Feeding a Large Group


Quantity Calculations for Large Groups of People


Hors d'oeuvres/appetizers:
  • 6 bites per person before a meal
  • The longer your party and the larger your guest list, the greater the number of selections you should offer
  • Estimate 10-12 items total per person when only appetizers are being served, such as at an Open House.

Main Entree:
  • 6 ounces protein (main dish serving) per person if serving just one meat selection
  • 8 ounces protein (main dish serving) per person if serving more than one meat selection, such as beef and chicken or hot dogs and hamburgers.
  • Take bones into account and add more weight if necessary.
  • Side dishes: 3 side dishes recommended (2 savory, 1 sweet) with different textures (smooth, crunchy) and varying colors (greens, browns).
Side Dishes

Amounts given below are "per person".

1 cup savory side per person
1/2 cup sweet side per person (apple sauce, cranberry sauce, etc.)
Rice, grains - 1.5 ounces as a side dish
Potatoes - 5 ounces
Vegetables - 4 ounces
Beans - 2 ounces as a side dish
Pasta - 2 ounces for a side dish, 3 ounces for a first course, 4 ounces for a main dish
Green Salad - 1 ounce undressed weight
With a premixed salad, estimate one handful person.
One head of lettuce will feed about 5 people, taking into account different sizes--four medium heads will serve 15-20
Coffee-Use 1 pound of coffee for 50 8 ounce servings.
Tea- Use 1 cup of Tea Leaves for 50 8 ounce servings.
Cream for Coffee- 1 pint for 25 servings.
On the average, expect guests to drink 2 drinks or servings of a nonalcoholic beverage the first hour and 1 each hour thereafter. Remember, people drink more when the weather is warm.

  • Calculate one full portion of dessert per person
  • For multiple desserts, people will taste smaller portions of more items.
  • A cake that serves 10 will yield 15 portions if you're also serving a creamy dessert

2-3 scoops of ice cream, yogurt or sorbet per person
3-4 mini-pastries per person,
2-3 pieces of fruit per person
2-3 thin slices of cake or pie per person
1 slice cake, tart or pastry per person
4 ounces creamy dessert such as pudding or mousse per person
5 ounces ice cream per person

Menu planning tips

  • Don't repeat a main ingredient. For example, don't serve a shrimp appetizer and shrimp main dish.
  • One 9x12 pan will feed 10-12 people a main dish
  • Consider the colors of the food that will be served together and make sure there is variety.
  • Offer both hot and cold foods on a buffet.
  • Mix textures of side dishes, such as a crisp or crunchy item served with a soft vegetable, like mashed potatoes.
  • Remember-- 8 oz. = 1 cup measurement
  • Always round up your estimates, don't round them down.
  • Anticipate which food selections will be most popular and serve more of them than the general portion guidelines suggest. For example, shellfish appetizers are always popular, so serve as much as your budget allows.
  • The more choices you offer, the smaller your calculation of individual portion size should be. That said, you can assume your guests will taste everything on a buffet, but the tastes will be small. However, overall consumption per individual will be greater than if there were fewer choices.
  • Add "bulk" items to your menu. For a sit-down dinner have plenty of bread to fill in any hungry spots. When hosting an Open House, nuts, olives, pretzels, etc. provide a little extra security that you'll have enough for all but requires no extra work.
  • Choose foods that taste good at room temperature unless you have the use of chaffing dishes or servers standing by to refill hot dishes.
  • One thing all buffet food must have in common, though, is that it must be easy to get from plate to mouth and not require much in the way of cutting.
  • Unless you're planning a formal sit-down buffet with properly set tables, chances are good that your guests are going to be doing a bit of lap juggling. Think bite-size fork food. (Tough meats and long, unwieldy strands of pasta are out.)
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