How Much Food Should I Cater? – How Much Food Do I Need For A Party?

Planning a party or a get together with friends? It’s exciting. But, if you have agreed to prepare food for the event, it can also be stressful. Not only do you have to decide on what food to serve and consider everyone’s dietary needs, but you have to plan how much food to serve.

How Much Food Should I Cater - How Much Food Do I Need For A Party

You want to have enough food, so everyone can enjoy equal or similar amounts. You also don’t want to buy too much food, as it may go to waste. And that’s bad for both the environment, and your bank balance.

Thankfully, there are ways to calculate the right amount of food for a party. Yes, it may not be exact, but planning ahead can cut down on costs and leftovers.

We have done the research, so you don’t have to. Deciding how much food you need also help to determine your budget. And, we are going to tell you how to do this in today’s blog.

We have based our findings on traditional types of parties, such as summertime barbecues with friends, to help calculate how much food you may need. That way, you can be sure that your party will go without a hitch on the day.

So let’s get into it and answer that all important question: How much food should I cater?

Talking of the beloved Aussie barbecue, have you considered holding a Spit Roast as an event?

Calculating The Right Amount Of Food For Your Party

Before you head to the store and pick up your party’s supplies, there are a few factors to consider. Firstly, it’s important to note that every adult will consume approximately 1 (0.45kg) pound of food, on average, while youngsters will consume roughly 1/2 pound (0.22kg).

If you’re serving a buffet, reduce the main meal food portions by 1 to 2 ounces. That way, you’ll have a wider selection available.

Also, generally speaking, guests will be consuming more food and drink at night than they will in the daytime. So, consider what time of day you will be hosting the event.

There is no exact formula for calculating how much food and drink to serve at a party. Therefore, it’s almost impossible to know for sure the exact amount of food needed. That is why we are using some broad recommendations.

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Keep in mind that various aspects come into play, such as the duration of the party, the gender makeup of the guests (men tend to eat more than women), if there will be children (children tend to eat less than adults), and the quality of the cuisine you want to offer.

Top Tip: The bigger your selection of food and drink, the less you will need of each.

Below, we have set out some basic tips and guidelines to help you answer that all important question – How much food should I cater?

Organising the spread for an early morning event? See our Breakfast Catering Food Ideas


We recommend basing your estimate on five to eight appetisers per person and per hour. This is particularly important for parties where only appetisers and finger foods are offered.

If a meal is provided, on the other hand, limit yourself to three or four per guest, each hour prior to the meal. For a wider demographic, we suggest that you provide additional appetiser options.

We have some great Finger Catering Foods Ideas for you to try.

Main Course Or Full Meal

This depends on what you are serving and in what form. For instance, if you are serving multiple dishes, attempt to predict which of those will be the most appealing and popular amongst guests. Then, prepare additional amounts of this.

Serving sizes vary by dish, so if you’re having a buffet, ensure there is enough for everyone to try everything. Side dishes might be a little more difficult to estimate, but, on the whole, each dish’s serving should be around four ounces (100g) or one to two ounces less.

Do you have a birthday celebration coming up? Check out our Catering Food Ideas For Birthday Parties


You can’t have a party without some prepared salads. Okay, you can, but potato and pasta salads usually go down a storm with guests as they’re easy and quick to eat.

In general, one gallon of prepared salads (4.5L) should feed around 20 to 25 people. As for green salad, we suggest approximately one cup for every person and then adding the dressing on top. 

You can always call in outside help for your event. See our post on Coles Catering for some ideas on options and prices


The part most of your guests have been waiting for – dessert! But, some people don’t like desserts, while others adore it. That can make it very hard to estimate the correct amount for a party.

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A general rule of thumb is to serve single servings of desserts. Therefore, you can calculate what is needed a great deal easier. So, count the number of guests that are coming and have the same number of desserts or equivalent to.

However, we recommend having some extra dessert because, as we said, some people have a sweet tooth and always want a second helping.

When it comes to cakes, a nine-inch layer cake generally serves 10 to 12 people, whereas a nine-inch pie will serve 6 to 8 hungry mouths. 

You know how much food you want, but what does each catering tray hold? Our piece, How Many Catering Trays, has some guidelines.

Extras (Fruit And Veg Trays)

If you’re going full out and serving fruit and veg trays, half a cup of fruit should be enough for each guest. As for vegetables, around eight to twelve pieces should suffice per person. And, don’t forget the dip! 

Ensuring food stays chilled at an event can be a problem. Our post, Keeping Deli Meats & Fruit Cold At A Party has some tips.

Handy Tips

Handy Tips

It’s better to have too much than too little. So, always go a little overboard if you can. At least you will have some tasty leftovers for you and the family the next day. Or, you can ask guests to take some home with them.

Think a certain dish will go down a treat? Plan to make extra of this.

If you read the serving sizes on food packages, don’t always go by these. Consider whether the serving is deemed to be snack-sized or for a full meal. Once you know this, you can figure out how many servings are actually in a package. 

Finally, serve both light and heavy food options. Some people eat more than others, and some may not even be that hungry. If someone is very hungry, though, heavier food items will help fill them up quicker, so they don’t devour all other dishes. 

Why not theme the food? See our post on Thai Catering Food Ideas for some inspiration.

In Summary 

As you can see, working out the answer to How much food should I Cater? is not difficult, but it can be a little stressful. If you follow our guide, it should help you plan things a little easier.

Have a great party!

Dylan Cole

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