare accordingly. By the same token, guests from Europe, Asia & South America are accustom to smaller portions and may be offended by an abundance.

FACTOR 3-Menu Style

Menu style effects portions so below are some simple equations for various types of menu:

  • Canapes
    1 canape for every 1/2 hour for a reception before dinner

    • example 1: if you are hosting a reception from 6pm-7pm and then serving dinner plan on 2 canapes per person

    1 canape for every 1/4 hour for a reception in lieu of dinner

    • example 2: if you are hosting a reception from 6pm-9pm and no dinner will be served we recommend a minimum of 12 canapes per person

    *note-if you have lots of big eaters consider supplementing your canapes with some platters (think artisan cheeses or crudites) that can provide additional options for hungry guests.

    View our quick Canape Ordering Guide here

  • Platters
    Caterers will have standard portion sizes for the platters. If platters are the main offering for your reception or dinner be sure to order for the number of guests you are expecting.
    If platters are being served as filler for a reception to supplement canapes, consider reducing the size of the platters to ensure you do not have too much excess. The amount you need to reduce by will ultimately depend on the caterer’s portion size and the hunger level of your guests
    Note-You may also want to request that the caterer re-plates any remaining food to serve as a late night snack later in the event.
  • Buffet
    Buffets are all about variety but can often lead to excess or wasted food. A professional caterer will have established portion sizes based on experience which will result in less wastage.
    At Louis Gervais we allow 8oz of protein per guest but this will vary per caterer. The more variety of dishes you offer the smaller the portion size of each dish is to ensure there is no excess.
    example-A menu that offers only steak will  provide 8oz of steak per person. A menu that offers steak and chicken will provide 4oz of steak and 4oz of chicken.
    Keep in mind that while there will be a portion for every guest should any guest decide to have more than one portion of any one item you may not have enough for all guests (remember when we mentioned above about hungry male diners)
  • Plated Dinners
    Plated dinners are the easiest to plan for assuming you are working with a professional caterer that has established portion sizes.
    The only variable in planning a plated dinner is the number of courses. Remember the more courses you offer the smaller the portion sizes for each course.

By taking these factors into consideration you will be able to work with your caterer to create a balanced menu that ensures your guests are satisfied without excess.

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About author

Louis Gervais

Louis Gervais is the award winning Executive Chef of Louis Gervais Fine Foods. His dynamic personality, passion for fine cuisine, and high standards are evident in every aspect of his business. Find Louis Gervais on Google.

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