How Much Food To Order for a Party

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Top tips for ordering catered food

Consider yourself a crowd-pleaser

Your uncle may have an extra slider, or five. Your cousin’s girlfriend may have just brought her own vegan alternative. And the kids? You truly never know how much they will eat. We get it—guess-timating how much food to have at a party is almost up there with rocket science. This is why we’re here. Check our go-to numbers below to know how much food to order when catering a party. This way, if your brother’s dog snags a hot dog (again)... you can remain stress-free. You’ve accounted for that. 

Whether you’re hosting a graduation party, wedding shower, or backyard barbeque, follow this guide for how much food to order for catering.

Note: These numbers are not an absolute science (surprise, we’re actually not rocket science status). However, the great thing about serving food buffet style… see below and we’ll tell you all about why it’s great.

how much food to order for a party
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Appetizers & Sides 

To whet the palate or complete a meal, whether with charcuterie or crockpot meatballs. 

  • Appetizers: 6 per guest
  • ~Think finger foods like bruschetta, stuffed figs, fresh veggies & dip
  • Standard side dish: 1/2 cup - 1 cup per guest per side
  • ~Salads
  • ~Pastas: hot or cold
  • ~Roasted veggies
  • ~Chopped fruit
  • ~Potatoes
  • ~Broccoli salad
  • ~Mac & cheese
  • Bread: 1-2 rolls per guest
how much food to order for catering


The A-list actor of the day. 

  • Meat: 2.5 lbs of meat for every 10 people (ie italian beef, burgers, etc)
  • Sandwiches: 1.5 per guest (Some will have less, some more)
  • Pizza: Try this Pizza Calculator. Save some brainpower and eat sooner


Cherry on top, and candles on the cake.

  • Cake: 1 slice per guest
  • Cookies: 2-3 cookies 
  • Cupcakes: 1.5 per person


Bottled, bubbly, beer, and bold. 

how many drinks to have at a party
  • Rule of thumb: (2) drinks per person for the first hour, (1) per hour after
Pro Tip: Simplify your thought process and consider that you’ll only need to pick 1-2 items from each of the categories listed. Done. Mouths fed. Guests happy.

Perks of Buffet Style

As promised above, here is why buffet style is the way to go when hosting a larger group.

what food to order for a party


What we love about buffet style is minimizing food waste… since you can usually get away with ordering less food. Why? Because if there are individual slices/rolls/burgers/you-name-it, every guest will pick (at least) one serving each. Will they finish them? Unlikely. When you serve buffet-style meals, guests get to scoop what they think they will eat. Yes some will eat more, but others will eat less. Plus, you won’t need to stand anxiously counting the number of buns dwindling as guests continue to line up.

Dietary restrictions 

When everyone can pick their own food and see what ingredients are in each dish, this typically results in everyone being a lot happier… and you answering a lot less questions. From a food intolerance point of view, this also helps eliminate the uncertainty that guests with certain food allergies need to adhere to.

What to do with leftovers

If you love ‘em, keep ‘em. If you have a lot left over (which using this method, we don’t foresee that happening), have disposable containers available or Ziploc bags that guests can fill and take home. 

Just like that, your party planning continues along down your list. Now, time to pick out the dishes of choice for the big day. Will it be pesto chicken penne pasta or scalloped potatoes? We say both. 

More expert tips to amp up your next gathering:

Add these food orders to one of these parties by Partytrick:

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