Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Receptions Q&A: “I want to have a reception during my conference. How much food do I need to serve?”

This is a tough one to answer concretely since much of the answer depends on knowing the group of people who will be attending. Fortunately, there are some guidelines that we use to give us a ballpark estimate of how many hors d’oeuvres need to be served at a reception.

Let’s assume that your reception will be going on for one hour and that you are serving dinner afterwards. A range of five to seven pieces* per person is considered moderate consumption, so a reception for 100 people would need 500-700 pieces. Write that range down! 5-7 pieces/person. This is where you begin.

If you are doing a reception/dinner combination, then you could simply stop there. However, many receptions do not fit that model completely, so let’s look at two other factors that we need to also take into account.

Length of reception: For any reception under two hours, we do not need to make any adjustment based on this factor. So what about receptions longer than two hours? My rule of thumb is to increase the amount of food served by 50% for each additional hour, to a maximum of +100%. So, if our reception for 100 people was scheduled to be three hours long, I would need to order 750-1,050 pieces.

Dinner not provided: If you are not providing dinner following a reception, many attendees will make it their dinner! This means that you need to plan for more food. I usually increase my order by 50% when dinner is not provided, which means 7-11 pieces per person.

Once you have taken these two factors into account, you still are left with a range and not a single number. This is where you adjust for the specifics of your group. A group that wants a heavier reception would be at the top end of the range (if not beyond it!), while a group of light eaters would be at the lower end of the range.

This is just a quick overview of food ordering for receptions. In future installments, we’ll look at tips and tricks for getting the most out of your reception budget.

- Karl Baur, CMP, Project Director

* A “piece” is usually defined as a single item, often bite-sized, that a guest would take to eat. So, if you order five dozen eggrolls, each eggroll is considered to be a piece and you would have sixty “pieces” in your order.