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Catering Food Volumes: How To Calculate How Much People Are Going To Eat!

The question “How much are people going to eat??” is a moving target! If you have ever tried to search for it online the answer is usually convoluted, and translates badly in my head (and yes, I am a professional) as: 

‘’Calculate the weight of the person, times by two if male, divide by the 4 if it is summer, add on five pieces, multiply by the number of people in the group, add on five if dinner/three if lunch/two for morning tea …” 

Hmmm ok … and my job is to make this easy. 

Things to know (enter stereotyping)

Consider ordering a little extra food per person if you have: 

  • More males to females in a group 
  • Blue collar workers or those that work in fields requiring large amounts of physical labour 
  • If it is winter (we eat more in winter!) 

The term ‘piece’ refers to an individual portion of food. In morning tea, afternoon tea, snacks and canapes this usually refers the size of food which takes two to three bites to eat. 

The term ’serving’ or ‘serving size’ are the terms used by a caterer that has already estimated how many pieces would be reasonable for one person to consume for that meal period.

The term ‘meal’ or meal period’ refers to any set time you eat food, usually morning tea (09:30 to 10:30), lunch (12:00 to 13:00), afternoon tea (14:30 to 15:30) and dinner (18:00 to 19:00).

Keep in mind that different caterers/restaurants do recommend different serving sizes/pieces per person as the food they make will vary vastly in size.

Below is my professional recommendation on select meal periods.

Meal period/event function Serving size Pieces needed per person on average 
Morning/Afternoon Tea Basic 
Morning/Afternoon Tea Generous 
Morning/Afternoon Tea Premium 
Canape Pre-Dinner Drinks Basic  
Canape Pre-Dinner Drinks Generous  
Canape Pre-Dinner Drinks Premium 
Canape Dinner Basic  
Canape Dinner Generous 
Canape Dinner Premium  10 


If you are in doubt of what you need for your event, ask us. We are here to help!

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