Stress-Free Hosting: Your Trusted Caterer’s Guide to Food and Beverage Calculations

party food

Parties are supposed to be about having fun, but that doesn’t apply to the host all too often. Especially if you’re trying to tackle it yourself, they are a lot of work, and hosting a celebration comes with its challenges. First, there’s the planning. Is there a theme? Who’s on the guest list? What’s the budget? Regardless of size, throwing a party can be stressful, but not when you leave the planning to a pro like New Orleans caterer Messina’s Catering & Events.

One of the most important considerations is what to serve. Is it enough? A hungry guest is not happy if food is promised in the invite. The same can be said for beverages, alcoholic or otherwise. Delicious food can save a party and running out of it has ruined some of the best. Likewise, over-preparing out of fear is wasteful and costly. Of course, hiring a professional to cater your next in-home party or grand event in a stunning New Orleans venue is key to stressless hosting.

Be Strategic and Do the Math

Many factors must be considered, starting with who will be invited, how long the party lasts, and the composition of men, women, and children in attendance. When planning your party’s food and beverages, you need to know your guests. Is someone on the invite list a considerable eater? You’ll want to cover that large appetite. Does anyone have special dietary needs or food sensitivities? You’ll want to make sure your caterer provides ample alternative options for them. Are most of your guests vegetarians who will skip the charcuterie meats but demolish the veggie platters? You’ll need more crudités and less capicola. If children will be attending, you want to think about alternative food options just for them and have kid-friendly drinks on hand.

We plan for each adult to consume about one pound of food total, excluding dessert. Children typically consume about half that amount. When considering “small bite” foods like passed hors d’oeuvres and irresistible finger food versions of larger dishes (like sliders or mini tacos), the more options you have, the less you need of each. Different foods are appropriate for various events, and not all gatherings feed guests equally. Please don’t feel pressure to blow your budget overfeeding guests when it’s not necessary. We can steer you in the most cost-friendly direction.

party food calculator

Fortunately, We Do the Math for You

Planning a big event on your own can certainly be overwhelming, especially when figuring out how much food to buy and serve at your party. Together, we’ll sit down and crunch the numbers and come up with the best bang for your catering buck.

Buffet food

Your Event’s Setting is Important

In more formal situations, it is our experience that guests consume three to four appetizers per person, assuming a main course is being served. In more casual settings, guests typically enjoy four to six appetizers. When hosting a cocktail party, plan on serving four to six appetizers per person per hour. If you are putting out fruit and veggie trays, allow about one-half cup of fruit per person and about eight to ten vegetable pieces per person.

“Expert Tip” from a trusted caterer: have plenty of easy snack items on hand that require little prep work (nuts, pretzels, olives, chips) so guests have something to eat upon arriving before hot appetizers are served. Dips are also great starters and can easily be replenished.

Dinner is Served

Based on our experience, these estimations will help you budget what is needed for the main course. If you offer a choice of entrees, we can help you anticipate which will be the most popular and have extra on hand. The more options you serve, the smaller each portion size can be per person.

  • Meat/Seafood: 6 oz
  • Grains: 1.5 oz (as a side dish) or 2 oz (as a main dish)
  • Potatoes: 5 oz
  • Vegetables: 4 oz
  • Beans: 2 oz
  • Pasta: 4 oz
  • Leafy Green Salad: about one cup without dressing
  • Bread (buns, rolls, pita, etc.): 1 to 2 pieces (more if each piece is small)

For buffet dinner parties, we typically decrease the portion size of the main course(s) by one to two ounces, as guests will enjoy trying various dishes.

dinner party catering

Ending on a Sweet Note

Be sure to have extras on hand for those with a huge “sweet tooth.” A 9” layer cake will serve 10 to 12 guests, and a 9” pie will serve six to eight guests. For creamy desserts, allow 4 oz per serving and 5 oz. for ice cream. Many caterers recommend individual desserts in today’s Covid-conscious world, like pies in mini cast iron pans or dessert shooters. Having single-serving desserts makes it easy to calculate how many you’ll need.

Keeping Guests Hydrated

It’s not a party without drinks, and you’ll want your guests to stay “hydrated” throughout your event. Make sure your party bar is well stocked with bottled/sparkling water, even some mini versions of soda, and have plenty of cups/glasses on hand. The bar service can add up pretty quickly when planning a party. Here are some options that will keep you within budget:

  • Greet guests with a signature cocktail served punch-style or pre-poured into glasses. Plan on preparing 1 gallon per 10 guests.
  • A one-liter bottle of alcohol makes about 17 mixed drinks, allowing a quart of mixer for every three guests. Guests who prefer cocktails will consume three beverages each on average.
  • Pouring wine? Then plan on one bottle of wine per two guests. If your party is during the day and summer, white wine or rosé will be a more refreshing choice.
  • Champagne is always a party favorite. Plan on 1½ glasses of bubbly per person before the main course and three drinks per person are offered at dinner.
  • Beer drinking guests typically consume two drinks in the first hour and one drink every hour after that.
  • Serving liqueurs and after-dinner drinks? Plan for one drink per guest, with 15 glasses per bottle.
  • For guests who don’t drink alcoholic beverages or if you are not serving alcohol at the party, plan for three non-alcoholic drinks per person. These fun mocktails are the perfect option!
  • If you are offering alcohol, still plan for one non-alcoholic drink per person in addition to the alcoholic beverages.
  • Don’t forget the ice and garnishes! We typically bring one to two pounds of ice per guest (two if a summer party) and various festive drink garnishes.

catering bar

Make It the Best Party Ever!

We want to make sure you can spend quality time mingling with your guests instead of sweating the details. With careful planning and preparation and a caterer like Messina’s in your corner, you’ll be able to enjoy your party. To learn more, visit https://www.messinascatering.com.