Having food at an event is often a crucial aspect of a party, especially if you’re also serving alcohol. It’s also a wonderful way to share culture and heritage or a theme with those who are joining you, so when it comes to planning a menu for your event or wedding, take a moment and be thoughtful about what you’re considering serving to your guests.
Consider Your Party’s Theme
Begin by thinking of the theme of your party. If you’re planning a wedding, perhaps some of the bride and groom’s favorite foods can be included. If you’re planning an event and have chosen a theme, you can do some research on which foods you would like to serve and would go well with the other elements of your event. For example, if your theme is “A Night in Paris,” you might serve French foods that fit with this concept.
Keep Food Allergies in Mind
Once you have established what type of food you would like to serve, you may consider your guest’s food allergy needs. People can be allergic to all kinds of things, including gluten and nuts, so it can be a good thing to consider these types of allergies when planning your menu.
Another option is to make sure that if there are ingredients that have any of the common allergens in them, to label them on the service table clearly. Ensure that the wait staff and/or servers are well versed in which foods contain what. You don’t want your guests to be waiting for an answer as to whether they can take a bite of their food or not!
How to Calculate Food and Drink for a Party
When it comes to portion sizes at parties, there is no one answer for every situation. There are many things you’ll need to take into consideration before determining how much food to have on hand for your guests. You’ll need to consider things like whether your event is in the daytime or nighttime.
If Your Event is in the Daytime
If your event is during the day, you’ll likely be able to serve less food per person, and you can serve lighter foods. Often you won’t need to plan on serving and appetizer for a daytime event, but there’s no right or wrong!
When offering appetizers at a daytime event before a meal, consider three to five servings per person per hour. If you’re only offering appetizers, consider six to eight pieces per person per hour. Remember that if you’re serving alcohol, be careful in the selection of appetizers. Make sure at least one of your choices includes a little bread or rice.
You can plan on offering a smaller portion of the side dishes if you’re planning a big meal with appetizers, main course, sides, and dessert. With green, pasta, or potato salad or rice dishes, you can end up with vats of side dishes left over if you don’t plan carefully! You can plan on between three and five ounces of potato or pasta salad, around one to two ounces for a rice dish, and a one or two-ounce portion of green salad with a large meal. You may consider offering four to six-ounce size portions for the potato, pasta salad, or an additional ounce of rice and green salad side dishes if there are no appetizers.
When you host an event during the day, the main dish can be any number of items from baked, fried, or barbequed meat to sandwiches. If you’re opting for the meatier side of things, you can plan for up to four to six-ounce per person for poultry, fish or meat, and six to eight-ounce of any vegetarian option.
If Your Event is in the Evening
Many of the same rules apply to your dinner menu as your lunch plan. If you’re offering a big main dish with lots of sides, you can lighten up on the portions for the appetizers, providing four to six pieces per person per hour. If you’re planning on having a happy hour that is more than an hour long, you might offer six to eight pieces per person per hour.
For a vegetable or potato side dish, you can plan on serving four ounces per person. For rice and other grain side dishes, two ounces per person is sufficient. If you’re serving a green salad, two ounces per person will be plenty with your evening meal.
When planning the dessert, you’ll want to work closely with your caterer to make sure that you are getting just what you envision for your event. If you are having a wedding and choose a traditional wedding cake as the dessert, you can plan for one slice per person. If you also have ice cream, you can serve five ounces of ice cream. But, if it’s served with the cake, you can plan on serving three ounces of ice cream on the side.
You can typically plan on around four-ounce servings to be adequate if you’re opting for a different kind of dessert.
How Many Beverages Should I Have on Hand?
Whether you have a daytime or evening affair, it is most important to make sure that you don’t run out of beverages for your guests. Whether you have an outdoor event in the warmer months or an indoor event in the evening, there are lots of options to make sure your guests stay properly hydrated.
During a Daytime Event
With a daytime event, you’ll want to be sure to have plenty of water on hand as the last thing you need is someone passing out due to dehydration! Water can be served in so many creative ways now that plain water isn’t the only choice. Infused water is quite popular and you or your caterer can infuse you water easily by adding slices of cucumber, lemon, lime or mint. Planning on your guests drinking three glasses of water is a good idea (and feel free to remind them that drinking water is a good idea to stay hydrated).
If you would like to serve wine during your daytime event, plan on two people to one bottle of wine, depending on your crowd. If your event is longer than two hours, you can prepare for an additional half bottle per person after the first two hours.
Serving beer is quite common for an outdoor event either by keg or by the bottle. If you’re serving by the bottle, you can plan on two bottles per person per hour. If you’ve tapped a keg, you can expect two beers per person per hour. Some will drink more, some less, but you won’t be in danger of running out!
You may want to stock up on soft drinks and juice if you have a lot of kids at your event. At a dry party (one that serves no alcohol), you can plan on three beverages per person per hour and a liter of water for every three of your guests.
During an Evening Event
With an event held in the evening after dinner, you may end up serving quite a bit of alcohol. You can plan on one bottle of wine per two people per hour and two bottles of beer per person per hour.
Remember that when you’re calculating how much to order, not everyone in your crowd will drink beer, wine, soda, and water, so be sure to think of how many of your friends and family drink what and order accordingly. If you don’t know the people on your guest list, take your best guess with the suggestions above and guess how much you’ll need for your event.
Another great thing to remember is that if the end of your party comes and there is beer left in the keg and/or wine and soda left over, have plans to take them home! Beverages will keep for some time, so even if you overshot your guest list, you would have plenty to share with friends after the party is all over!
Whether you are looking for a small event or want to host a larger celebration, The Foothills Event Center is a warm, welcoming place for you to gather together. You can count on the Event Coordinators at The Foothills to help you with every aspect of planning your celebration!
Speak with us about your needs and request a customized quote for your event. Call 530-271-1000 to schedule your private, complimentary tour of The Foothills Event Center.
Amanda assists with all aspects of the Foothills Event Center’s concerts, parties, celebrations, fundraisers, weddings, and other events. She observes our events as they happen, to ensure the clients and event attendees have a seamless event.