How Much Food is Too Much?

There is more to food planning than simply deciding upon which foods you think your guests will enjoy eating.

One of the most common problems with hosting an event often centers on deciding how much food you should serve while staying within your budget.

Of course, you want plenty of food on hand for your attendees so no one leaves feeling hungry and unsatisfied. However, knowing how much food is too much can sometimes get a bit tricky.

You want enough food, but not too much left over that ends up in the garbage.

When you hire an experienced caterer, he or she knows exactly how much food is enough for various types of events. However, it helps when you also know a few simple guidelines for food planning.

Image courtesy of Apolonia at

Image courtesy of Apolonia at


Here are some food planning suggestions for ordering and/or preparing the right amount of food for your special event

Before you begin any other food planning, you should first answer the following questions:

  • Estimate (as close as possible) the total number of people who are attending your event.
  • What is the type and size of the event you are hosting?
  • How long will your event last?
  • What time of day is your event?

Once you have this information, you can more easily proceed with deciding the types of food you should serve as well as how much of it.

Food planning suggestions for hors d’oeuvres and appetizers


In one of our previous articles, “When to Serve Hors D’Oeuvres,” we touched upon the types of events where people most frequently serve hors d’oeuvres and/or appetizers: weddings, cocktail parties, and corporate events.

Once you know the size of your event and how long your event will last, you can move on to estimating how many hors d’oeuvres/appetizers you should have on hand.

These are guidelines which should help with your food planning:

Cocktail Parties: For events where you only plan on serving hors d’oeuvres/appetizers and no meal, plan on serving 10-15 per person.

Mid-Day Events: Plan on 1-3 per guest if you are also planning a lunch to follow.

Evening Events: Plan on 3-5 per guest if you are planning your event around a dinner.

Food planning suggestions for events which involve dinner

Needless to say, events with dinners require more food than any other event. This is especially true when your event is spread out over a few hours. When this is the case, your food planning should also include hors d’oeuvres and/or appetizers and beverages for both before and after the meal.

Here are guidelines for serving each guest:

Hors d’oeuvres/Appetizers: 3-5 for each person

Soup and Salad: Plan on having one for each guest

Main Course: Serve a single main entrée (up to 7 ounces) per guest

Sides: A good rule of thumb is having a selection of 3 sides per person, including one starch and one vegetable.

Beverages: 2-3 drinks per person (beer, wine, water, soft drinks, coffee or tea)

Desserts: Plan on serving 2 desserts per guest


Are you hosting an event and need a catering service in the Portland-Metro area? We would love to help you with all your catering needs. Feel free to contact us online or give us a call at (503) 222-4553 anytime.


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