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How to Calculate Food Portions for Catering

Posted by Shoes For Crews Europe on 06-Jul-2017 08:02:00

manager inventory for catering

The most difficult task in catering for an event is learning how to calculate food portions for the number of guests and type of event you have. You don’t want people to go home hungry, but equally you don’t want to have too many leftovers, which is a waste of both money and time. How many bread rolls does each person need? What about appetisers? Desserts? Sides? Should you do some of all, and, if so, how much? SHOES FOR CREWS (Europe) Ltd. has come up with a budget guide, covering the most common catering situations.


Here’s a quick guide on how to calculate food portions for catering. 


Food Platters

When making food platters with small bites of a food, for general and fast calculation do the following:


Guests: ___ number of guests

End Result: ___ light snack (3 bites); ___ bridge the gap (6 bites); ___ full meal (10-12 bites)

Calculation: Guests X Bites = Total Bites

How Many Platters?: ___ Total Bites ÷ Bites per platter (example: 15) = Number of Platters



100 guests x Full Meal (10-12) = 1200 ÷ 15 = 80 platters
100 guests x Bridge the Gap (6) = 600 ÷ 15 = 40 platters

100 guests x Light Snack (3) = 300 ÷ 15 = 20 platters


So, for an event of 100 guests, you’ll need 80 platters to feed the guests at “full meal” capacity. You may feel the need to order 1-2 more than your calculation, but keep in mind that different guests have different levels of appetite. It’s best not to have too many leftovers since any extra time making extra bites costs your staff time, and costs you money in wasted ingredients.


catering dish crawfish and fruit

Expert Tidbit:

Make sure everyone on your staff knows what’s in the foods and what you have on offer. A guest may have allergies (such as a dairy allergy) or a preference (such as an aversion to mayonnaise), and you’ll want your staff to be able to point the guest in the direction of options he or she can eat. Make sure you do provide dairy free and nut free options for those with allergies and aversions as well as vegan and vegetarian options.


cheese board platter

 image credit

Platter Variety

There are a range of different platters you can prepare as long as you calculate the portions correctly. Try and provide variety for your guests so something will appeal to everyone. Here are some platter suggestions and what to include:


  • Fruit Platters: melon, pineapple, grapes, berries, seasonal fruit.
  • Meat and Cheese Platters: deli sliced beef, turkey, ham, other sliced meats optional; cheddar, swiss, or other sliced, regional cheeses; with salad vegetables: romaine lettuce, tomatoes, red onion, cucumber, and sprouts (cress); serve with mayo, mustard, and mini rolls.
  • Veggie Platter: carrots, grape tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, broccoli, cauliflower, bell peppers, celery, snow peas (sugar snaps), radishes, asparagus; serve with different dipping sauces.
  • Dips Platter: bruschetta topping, cheese dip, spinach-artichoke dip; serve with crostini and crackers for dipping.
  • Cheese and Crackers Platter: Serve assorted cheeses with crackers, digestive biscuits, chutneys, and fruit.
  • Antipasto Platter: castelvetrano olives, kalamata olives, roasted red peppers, garlic herb marinated mushrooms, artichoke hearts, prosciutto wrapped asparagus, fresh mozzarella cheese, roasted garlic cloves; serve with crostini and assorted bread rolls.
  • Fruit and Cheese Platter: seasonal fruits with a selection of cheeses; serve with bread and crackers.
  • Mediterranean Platter: falafel, quinoa, tabbouleh, hummus, pita bread, pesto drizzled feta, tzatziki.
  • Sandwich Platter: a series of pre-made sandwiches in a wide variety of options.  


Expert Tidbit:

Keep presentation in mind when designing platters. You want to make everything look attractive and appealing. Vary your colour choice too as it will not only look beautiful, but it will also provide a nutritionally varied meal for your guests.


buffed food closeup of  fruits, vegetables, meat and fish arranged on banquet table-1.jpeg

Catering Portions Chart

For a complete breakdown for buffet and table service portions, see our various charts. We have a chart that provides suggested portions for a single guest, 25 guests, and 50 guests - and can be scaled up or down accordingly. From appetizer portions to soups and stews to desserts and side dishes, we cover almost every type of food you'd need to include on your catering menu - with European metric and US imperial measurements included too - so everyone can understand the quantities with ease.


