How to Calculate Food Portions for a Party


Determining how much food to serve at a party might seem daunting. You don't want to run out, but you also don't want to be eating party leftovers for a month. And knowing exactly how to calculate party food portions can seem complicated. But if you follow a few simple steps, your guests will leave satisfied and your refrigerator will escape the leftover bulge.

How to Calculate Food Portions for a Party

Step 1

Decide whether the event will be a cocktail party or sit-down meal. Each requires different portions per guest, and each generally involves a different number of guests. Cocktail parties lend themselves to hors d'oeuvres and make it easier to feed more people quickly. For sit-down meals, you have to plan for a main course, side dishes and dessert.

Step 2

Send out invitations requesting an RSVP so that by a certain date, you'll know how many people to expect. Then plan for more. Although everyone might try everything on your cocktail party table once, some will go back for seconds and even thirds. If your party is a sit-down occasion, don't forget to add "filler" items, such as bread, to your menu.

Step 3

When hosting a cocktail party with hors d'oeuvres, plan on four to six bites per hour per person for the first couple of hours and about three for each subsequent hour. So if you're hosting 10 people for three hours, you'll want to have between 150 and 180 appetizers available, according to The Party Food Planning Guide. And keep in mind that some things will fly off the serving trays faster than others.

Step 4

When hosting a sit-down party, portion sizes depend on the number of courses you serve. If you're serving hors d'oeuvres prior to the meal, plan between six and eight bites per person. A general rule of thumb is that for meat courses, plan on four to six ounces per person. If pasta is on the menu, serve about one pound for every five people. Half a cup of vegetables is the standard. And if dessert is on the menu, which it should be, each guest should receive one full portion.

Things You'll Need

  • Invitation list
  • RSVP list
  • Menu


  • Party Food Planning Guide
  • Party Calculations
Keywords: party planning, portions, hors d' oeuvres, appetizers, sit-down dinner

About this Author

Allyson Ash has worked in journalism more than 20 years, covering topics from food to health care to entertainment. She has been published in a variety of newspapers, including the "Dallas Morning News," and on eHow.

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