Catering for events is a complex job involving multiple dimensions and possibilities. Right from the nuances of sourcing the ingredients, creating a menu, setting up wine pairings and dividing serving arrangement, the gamut of hosting a catering event is wide open. One of these aspects is calculation of the quantity of food that will be prepared for the guests. The implications of this calculation are manifold. If the quantity of food is insufficient, it can embarrass the host in front of the guests and if it is more than the requirement, the food will go waste, not to mention the unnecessary cost of producing in excess.
The hallmark of a great caterer is their ability to judge just the right quantity of food to be prepared for a catering event. There are several factors that can help you decide it. Let’s look at the most important ones.
Type of Event
What is the nature of the event? Is it a business event, a wedding or birthday function, or a simple tea and snacks gathering? This can give you vital clues. For example, a business event is a formal event whereas a wedding or birthday function can be more casual. At formal events, guests typically eat one serving and rarely get seconds. On the other hand, at a casual function, it is exactly the opposite where the guests almost always go back for seconds.
You will also need to consider if the food will be served as a buffet or plated. Both the arrangements are very different from each other. In a buffet-style event, guests usually help themselves to more food whereas in a plated arrangement, there is a tendency for the guests to eat less since the food and the table is being served by the server.
Number of Guests
This is a no-brainer and perhaps the best indicator of how much food should be prepared. The hosts should be able to specify as exact a number as possible for the number of guests who will be attending the event. Give the host a deadline so that you are sure that the number will not change past that deadline. An accurate headcount helps eliminate wastage of food and extra expenses.
Draft a Menu
A menu specifies the food items that will be prepared and served in the event. Type of food items also plays a role in deciding the quantity. For example, a menu dominated by deep-fried and rich foods will not require large quantities to be prepared as such foods generally fill people up quickly. However, a menu consisting of lighter food items like seafood, salads, and snacks will need slightly larger quantities to meet likely demand.
Procuring the Correct Amount of Food
Based on the above factors, and using your experience and instinct, you must arrive at the correct figure for the amount of food to be prepared. As a general rule, it is generally best to prepare approximately 700 grams of food per person. In almost all situations, this is more than enough food for a single person. Divide this figure among the various dishes that you plan to make and then make an assessment about which items in the food menu will people like to eat the most. Again, as a thumb rule, people will consume more of the main dishes and less of side dishes.
As far as finger food items are concerned, you should prepare at least 2 items per person. If there is a substantial variety of appetisers, make small quantities of each of them and if there is a limited number of appetisers, make more of them.
When it comes to protein, a single chicken breast, 2-4 lamb cutlets or 2 lamb chops, or about 230 grams of beef per person should be enough. So, for an event of 50 people, you’ll need about 12 kilograms of chicken breast, 9 kilograms of pork, or 6 kilograms of fish. Double the number for a gathering of 100. If you are going to serve even larger groups, it is better to purchase by weight rather than by individual.
It is important that every guest leaves happy and satisfied with the food and service but it is equally important that food does not go waste. That is why calculating the food you need for a particular event is significant.