How Do You Calculate Finger Foods? A Simple Way To Calculate Finger Food Quantities

One of the biggest challenges that caterers face on a daily basis is trying to estimate the finger food quantities that they need to supply for their clients. 

For sit-down meal courses like entrees and desserts, this is fairly straightforward – you need one portion per guest. However, when it comes to appetisers and finger foods, things can get tricky. 

How Do You Calculate Finger Foods - A Simple Way To Calculate Finger Food Quantities

How many pieces of finger food should you provide per head? Does this differ based on the length of the event? Should you have extras just in case? 

We’ll be answering all of your questions in this article and helping you to calculate finger foods more efficiently moving forward.

See our Finger Food Platter Ideas for some menu suggestions

Finger Food Factors To Consider

Before you can even start calculating how many finger foods you’ll need to provide for an event, you’ll need some important information on which to base your calculations. 

Your calculations for finger food quantities should be based on: 

The Number Of Guests Attending The Event

You’ll need to know how many guests are going to be at the event. This, obviously, tells you who many people you’ll be feeding.

Since catering orders are calculated on a per–head basis, this is a vital piece of information that you can’t start preparations without. So be sure to get this number from your client as early as possible in the process. 

Do you plan to lay on hot food? See our tips on Ways To Keep Food Warm For A Party

Of course, you can always buy an Ovente Electric Food Buffet Warmer to keep your warm dishes as the right temperature

The Ages Of The Guests In Attendance

You might not think to consider the ages of the guests who will be attending the event. However, this is actually a very important factor in working out how much finger food you should supply. 

A 5-year-old child, for example, will eat less than an adult at an event, so you’ll need to provide more finger food per head for adults than for children.

You don’t need to know exact ages, but it’s definitely helpful if you can get a number of adults and a number of children from your client before you start calculating finger food quantities. 

Are you organising a birthday party? Check out our post on Catering Ideas For Birthday Parties

The Type Of Finger Foods You’ll Be Serving

You’ve already determined that you’ll be serving finger food at the event you’re catering for, but what kind of finger food? Some pieces of finger food are smaller and less filling than others, after all. 

Let’s use sausage rolls and mini fruit skewers as an example. A sausage roll will be more filling than a tiny skewer with a strawberry, a grape, and a piece of melon. Therefore, you would need to provide more fruit skewers than sausage rolls. 

We’ve got some great suggestions for Finger Catering Foods Ideas

The Time Of Day At Which The Event Is Being Held

An event hosted in the middle of the afternoon will probably require fewer finger foods than an event that is being held close to a mealtime. Take into account the timing of the event when planning your finger food menu. 

Be inspired by our Filipino Catering Food Ideas

The Length Of The Event

Logically speaking, you’ll need to provide more finger foods per head for a two-hour event than a one-hour event. Make sure that you know how long the event will be before you start planning your finger food quantities. 

If the event is going to run for more than 4 hours, you might even want to consider serving party food in a couple of seperate courses.

Are you supplying food for a Breakfast or a Brunch gathering? We’ve got lots of tasty recommendations.

Finger Food Calculation Guidelines

Now that we have covered the different factors you should take into account when calculating finger foods, here are the numerical guidelines we recommend that you follow. 

These calculations will help you to estimate how many pieces of finger food you need for the event, based on the information above. 

Generally, you should plan to serve between 5 and 8 appetizers per head, per hour. Aim for 5 pieces of finger food per hour for children and 8 pieces per hour for adults. 

So, for example, if there will be 30 adults and 6 children at your event, and the event will be 2 hours long, you should plan to serve 480 pieces of finger food for the adults and 60 for the children, totalling 540 pieces altogether. 

One of the best things about smartly chosen finger food is that you don’t need cutlery. However, guests need to pick items up with something. That’s where these Bamboo Picks come in. They can be used as mini skewers (like toothpicks) to hold food.

If your finger foods are on the lighter side (take the example of fruit skewers again), you might want to provide a couple of extra pieces per person if it fits within your budget. For heavier finger food (think sausage rolls), sticking to the original calculation should be fine. 

Are you keen to keep the costs down? Our article on Catering For 100 Guests On A Budget might help.

Tips For Calculating Finger Foods 

Here are some extra tips for ensuring that everyone gets enough finger food at the event for which you’re doing the catering: 

Balance Lighter And Heavier Finger Foods

We mentioned earlier how the lightness or heaviness of finger food will impact how many pieces guests are likely to eat.

If you don’t want to have to adjust your calculations according to how heavy or light the food is, it’s best to have a light option and a heavy option and balance out the quantities. 

Are you thinking about launching a catering business? Our post on Is A Catering Business A Good Idea? is worth reading

Too Much Is Better Than Too Little

If you prepare too much food, the worst that can happen is that someone has to take home leftovers. If you prepare too little, on the other hand, you could end up with complaints from hungry guests, which isn’t the kind of customer feedback you want. 

Our article on Is The Food Catering Business Profitable? is useful if you’re looking to catering professionally.

Consider The Popularity Of Certain Foods

Going back to our fruit skewers vs. sausage roll example, it’s quite possible that more guests will be interested in the sausage rolls than the fruit-based finger foods.

Bear this in mind when calculating your finger food quantities and make sure to have an extra supply of anything you think might be especially popular. This will reduce the chances of anyone being disappointed. 

With this in mind, our piece on Popular Catering Dishes has some guidelines

Final Thoughts

Calculating finger foods for events as a caterer is an important task that can make or break the success of an event. 

As a general rule, you should plan to provide between 5 and 8 pieces of finger food per head when catering for an event. However, you should also consider the ages of the guests, the time and length of the event, and the popularity of certain foods. 

If in doubt, always plan to have more finger food than you need rather than risking running out of food during the event.

Dylan Cole
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