Aug 24 2017
Korsha Wilson
3 Minutes to read

Ordering food for a group can be tough. It’s easy to wonder if you have enough entrees and sides. Will the vegetarians be happy with the options? Will everyone be full and happy, so they can be awake and productive during the meeting or event?

When it’s your job to ensure catering portions are correct, it can be stressful. You know there are tips and tricks for what to order, but it’s time to take the guesswork out of determining how much to order. Make sure you get the right amount of food every time with these guidelines.

A Quick Guide to Ordering the Right Catering Portions

As a start, here is a basic guide to catering serving sizes per person:

  • Proteins like pulled pork or brisket: 4-5 ounces per person
  • Fried chicken or similar dishes: 3 pieces per person
  • Skewers and kebabs: 2 per person
  • Burritos: 1 per person
  • Tacos: 2 per person
  • Sushi: 8-10 pieces per person
  • Side dishes: 4 ounces per person

But these guidelines can differ based on your particular event. Alyssa Nagler, Manager of Caterer Content at ezCater, offers three main considerations for determining the catering portions for your next order: the type of event, the length of the event, and the type of cuisine you’re serving. Once you understand how these things can impact your order, you’ll never second guess your portions again.

How to Order the Proper Catering Portions for Your Next Event

1. What Type of Event Are You Hosting?

Nagler says, “I tell managers to focus on the type of event that they’re ordering for.” Attendees at a seated lunch and learn presentation will tend to eat more than attendees at a board meeting, so you’ll need to add an extra ounce or piece per person. “Guests at social events where everyone is mingling will also eat more,” Nagler adds. A safe catering portion estimate for the average breakfast or lunch event (if you’re ordering à la carte) is one main dish, two sides, and assorted beverages for each guest.

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2. How Long Is the Event?

The length of time is also a factor when determining how much to order. A 30-minute meeting probably requires fewer items than a lengthy lunch event. “If an event lasts for three hours I’m more likely to go back for seconds and thirds,” Nagler says with a laugh. Keep that in mind, as you want enough food to keep guests full over the course of the event or meeting. That could mean larger catering portion sizes of each dish to make that happen.

3. What Type of Cuisine Do You want to Serve?

The cuisine that you pick is going to impact the amount you should order Nagler says. “The type of food is very important. Vegetarian dishes are going to need a bit more volume per person or additional sides.” A salad that’s part of an all-vegetarian spread should be increased to five or six ounces per person. Heartier cuisines like Italian or Mexican are going to fill guests up pretty quickly and can be ordered without as many sides.

To make sure everyone has enough food, Nagler recommends thinking about ordering one pound of an entree dish for every three to four people first, and then adding 4-ounce side dishes or appetizers to complete the spread. “Start with an à la carte entree order per person and build from there,” Nagler advises. A barbecue order of ribs or pulled pork as the entree option may only need cornbread, coleslaw, and baked beans as the side dishes. An order of veggie tacos may need refried beans, guacamole, chips and salsa, and more to be filling for each guest.

4. ezCater’s Quantity Field Can Help

Using ezCater’s quantity field makes it easy to order the right amount of food for everyone. The amounts listed are verified by caterers, so you know the tray sizes are accurate. “One of the things that ezCater customers appreciate is that the caterers tell us how much their food serves,” Nagler says. “Catering packages and buffets are priced for your exact headcount, and everything is included.”

Not sure how to place your first order with ezCater?

This will help

Korsha Wilson

Written by:

Korsha Wilson

Korsha Wilson is a food writer and a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. She has worked in front of the house and back of the house roles in restaurants, as an intern for the National Restaurant Association, and spent two years working as a cheese maker for an artisanal mozzarella producer in New England. She is the founder of A Hungry Society, a blog and website dedicated to celebrating food culture’s diversity and helping create a more inclusive food world. When she’s not working you can find her at a restaurant or museum and if you want to see her geek out ask her about the role of restaurants in modern society or "real" crab cakes- she grew up in Maryland.

Posted in: Food at WorkOffice Management

Tagged with: Breakfast, Catering, Events and Meetings, Food Ordering, Lunch, Office Management