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Planning a menu – how much food do you need?

The last thing you want at any event is hangry (hungry and angry) guests. And the second last thing you want is cold, poorly presented food. That’s why accurately planning your menu is one of the most important parts of the event planning process.

Knowing how much food is enough ca be quite a tricky balancing act. And unfortunately, there is no hard and fast rule to getting it right –but there are some general principles to follow to make the planning process easier. Here’s MPR Hiring’s quick guide to menu planning:


The timing and type of event

The start time and duration of an event is very important when it comes to the expectations of the guests (and how hungry they’ll be). If an event is set to coincide with a specific meal time, guests can reasonably expect to receive a full meal. If it’s in-between, then just light snacks might be enough.

Be sure when sending out your invitations to manage expectations by being clear about the type of event you’re hosting. An after-dinner cocktail party, for example, makes it quite clear that guests should eat dinner first. A ‘breakfast’, ‘light lunch’or ‘dinner’on the other hand, sets the expectation for each of those meals.


Important factors to consider

  • Type of guests (ratio of men and women, children)
  • How rich and filling the food you’re serving is
  • The time of the day


General rules of thumb

  • Identify which food options will be most popular and serve more of them
  • Bulk up the menu with staples like bread, nuts, crackers and cheeses
  • Don’t use the same main ingredient across multiple dishes
  • Think about the colours and textures of the different foods on the plate


Perfect portions

For each type of meal, there are some basic guidelines for how much to offer per person. Multiply these figures by the total number of guests when planning your catering order and how much catering and serving equipment you’ll need to hire.








How many different appetisers to offer



Bites per person


When served as a starter





6-8 bites


When served as a meal





12-15 bites


Main meal


Food type



Portion per person (on average)


Poultry, meat and fish










Rice and grains












100g as a side

150g as a main






Dessert type


Serving per person



Cakes and tarts



1 slice per person


Small pastries



4 bites per person


Ice cream (with cake or tart)



One scoop per person



While the total number of drinks consumed can vary greatly depending on the overall vibe and the crowd at the event, the average guest will drink two drinks in the first hour, and one every hour after.

When ordering different types of drinks, you can generally work on a third of guests drinking beer, a third having wine and the rest having hard liquor and mixers. For the average 4-5 hour event, where there’s an even mix of light, moderate and heavy drinkers, you can use the following guide:


Type of beverage


Bottles per 30 guests













Hard liquor






12 litres


At MPR Hiring, we love helping our clients plan all the details of their event. With many yearsof experience, working on events of all types and sizes, we can help guide you through the planning process. We have an extensive range of catering and serving equipment as well as cutlery, crockery and glassware. Explore the options here. Get in touch with us to discuss your event and receive a tailored quote.