How Much Food To Serve A Group

An easy guide to help you plan your next meeting or event.

When planning a meeting or event for your organization, the key question becomes, "how much food to order'?

Hungry guests are hangry guests. The goal of our events, meetings and presentations is to have the attention of our guests. Hungry guests will often be distracted, irritated, and feel like they are in a rush. This doesn't setup your meeting for success. On the flip side, we aren't here to induce a food coma on our guests either. So let's continue our journey to find the perfect portions. 

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How many people are attending? Many planners already know that the number of guests will fluctuate up until the moment the meeting starts. Life goes on and guests can't make it for one reason or another. Adding to that, some events have the cut-off date to register the day of the actual event. It is in these situation that we have to come up with a strategy that can yield enough food while taking into account some no-shows and non-eaters. 

The method we use is to first start off with a minimum and maximum number. For example, 6-10, 10-20, 20-30, 30-40 etc.. You can see we first started out with six, because for most catering restaurants the minimum order starts with 5-6, and we then move into counting in blocks of 10. You may be asking, if I count in blocks of 10 that is already too much food for a group of say 15. But I'll explain below why this measure ends up being just the right block to count in. 

How much can they eat? Throwing away food just feels wrong and we try to avoid this situation at all times. We view food and the eating experience as a time to gather as a community, and not a time to practice gluttony and waste. So back to our question, how much food can someone eat. Just a quick look around will tell you this number is a major variable among individuals. For smaller groups, it is most often the case that you will know the attendees, so its easier to plan for Rich in finance who will devour enough for two interns, while Linda from marketing will only pick at dessert. For larger events, public events, we wont know what these type of individual habbits are so we will use a more general and average number. Over the years i've come to rely on a formula that has worked for most situation. Feel free to adjust this based on your particular groups habits. 

  1. Half a sandwich per guest and an additional quarter sandwich per half guest. The formula looks like this = (.5*number of guests) + (number of guests/2*.25). This formula for a crew of 9 you will end up with about 11 half pieces and for a crew of 10 you end up with about 12 half pieces. 
  2. That sounds low! In fact, this ends up being just the right amount of food to cover most variable guest situation without resulting in wasted food and overspending on budgets. Also consider that we recommend adding at least one side or two. Sides are most typically salads and chips, both a very popular choice. At Good Heart we've also incorporated other sides like our traditional hummus platter or mozzarella crisps. Variety keeps your events interesting and your guests perked. 

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The dessert debate! To serve or not to serve, that is the question. Of the things I've talked about in our article, this particular topic is the most debated. Though from our perspective, the controversy is a bit misguided. We do indeed live in a more educated and health conscious world, for the better. We've also researched and come to the conclusion that sugar can be dangerous, especially unnaturally concentrated versions of sugar. My grandmother suffered from diabetes and her struggle with it was both devastating and tragic. However, hers was an extreme case, sugar and sweets in moderation can and will benefit your meeting. It will serve to induce an elevated level of satiation for your guests. Desserts also act as caps to a meal time, after which your guests are mentally positioned to participate. Moderation being key. Our cookie platters serve fresh baked cookies that aren't too big, and our sweets trays are purposely cut into small cubed for a few bites of dessert heaven. Moderation is key to enjoying these sweets and your guests will thank you for including it with your order. 

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Beverages.  So far we've planned our main meal, our sides and a cap for the meal with dessert. But we haven't forgotten about beverages. We offer drinks in packs of six and have found that generally there should be about 1.25 beverages per person at your meeting. These types of drinks depend on your preference but for large groups we recommend canned beverages and bottled water. Juice is also available and we recommend ordering only .3 juice per guests if other drinks are included. In real life this translates to about 3 juices per 10 guests.

For breakfast or lunch coffee serves as the ultimate stimulant. We recommend ordering coffee for every breakfast order and coffee for long afternoon meetings. Our partnership with the Pasquini family ensure you get amazing locally roasted coffee for your events. Coffee is generally served in 96oz boxes and serves about 10 using 12 oz cups. As an alternative or replacement you can order tea which has a good amount of caffeine to keep guests perked and participating. For large events we generally recommend adding a decaf option as caffeine just simply isn't an option for those guests. 

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Conclusion.  We try to avoid food waste while satisfying our guests in order to have them participate and be active in our event. We have outlined a formula with to calculate the right amount of sandwiches or wraps and have recommend to add 1-2 sides to those sandwiches along with some sweets to cap the meal. Below I outline a few examples to give you an idea of what to order. 

Breakfast 9 Guests

Platter for 6-10

Fruit 6-10

Coffee 1

Tea 1

9 Guests for lunch

Platter for 6-10

Side salad

Beverages 2 six packs

Cookie platter. 

At Good Heart Catering, our package sizes come in 6-10 and 10-20. If you find yourself in a situation where you need to add a bit more for your crew, we can always add additional sandwiches individually. Speak to a catering concierge and we can help put together a memorable event.