Expert Tidbit:

Keep in mind that it’s best to work in percentages of confirmed guests rather than ordering for your entire list. If, for example, 500 guests are expected, but you often only have 250 guests in attendance for previous (charity or public) events (not for set events with confirmed guests), then order 100% of one serving of, say, pasta (or your mains) but only 50% of your appetisers or other hors d’oeuvres items. As for desserts, it’s best to order less because many people often skip out on dessert to save their waistlines. You don’t want to put in all the work and have your dessert station untouched. Know the group you’re catering for. If it’s a charity event or gallery opening, use lower percentages; if it’s a wedding and you know that 90% of the guests are likely to attend, order at 90%. Err on the side of caution. Arrange for substitute menu items that can be quickly prepared if attendance exceeds expectations.



Appetisers or Hors D'oeuvres


Appetiser Type

Number of Different Appetisers

Per Person

25 guests

50 guests

Preceding a full meal (starter/snack)

At least 4

6-8 pieces

150-200 appetiser pieces/bites

300-400 appetiser pieces/bites

Used as a meal

At least 6

12-15 pieces

300-375 appetiser pieces/bites

600-750 appetiser pieces/bites




Type of Drink

Per Person

Soft Drinks (Soda/Pop/Squash)

1-2, 8 oz servings per hour (¼ litre, ½ pint)


1-2, 4 oz servings per hour (⅛ litre, ¼ pint)


1-2, 8 oz servings per hour (¼ litre, ½ pint)


1-2, 4 oz servings per hour (⅛ litre, ¼ pint)


Soups and Stews


Soup or Stew

Per Person

25 guests

50 guests

First course only

1 cup, ¼ litre, ½ pint

1.5 gallons (US),

6 ¼ litres,

12 ½ pints

3 ⅛ gallons (US),

12 ½ litres,

25 pints

Main meal

1 ½ to 2 cups, ½ litre, 1 pint

3 ⅛ gallons (US),

12 ½ litres,

25 pints

6 ¼ gallons (US)

25 litres,

50 pints


Entrees / Main Course



Per Person

25 guests

50 guests

Baby-back ribs, pork spare ribs,

beef short ribs

1 lb

½ kilo

25 lbs

11-12 kilos

50 lbs

22-23 kilos

Casserole / Shepherd’s or Cottage Pie

/ Fish Pie / Meat Pie with Crust, etc.


2-3, 13 X 9 inch casseroles,


2-3, 33 x 23 cm casseroles


4-5, 13 X 9 inch casseroles,


4-5, 33 x 23 cm casseroles


Chicken, Turkey, or Duck (boneless)

½ lb

¼ kilo

13 lbs

6 kilos

25 lbs

12 kilos

Chicken or Turkey (with bones)

¾ to 1 lb

⅓ kilo to ½ kilo

19 lbs

8 ½ - 9 kilos

38 lbs

17 ¼ - 18 kilos

Chilli, stew, stroganoff,

or other chopped meats

5-6 oz (US)

160-170 g

8 lbs

3 ½ - 4 kilos

15 lbs

6 ½ - 7 kilos

Ground beef

½ lb

¼ kilo

13 lbs

6 kilos

25 lbs

11-12 kilos

Lobster (2 lbs each, 1 kilo each)




Oysters, clams,

and mussels (medium to large)

6-10 pieces

100-160 pieces

200-260 pieces


4-5 oz

150 g

7 lbs

3 kilos

16 lbs

7-8 kilos


14 oz


22 lbs

10 kg

44 lbs

20 kg

Roast (with bone)

14 to 16 oz


22 to 25 lbs

10-12 kilos

47 to 50 lbs

21-23 kilos

Roast cuts (boneless)

½ lb

¼ kilo

13 lbs

6 kilos

25 lbs

11-12 kilos  


(large - 16-20 per lb; 23-33 per kg)

