How to Order the Perfect Amount of Food for Your Locally Catered Event

When you host a special event, wedding or corporate event you want to make sure that you have enough food for everyone you’re expecting. There’s nothing worse than running out of food mid-way through. Working with a professional, local caterer like Maison Culinaire makes this job easier because we are used to catering large events and work with a formula guaranteed to supply enough food for all.

Here’s how to determine how much food you need for your catered event.

Structure the Type of Event

How the event is structured is essential to knowing how much food you need. Is it a standing cocktail hour or a sit-down formal wedding dinner? Is it a corporate breakfast or a three-hour reception? If your event is short (an hour or less), your guests will need only one service apiece. However, if you are hosting a 3+-hour meal, your guests will likely return for seconds or thirds with a buffet or reception-type event. Even the time of day will determine the food amounts needed.

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Get the Head Count

It’s very important to know how many guests you will be expecting for your event. Caterers work their formulas with the “head count” in order to make enough food.


Choose the Service Style

Will you be serving a 5-course seated dinner, a barbecue, or buffet? Will guests be standing or seated? Is the event formal or informal? Seated dinners are planned by the number of guests, while buffet- or canapé-style service can be determined by both the number of guests and the length of the event.

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Determine your Budget

How much you have to spend on a meal greatly affects the type of meal you will be serving. If you want to be economical, simple dishes like pasta, Mexican or barbecue work well. For more elaborate meals, think steak, lamb or seafood.


Select the Menu

The selection of food served impacts the amount of food needed for an event. If your menu is vegetarian, you will need a greater quantity of food to accommodate hungry guests, while a heavy meal like Italian or barbecue will require less food. If you are serving casual fare like hamburgers, you can get away with simple side dishes like coleslaw, fries or chips. When serving more elaborate fare, like beef or salmon, you will want your side dishes to reflect a higher-end style of food, like potatoes and vegetables. You generally start with the entrée and build up from there.

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Want to Know How Much Food to Serve?

Here is a quick rule-of-thumb guide for various foods, per person, cooked:

  • Cheese appetizer: 4 ounces
  • Beef, lamb or pork: 4-6 ounces
  • Chicken: 4-6 ounces
  • Fish: 3-4 ounces
  • Shrimp: 6-7 medium
  • Ribs: 1 pound
  • Fried chicken: 3 pieces
  • Kabobs: 2
  • Potatoes: 1/2 cup
  • Lettuce: 1 cup
  • Fruit, 1/2 -3/4 cup
  • Vegetables: 4 ounces or ½ cup
  • Bread: 2 rolls or slices
  • Dessert: 1 serving for cakes or pies

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Expert Catering by Maison Culinaire

There’s no need to worry about how much food to order when you work with a professional caterer like Maison Culinaire. We’ve been doing this long enough that we know exactly what to make. Our chef Sus will discuss your event with you and offer a variety of menu choices based on the size and style of your event and the number of guests you expect.


We encourage you to ask questions. Planning an event—especially a large event or a wedding—can be overwhelming, especially when you know it must be perfect. That’s what we’re here for. As full-service catering experts, our event planning staff will be glad to walk you through the planning process, and also help you with any extra arrangements such as flowers, decorations, table and chair rentals, entertainment, and more.


For impeccable food, artistry and flawless service for events in Northern Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C., contact Maison Culinaire.

Topics: Catering, Corporate Catering, Special Occaisions, Event Catering, Advice, Tips, Spring Catering

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Written by Maison Culinaire

A luxury catering firm for weddings, special events and corporate events, in Northern Virginia, Washington, D.C. and Montgomery County, Maryland.

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