Hosting a Party - How Much Should You Serve?

Posted by Laurie Louis on 8th Feb 2022

Hosting a Party - How Much Should You Serve?

A Southern Hostess loves entertaining and the one thing she always knows is how much food to serve to keep people happy. Here are a few tips to help you entertain like a Southern Hostess.

When planning your menu, there a couple of factors to think about. The length of your party, the type of food you'll be serving, the composition of men, women, and children in your group are the main ones. The time of your party is also very important. A cocktail party requires less food than an all day cookout. A dinner with all adults requires more food than one that includes children.

Rules of Thumb

  • Always round up when estimating food.
  • The more choices you offer the smaller the portion needed to provide of each choice.
  • If you serve a buffet, anticipate that everyone will want to taste each of the different items but that their portions will be smaller.
  • Does your menu have “bulk” items to fill up the guests. In the case of a sit down dinner, this would be bread. If you are hosting a cocktail party or having friends over to watch a football game, the “bulk” items would be olives and cheese cubes or nuts and pretzels, respectively.

Portions Per Person

  • Hors D'oeuvres
    • 6 Bites before a meal if hosting a dinner
    • 4-6 Bites per Hour if you are hosting a cocktail party
    • The longer the party, the more choices you should serve
  • Main Meal
    • Meat, fish or poultry - 6 ounces per person
    • Rice, grains - 1.5 ounces as a side dish, 2 ounces in a main dish
    • Potatoes - 5 ounces
    • Vegetables - 4 ounces, unless you have vegetarians and then increase their percentage
    • 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
    • Salad - 1 ounce without dressing, once again increase if you have vegetarian guests
  • Desserts
    • 1 slice cake, tart or pastry
    • 4 ounces creamy desserts such as pudding or mousse
    • 5 ounces ice cream
    • When serving two of the above, reduce each by a little less than half.
    • In the case of cake and ice cream, you would serve on smaller slice of cake, the same tart or pastry and then a smaller amount of ice cream

A Few Other Tips

  • Know your guests and their needs. Take into consideration any vegetarians or vegans and make sure you have items on your menu they can eat. If you have anyone with allergies, like shellfish, plan accordingly. Make sure to include another appetizer or main course they can eat instead.
  • Do not repeat the main ingredient. For example, if you serve shrimp in your appetizer, don’t serve a shrimp pasta as you main dish.
  • Offer both cold and hot items on your buffet.
  • When planning your drink menu, consider the type of party, the length and once again guests. Here is our quick drink calculator to help with your planning.
  • Keep in mind that these estimates are not exact and it’s ALWAYS better to have extras than not enough. You want your guests to remember your party fondly, not as going home hungry.