Wednesday, July 28, 2010

How much dry snack mix do I need for my reception?

This question has come up for me a lot of late, both online and off, and is one of those areas where your budget can quickly get out of hand if you do not have at least a rough guideline for how much to serve. Dry snacks such as peanuts, pretzels, popcorn, or chips are a staple in bars, very common for house parties, and fairly common for receptions following meetings – especially those receptions with a bar. Why is that? For house parties, it is primarily because they are easy for the host to provide. There is little to no prep time and all you really need is a bowl (though that may be optional depending on the party). In bars, dry snacks are a good way to sell more alcohol. The salts in and on the dry snacks promote thirst, which in turn leads to more sales. Even if you serve “unsalted” dry snacks, people eating them tend to consume more beverages than they would with “wetter” foods.

So how much of the snack mix should you serve? A good rule of thumb is to have one pound of dry snacks for every fifteen people in attendance. You can adjust that figure up or down based on the specific preferences of your group and what you are trying to accomplish with your reception. If nothing else is being served to eat, then you will need more – I’ll usually go with an estimate of ten people per pound in such cases. If you are providing a lot of other food choices, you may be able to get away with twenty people or more per pound. Knowing your group’s preferences will help you gauge how much you need to adjust the figure, too.

For receptions following meetings, dry snack mixes are often chosen because they are usually cheaper than providing other fare. In fact, they can even be cheaper than basic cheese platters or plates of fruit or vegetables and dips – but be sure to double check the venue’s pricing. You may not save as much as you think. Another reason for providing dry snacks is the same as any bar – to drive up drink sales (of all beverages). This could help you meet a minimum sales requirement for a cash bar.

The main reason, though, that I have come across for serving dry snacks instead of other reception items is to discourage people from making the reception their dinner. I have talked before about how much food to serve at a reception and how many different items to provide. If you recall, one of the dangers with receptions is that attendees may try to make the reception their dinner. Many reception items can easily be made into a dinner for someone – not so with dry snacks. Yes, they can still make it dinner, but it is more of a stretch for them to do so. Serving dry snack mixes is a good way to encourage people to leave the reception to find dinner.

Regardless of your reasons for choosing dry snacks for your event, though, start with a ratio of one pound of snacks per 15 people and you should have a decent estimate of how many snacks you will need to provide.

~ Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director, RDL enterprises