Estimating food quantities for parties, leave you confused?

Sep 7, 2010

Interior design is my area of expertise,  but my clients sometimes ask for help when planning a party.  While my father, a European trained chef, prefers to have very little left-over, he also possesses the skills and expertise to know, item by item, the exact right balance per person.   I, not a professional, believe it is best to err on the side of caution and have too much – nothing more embarrassing than not enough food!


Portion size per person ‘Rule of Thumb’

  • appetizers – 4-6 bites per hour
  • main course
    • meat, chicken, fish – 8 oz for one item, 6 oz for two items
    • pasta uncooked – 2.5 oz main dish, 1 oz for side dish
    • rice, grain uncooked – 2 oz main dish 1.5 oz for side dish
    • potatoes – 5 oz
    • veggies – 4 oz
    • salad – 2 cups main course, 1 cup side salad
  • Dessert
    • 1 slice of cake
    • 5 oz ice cream, gelato, sorbet
    • 4 oz of mousse pudding

Some Don’ts:

  • Unless this is a weight watchers or vegan gathering, avoid too many veggies for appetizers. While it is quick and easy to include a vegetable platter, if you notice, at the end of the party, those poor vegetables are still there feeling all neglected and ashamed that nobody wanted them. Veggies are for healthy eats, most people want to cut loose and enjoy themselves when they are out and really like to sin with company, and repent when they are alone.  So keep the veggies to a minimum.
  • Don’t put items with perishable ingredients, like mayo, in the sun for hours.
  • Don’t neglect your buffet, be sure to keep it filled or remove platters where everything is gone
  • Never let there be a last one or two because that means you didn’t make enough.

Some Dos:

  • Evaluate your guest list, all women, all men, kids, a mixed group
  • Evaluate the length of your party – all day will require more food than a cocktail party
  • With multiple items, think about which item will be most popular to ensure you have enough
  • Round up in your calculations
  • Learn from each party! If there is an item that hasn’t been touched, clearly not a crowd favorite – don’t serve it again. If you only have 0-2 cookies,  apps, etc. left, that means you didn’t make enough! It is seldom that a dish will be cleaned out, most people are too polite to take the last of anything. It is likely that if you have 1 or 2 of something left, that there were numerous people who would have had another but just didn’t feel right taking the last one – make 15% more next time.  If an item is empty, that means you way under estimated that dish and need to make 30% more next time.

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