A Guide to Food and Drink Quantities When Catering


When you’re organising the catering for a business or social event, everything depends on planning. No one wants guests to leave feeling hungry, and oversupply of food and beverages can be a costly and preventable mistake. What to do? Let’s get started!

Five musts of successful catering

  • Count your RSVPs and always allow for unexpected guests. Notify your catering company as soon as you are aware of extra guests.
  • Take note of any special guest dietary requirements and supply these to your caterer.
  • Decide on the style and duration of your event. An all day conference will demand more food and beverages than, say, an evening cocktail party.
  • Choose your menu and pinpoint menu options that will be quick movers, like shellfish hor d’oeuvres, and increase the amount of these dishes.
  • Beverage selection is just as important as menu selection, so ensure you have the correct beverages for your occasion, in the right quantities.

Calculating the right food portions for any event can seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t need to be. A catering expert will communicate with you and advise on menu and quantity options while taking your budget into consideration.

A quick guideline for food quantities

You never want to be caught with not enough food or beverages. Whenever you are uncertain, err on the side of more food rather than less. If you run out of food or beverages, the negative reaction or your personal embarrassment will far outweigh the extra cost of catering a little more food.

It is important to have some idea about correctly estimating food portions and quantities to satisfy your guests and make for a memorable occasion. Here is a guide to how many pieces to provide:


Amount per guest

Hor d’oeuvres (pre dinner) 3-5 pieces
Hor d’oeuvres (as a meal) 10-15 pieces
Dinner entree 170-230 grams
Lunch entree 115-170 grams
Side dishes 85-130 grams
Salad 115 grams
Dessert 60-85 grams
Bread 2 rolls or slices

A quick guideline for beverage quantities

Allow for at least one beverage per person per hour for a 4 hour event. Remember to supply water and soft drink as not everyone will drink alcohol, and there are those who may want to switch to water or soft drink at some point. Here is a guide to some popular drinks and appropriate serving amounts for a group of 50 people.

Type of beverage

Number of servings

Amount for 50 people

Beer 1 case = 24 x 350ml 8 cases
Wine 1 bottle = 6 x 125ml 34 bottles
Champagne 1 bottle = 6 x 125ml 9 bottles
Punch 3.5L = 32 x 120ml 20 litres
Soft drink 1 case = 24 x 175ml 4 cases

Don’t forget breakfast

It is not unusual for business events and seminars to be scheduled at breakfast time,

and attendees may be hungry. Plan ahead and keep it simple with this guide:

  • Beverages – Plan on two beverages per person (coffee, juice, tea)
  • Mains – Allow for a single serve of about 120 grams
  • Side dishes – Allow for a choice of two sides per person
  • Pastries – Allow for two pastries per person if not serving a full breakfast

There is no question that planning any catered event can be daunting, but knowing the right portions for food and beverages is simple if you plan ahead and follow the easy guidelines listed above.

It is good to be reminded as you embark on your next catered venture that your guests, clients, or staff always remember an event where they have eaten and drunk well and walked away satisfied and enriched by the experience. Bon Appetite!

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