Figuring out how much food to have at a party is tricky business. I’d much rather have too much food available than not enough. Here’s a few guidelines for getting a party started, whether it’s a cocktail party or a full dinner:
Estimating Quantities of Hors d’Oeuvres
-Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Hors d’Oeuvre, by Brigit L. Binns (Simon & Schuster, 2001).
When estimating quantities of hors d’oeuvres for a party, keep these guidelines in mind. As a rule of thumb, most guests will consume 8 to 10 bite-size pieces for every 60 to 90 minutes of a party. However, the larger the variety of offerings, the more hors d’oeuvres that will be consumed because everyone will want to try at least one of each item. At the beginning of a party, especially if it is in the early evening, the pace of eating will be faster and then will slow as people satisfy their initial appetite.
If your party lasts longer than 90 minutes and is intended to replace dinner, the pace of eating will speed up again after 2 hours. In this case, it is important to have enough hors d’oeuvres ready and waiting in the kitchen to replenish empty platters.
For an average-size party, with 8 to 20 guests, plan on 2 hot and 2 cold passed items and 1 or 2 buffet items a total of 5 or 6 selections. If you will be hosting 30 to 40 guests, add 1 more of each hot and cold item plus 1 more buffet selection.