In this post: A lot goes into hosting a party. Rather than over-preparing & wasting money, here’s a simple guide to help you figure out How Much Food to Serve at a Party!

A lot goes into hosting a party. You have to invite everyone, decorate, prepare entertainment, and most importantly, prepare food. Good food can save a not-so-good party, but a good party that runs out of food may quickly flounder! Rather than over-preparing out of fear and wasting your money (and time), here’s a simple guide to help you figure out How Much Food to Serve at Your Party!

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How Much Food to Serve at a Party

Of course, every party is different. New Year’s Eve is pretty much an appetizer-only event if you start your party late enough. In contrast, a Christmas party may revolve around the main meal. And obviously, a birthday party is really all about the cake!

Consider who’s going to be there

When planning your party food you’ll also want to take into consideration things you know about your guests. Is Uncle Billy a chowhound? Then you may want to prepare extra to cover his appetite. Are there any food sensitivities/allergies that will limit what some of your guests can eat? If you can’t make everything you serve safe for everyone, make sure to provide adequate substitutes so no one feels left out. Are most of your guests meat eaters who’ll stay as far away from the veggie platters as possible? Then adjust your appetizers so you won’t have too many veggie dishes left over. Will there be kids at the party? Then make sure to stock up on kid-friendly drinks.

This may seem like too much to consider when all you want to do is find out how much food to serve at your party. But if you sit down with a pencil, paper, and my printable food serving guide, in 15 minutes you’ll probably have it all figured out. And in the end, it never hurts to make a bit too much food. Keep some cellophane goody bags and plastic food containers on hand, and you can toss any leftovers in them when people are about to leave. Or you can just keep everything and have some eclectic lunches and dinners for the next few days!

Food Serving Guide

Using my tips above, consult this guide to help you plan your party’s menu! And remember, this isn’t a list of everything you need to serve at your party (a single party doesn’t need a ham, a cake, and ice cream). This is a serving guide, so if you know you’re serving cupcakes to 12 people at a birthday party, you’ll know to get 24 cupcakes and not just 12. A handy printable version of this guide combined with the drink one is available at the end of this post.

Food Amount For Every
Appetizers (when there will be a main meal) 6 pieces 1 guest
Appetizers (when there will not be a main meal) 12 pieces 1 guest
Main dish (ham, chicken, casserole, pizza, etc.) 1 + 1/2 servings 1 guest
Side dishes (salad, mac & cheese, rice, etc.) 1 + 1/2 cups 1 guest
Fruit/veggie platter 1 large platter 10 guests
Chips 1 16 ounce bag 10 guests
Dip 1 cup (8 ounces) 10 guests
Cake 1 6″ round cake or 1 6″ square cake or 1/4 sheet cake 10 guests
Cupcakes 2 cupcakes 1 guest
Cookies 4 medium sized cookies 1 guest
Candy 1/2 cup 1 guest
Ice cream 1 cup (2 scoops) 1 guest

Drink Serving Guide

It doesn’t matter if you’ve figured out how much food to serve if everyone is thirsty! Even if all you’re serving is water, you need to know how much to have on hand. And a small group of people can drink a surprisingly large amount in just an hour or two! Of course, you’ll also want to make sure you’re well stocked on ice, and have plenty of cups/glasses on hand (if you’re using glass drinkware, have extras in case any break). And if kids will be present, you may have to add in some juice boxes to your calculations.

Even for something like an adult-only New Year’s Eve party, you’ll want to have something other than water on hand as your guests’ non-alcoholic choice. The designated drivers and pregnant ladies don’t just want to be sipping on flat water while everyone else is enjoying your alcoholic creations. Consider getting some sparkling water, juice, coconut water, sparkling juice drinks, and/or soda as well. If you can find mini versions of sodas (7.5 oz instead of the typical 12 oz), those make great non-alcoholic drink choices. If you and your friends are the healthy types, remember that kombucha naturally contains a small amount of alcohol, so may not be seen as a safe non-alcoholic choice by those avoiding alcohol.

Drinks Amount For Every
Non-alcoholic drinks (if there is also alcohol available) 1 gallon for the whole party 10 guests
Non-alcoholic drinks (when no alcohol is available) 2 gallons for the whole party 10 guests
Alcoholic drinks- wine 3 bottles an hour (dinner party), or 4 bottles an hour (cocktail party) 10 guests
Alcoholic drinks- beer 13 beers an hour (dinner party), or 15 beers an hour (cocktail party) 10 guests
Alcoholic drinks- spirits 2/3 bottle an hour (dinner party), or 3/4 bottle an hour (cocktail party) 10 guests

Follow my guides on how much food to serve at your party and you’ll have one less thing to worry about as you prep for your party!

Want a free printable version? Just drop your email below to get the PDF version in your inbox. 

Do you often host parties? How do you figure out how much food you’ll need?