5-7 large shrimp/prawns

7 lbs

3 kilos

14 lbs

6 kilos

Steak cuts

(T-bone, porterhouse, ribeye)

16-24 oz

450-680g per person

16-24 oz per person

450-680 g per person

16-24 oz per person

450-680 g per person

Turkey (whole)

1 lb

½ kilo

25 lbs

11-12 kilos

50 lbs

22-23 kilos



Side Dishes


Side Dish

Per Person

25 guests

50 guests

Asparagus, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, sweetcorn kernels, peas, black-eyed peas, and so on (other vegetables or pulses)  

3-4 oz


4 lbs

1 ½ - 2 kilos

8 lbs

3 ½ - 4 kilos

Corn on the cob (broken in half when serving buffet-style)

1 ear

20 ears

45 ears

Pasta (cooked)

2-3 oz

3 ½ lbs

1 ½ - 2 kilos

7 lbs

3 - 3 ½ kilos

Potatoes and yams

1 medium

6 lbs

2 ½ - 3 kilos

12 lbs

5 ½ - 6 kiols

Rice and grains (cooked)

1 ½ oz

43 - 50 g

2 ½ lbs

1 - 1 ½ kilos

5 lbs

2 - 2 ½ kilos





Per Person

25 guests

50 guests

Brownies or bars

1 to 2 per person

2 ½ to 3 dozen

5 ½ to 6 dozen


2 inch wedge

2, 9 inch cheesecakes


4, 9 inch cheesecakes



1 cup

230 g serving

2, 9x9x2 inch pans

2, 23 x 23 x 5 cm pans

4, 9x9x2 inch pans

4, 23 x 23 x 5 cm pans

Cookies / Biscuits

2 to 3

3 to 4 dozen

6 to 8 dozen

Ice cream, gelato,

or sorbet

8 oz

½ pint

1 gallon (US)

6-7 pints

2 gallons (US)

13-14 pints

Layered cake

or angel food cake

1 slice

2, 8 inch cakes

2,  20 x 20 cm cakes

4, 8 inch cakes

4, 20 x 20 cm cakes

Pie (fruit)

3 inch wedge

7 ½ - 8 cm wedge

2 - 3, 9 inch pies

2 -3, 23 x 23 cm inch pies

4 - 5, 9 inch pies

2 -3, 23 x 23 cm inch pies

Puddings / mousses

(banana, chocolate, toffee, etc), trifles, and the like

1 cup

230 g serving

1 gallon

6-7 pints / 6 ½ kilos

2 gallons

13-14 pints / 12 ½ kilos

Sheet cake

(a full sheet cake is baked

in a 26 x 18 x 1-inch pan

/ 66 x 46 x 3 cm pan)

 2 x 2 inch piece

5 x 5 cm piece

¼ sheet cake

(Roughly 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan    or 33 x 23 x 5 cm)

½ sheet cake

(Roughly 15 x 10 x 1-inch baking pan or 38 x  26 x 3 cm)


catering buffet food outdoor in luxury restaurant with meat and colorful fruits


Expert Tidbit:

If your appetisers or hors d’oeuvres are served as a meal, but you have a filling food station available such as pasta or mashed potatoes, you can reduce your numbers of hot and cold hors d'oeuvres/appetisers. It’s always a good idea to include a filling item along with appetisers so no one goes away hungry.


Often when eating small bites, customers do not know how much they’re eating so it’s a game of filling their mental hunger as well as physical hunger. Filling foods are items like macaroni and cheese bites, chicken pakora, samosas, mini burgers, chicken and waffle bites, mini tacos, mini fruit pizzas, BBQ chicken bites, crescent rolls, cheese and pickle or fruit sticks, and more - basically anything with a higher protein or fat count - since as time passes, your guests’ stomachs will send the signal to their brains that they’re full.


Final Thoughts

Keep this chart as a rough estimate of the amounts you’ll need when catering an event. Whether it’s a sit down meal, a buffet, or canapes served on trays, you’ll now know how to calculate food portions for your guests.


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