Calculating the amount of food needed for a catered event is both a science and an art. Experience helps determine what dishes are popular and which appetizers end up ignored. Learning from experience is one of our important portioning tips for event catering. Learn more here.
Consider Event Type and Time
People will eat more at a sit-down dinner than at a conference or business meeting buffet. But more food is likely to go to waste on a buffet if there are too many options to choose from. Basic menu planning dictates the number of ounces or pieces for appetizers, sides, and entrees. Online worksheets give varying portion size estimates. But any of them will work with this basic mathematical formula: multiply the recommended weight or number of pieces by the number of guests.
So many people restrict their carb intake these days that a large percentage of a pastry and bagel-laden breakfast buffet can go to waste. Offer fruits, whole grain cereals, and perhaps breakfast burritos instead.
Likewise, more people have adopted a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. Offer plant-based options, and don’t forget to consider common allergens like nuts.
Use smaller plates so that guests won’t pile on foods they won’t eat. Consider presenting buffet foods packed in individual portions. Disposable plastic dessert cups with lids keep single-serving sweets fresh and ready while minimizing plates laden with uneaten food.
Leftovers represent wasted money to the host. However, event sponsors will be happier if their guests have had plenty to eat and don’t leave complaining that the food ran out. An important portioning tip for event catering is to build a small amount of overage into your portioning plan.
The past two years have taught everyone that the only thing they can be certain of is uncertainty. Be ready to adjust when the host decides to move the event outdoors or slashes the guest lists suddenly. However, set a deadline for when to lock in the headcount so that you can finalize quantities.
Ultimately, the focus is on the food itself, not how much of it you serve. Caterers live by their reputations for serving elegantly presented and delicious meals. Just as in show business, the phrase “always leave them wanting more” describes a successful performance.