As much as you and your staff may love the food from a favorite restaurant or caterer, there’s definitely a point where over-ordering can become a burden. Piles of leftovers after a catered lunch mean wasted money and increased stress. On the other hand, no one wants the embarrassment of not having enough to go around. (Cue the furtive scrounging in the office fridge for something—anything!—to round out a skimpy catered meal.)
While ordering the right amount isn’t an exact science, some helpful considerations can help you hit the mark of just-enough-and-not-too-much. Here are CaterSquad’s top tips.
Lunch is served…but how?
Not surprisingly, the different types of food service—from boxed lunches to buffet service and everything in between—will dictate much of your decision-making for portions. Naturally, when your staff selects their preferred individual meals, ordering is a no-brainer. Simply let everyone make their menu selection and your work is done! But with buffet service or a combination of individual and communal foods, things get a little trickier.
In general, for a buffet, a basic template of one main dish, two sides, and drinks is a useful jumping-off point. Once you’ve established these categories, you can make calculations of how much to order. Seasoned caterer Nicole Aloni offers per-person measurements for common foods in her book Secrets From a Caterer’s Kitchen, including:
Poultry, boneless: ½ pound
Pork: 14 ounces
Ground meat: ½ pound
Steak, boneless: ½ pound
Green salad: 1 cup
Vegetables: 3-4 oz.
Pasta: 4 ounces
Cakes: 1 slice
Cookies and brownies: 1 to 2
To make calculations even easier, opt for self-contained main dishes like sandwiches, burritos, or gyros. For these choices, one per person should suffice.
How long is your event?
When deciding how much food to order, it’s also important to ask yourself how long an event will last. During an office holiday party that spans an entire evening, for example, employees will likely continue to nibble for hours—so pad your order with extra servings of food and drinks.
It’s not just parties that require more food! Any time folks will be lingering over their plates for a lengthier stretch, they’ll probably consume more. For lunch and learns, presentations, or longer trainings, consider ordering an extra ounce or two per person of each catered dish. However, for a quick one-on-one or a meeting where all attendees participate, there’s less time to sit and nosh, so this type of event may not require as much food.
Fill in the gaps with extras
Still feeling uncertain about the amount of food to order? One strategy for filling in potential gaps is to order plenty of mealtime “extras.” Depending on the type of cuisine your catering, this might be a bread basket, chips and salsa, pita and hummus, or a fruit and nut plate. Adding these well-liked staples to a meal can help round out a buffet or boost the variety of individually ordered meals.
Provided you have budget and kitchen storage space, you might even keep your own supply of nonperishables on hand to serve the same purpose. Pretzels, olives, nuts, and other nibbles can mean the difference between sufficiency and insufficiency.
Let CaterSquad help!
Strategizing and calculating the appropriate amount of catering to order is definitely a skill—one you may or may not want to spend your precious time perfecting. That’s where CaterSquad comes in! With your headcount and budget, our team can select the right portions to suit your needs. Send us a text at (858) 999-5129 to get started.