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How much food do I need for a buffet? 5 tips for getting the quantity right at your next function

Planning the perfect function takes a lot of time, careful consideration and organisation. For many the task of organising an event can seem extremely stressful and daunting, but with the right tools the process can actually be a very exciting one.

One of the most important questions asked when planning a function is how much food you’ll need to cater for everyone. Over catering can end up running your budget too high – not to mention the waste of food, and under catering can lead to unsatisfied guests. Events that offer catered for food and buffet options often have higher expectations, so how do you make sure everyone is content? Here’s a few tips for getting the quantity right at your next function to ensure your guests are feeling full and happy!

Get +10 sample buffet menus, including economical, vegetarian, breakfast, hot and cold options →

1. The Importance of Good Preparation

Good prep is absolutely essential for a smooth running event and the right amounts of food. Before you begin, you’ll need to consider where the event will take place and how many people can fit into that space. Knowing how many people will be expected at your function will help to decipher exactly what type of buffet you’re going to run, for example: a fork buffet may be more practical for large crowds rather than finger food.

Other vital prep tools include how much space you will have to store the food and the type of food you wish to serve. The time of your event is a big indicator on what buffet options your guests may expect too and the longer your guests stay, the more they’ll consume as they are more likely to get hungry and thirsty all over again.

Additional points to consider for good preparation include:

• The length of the event.

• Type of food you want to serve, including hot or cold food.

• Know your guest profile including age bracket of people attending the event. Older groups tend to prefer a milder menu whereas younger guests opt for more variety.

• Anticipate for special diet needs or restrictions where possible.

• Don’t forget to take food safety into consideration too.

2. Appetisers

Appetisers can make the perfect pre-dinner snack or work well for an evening function that doesn’t require a full dinner buffet. If you’re serving appetiser before a buffet dinner make sure you only choose lighter options and allow for about 3-5 pieces per person. If you’re having a larger variety of food options, it’s best to serve them in smaller bite-sized portions – this way, guests can try a little bit of everything and tend to feel more satisfied by doing so.

For events with no dinner buffet planned, you can afford to have appetisers that are more substantial to complement beverages. If you’re serving the appetisers as a buffet style, it’s better to round up so plan at least 10-15 pieces per person. Buffet style appetisers will be more practical for larger groups of people.

3. Catering Quantities for a Breakfast Event

A breakfast event is renowned for fresh juices and coffee, complete with croissants and other pastry delights. As far as buffets go, breakfast tends to be a bit easier for catering quantities than a dinner buffet. A breakfast buffet should include a main entrée with two sides, one of them to be bread. Another side suggestion is fruit and you would aim for about 3-5 pieces per guest.

Usually attendees will drink 2-3 beverages on average, whether it be coffee juice or tea so ensure you have a few options available. Plan to serve 2 pieces of pastry per person as either a breakfast dessert or alongside the main entrée.

A good point to note, for both breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets is to not multiple everything by the number of people attending the event. You’ll find that the more guests you have, the less they tend to eat as there’s more mingling and networking encouraged. For example, catering quantities for a breakfast or dinner buffet for 50 attendees you would look at feeding only 45 and 100 attendees would only be about 90.

4. Cater Quantities for a Lunch Event

Similar to the breakfast buffet, a main entrée should be provided to guests at a lunch event. Ideally, 2-3 sides would need to be incorporated, including a starch side (bread or something fairly filling) and a small dessert. Chips, crackers, vegies and various dips are all inexpensive fill-ins to have as a backup if you find your guests are getting more peckish too.

If you do decide to include bite-sized sandwiches or baguettes for a lunch buffet too, allow for 1-2 per person. Fresh fruit platters are perfect for a lunch buffet side or as a dessert too, and like a breakfast buffet you can allow for 3-5 pieces per guest.

5. Dinner and Desserts

Dinner buffets tend to be more filling than other buffets so include the essentials – meat, fish, vegetables, potatoes, rice (or any grains) and cheese. The buffet should include enough for a main entrée for guests, with 2-3 sides per person. Smaller portions of breads, salads and soups can act as great fillers too.

As with breakfast and lunch buffets, dinner buffets should include a choice of dessert and a variety of beverages. Prepare for 1-3 dessert servings per guest and use options likes cakes, pastries, something creamy like a chocolate mousse and fresh fruit.

A great rule of thumb is whenever you’re planning an event buffet, always bulk up on items like potatoes, bread and salads if you’re ever worried about running out. These options are great for fillers and work out inexpensive too. By having a better idea on the best catering quantities to use and taking good food preparation into consideration, your next function is bound to be a success.

10 Sample Buffet Menus

When planning a buffet, it’s important to consider the tastes and dietary restrictions of your guests. Here are 3 (+2 economical) sample food plans that includes a variety of dishes to accommodate different preferences:

Sample buffet menu 1:

  • Appetizers:
    • Vegetable crudités with hummus and ranch dip
    • Mini quiches (vegetarian and meat options)
    • Bruschetta with tomato, basil, and mozzarella
    • Shrimp cocktail
  • Sides:
    • Mixed green salad with balsamic vinaigrette
    • Caprese salad with fresh mozzarella and basil
    • Grilled asparagus with lemon
    • Bread rolls with butter
  • Beverages:
    • Lemonade and iced tea
    • Soda and bottled water
    • Coffee and tea
  • Entrees:
    • Beef tenderloin with horseradish sauce
    • Grilled chicken with lemon-herb marinade
    • Baked salmon with dill cream sauce
    • Vegetarian lasagna
    • Garlic and herb roasted potatoes
    • Steamed vegetables
  • Desserts:
    • Chocolate cake
    • Assorted fruit platter
    • Mini cupcakes (assorted flavors)
    • Cheesecake bites (assorted flavors)

Get +10 more sample buffet menus, including economical, vegetarian, breakfast, hot and cold options →

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Jayde Ferguson

Jayde Ferguson

Jayde Ferguson writes for VenuesWest – Western Australia’s premier function venue provider.

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