How to calculate how much food for a party

Make sure you have the right amount of food and drinks to keep everyone happy at your next event! It's hard enough holding a party without worrying that everybody has enough to eat or drink, with this guide you can be sure that you don't under or over cater.

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How to figure out how much food you need for a party

How do you make sure all of your party guests go home full and happy, without having leftovers you’re eating for the next week? Or on the flip side, there’s enough that you don’t have to order takeaway pizza at the last minute? Thankfully there are some simple rules you can follow to make sure everyone has enough to fill their plates and your party goes off without a hitch! 

There are slightly different rules for finger food events and sit down meals. Consider your space, table capacity, servingware, guest list and the type of event. A family Christmas is usually a sit-down meal, whereas New Year’s Eve tends to involve more cocktail mingling. 

Once you’ve decided on your event of choice, here’s how to calculate how much food you’ll need.

How much food to provide at a cocktail party

Aim to provide around 6-8 courses of small bite size food per person. Each course should have enough for 1-1.5 pieces of food per person. When choosing recipes, consider whether you could eat it with one hand in one or two bites.

Check your guests’ dietary requirements. Gluten free and vegetarian options are usually the most commonly requested, and there are plenty of great recipes that everyone will enjoy.


Course: 1-2
Begin with lighter foods that are cold or room temperature, such as sushi, dips, cheeses and bread-based dishes for the first two courses.

Course: 3-4
Build up to more substantial foods for these courses. Choose from a slightly heavier selection of food. Try Vietnamese spring rolls, prawns, chicken skewers or mini pastry puffs.

Course: 5-8
For the last few courses, bring out the hot and meatier food. Pulled pork sliders, mini pies, hot meatballs and curry puffs are good choices. 

One or two pieces of a sweet finger food is optional, but a nice way to round off the party.

How much food to make for a sit-down meal

For a four course meal with canapes, entrée, main and dessert, follow this guide to ensure every guest has enough food. Don’t forget to check your guests’ dietary requirements too.

Canapes or finger food

Serve these as the guests are mingling, before they’re seated. Cater for each guest to have four small canapes each.


One entrée per person. 

For seafood entrées, cater the following amounts:
Prawns: unpeeled, 200g per person
Oysters: 3 per person


Depending on what type of meat you plan to serve, the weights will vary. Each guest should be allocated about 175g of protein or vegetarian substitute. The weight of uncooked meats is higher, to account for the meat shrinkage and/or bones.

  • Pork, lamb or beef: 200g uncooked, boneless weight per person. 
  • Chicken and turkey: 500g uncooked weight per person.
  • Seafood: 200g uncooked weight in fillets per person.
    Whole fish will yield different amounts of fillet. Let your fishmonger know how many guests you have and ask for their recommendation.
  • Vegetarian: 175g of cooked food per person. 
    Consider recipes with pasta, grains, eggs, tofu, tempeh and legumes. Eggs, tofu and tempeh won’t shrink much compared to meat. Grains and legumes will swell when cooked.


  • Salads: approx. 1 cup per person
  • Vegetables: 120g-130g of peeled and trimmed vegetables per person
  • Rolls or bread: 2 slices or rolls per person


  • 2 serves or pieces per person.
    If possible, provide two options. One fresh and fruity and one creamy or chocolatey.


Allow for 3-4 drinks per person.

The following is a rough guide to how many drinks each bottle of different types of drink will provide.

Sparkling wine: 750ml bottle = 6 x 125ml flutes
Wine: 750ml bottle = 5 x 150ml glasses
Spirits: 750ml bottle = 15 x 50ml nips 
Soft drink: 1.25L bottle = 6 x 200ml glasses
Fruit Juice: 2L bottle = 8 x 250ml glasses


Party recipes

Now you have a guide for how much food to provide, get started with some great recipes to captivate your guests. Find finger foods, mains, desserts and more, or check out these collections for more ideas.

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