4 Rules to Measure Portion/Serving Size for Catering events & weddings

Ask anyone with experience planning food and beverage for a large group and you’ll learn pretty quickly that one of the hardest parts of a caterer’s job.     WHOLESUM Food Calculator is designed to help you do the math easily,  but how do you decide on total portion size or total amount of drink per person?   Here are four rules to follow when planning out your shopping list.

1. Plan one beverage per person PER hour.

The good folks over at PlanningHelper have come up with a few good rules for planning beverages for your next party or event:

Allow one beverage per person per hour for a 4-hour gathering to be on the safe side.  The rate of consumption will decrease if the duration of the party is longer.  The quantities listed below are based on serving only one type of beverage, such as beer or wine.

Remember:  Not everyone will drink alcohol, so be sure to have some variety on hand!

TIP:  If you plan to use WHOLESUM Food Calculator for estimating beverage needs there is an easy way to do it.   Make a “Recipe” that includes a mix of the beverages you think you’d need for a party of 50.   Then, when you add it to your meal plan and adjust the group size, the calculator will automatically figure out how to grow/shrink the amounts needed.

2. The RULE OF 6

There is a lot of nuance in planning meals for a group:  What is the appetite size?  Will there be hors d’oeuvres?

While it’s worth taking all of the nuances into consideration, a good rule of thumb that we’ve borrowed (and overly-simplified, admittedly – read the whole article!) is from a great blog post on the CharBroil website,  the rule of 6:

  • Plan for 6oz (170g) for the main entree/protein
  • Plan for two 6 oz (170g) side dishes

The total meal (one entree and two sides), then, should add up to 18oz (510g)

TIP: When creating a Recipe for your main entree on WHOLESUM Food Calculator, aim to follow the above rule:  6oz of meat/protein = 1 serving;  3 oz of a side dish = 1 serving.  That way  all you’ll need to do is select the meal plan, adjust the group size and print the shopping list!


One of the items that always runs out faster than anticipated is ice.  As CharBroil put it:

Let’s talk about ice quantities. I’ll say this in every party planning post: You can never buy too much ice. Ice is the one thing that is mysterious. Buy a lot, and put a $20 in your pocket for the inevitable ice run.

TIP:  WHOLESUM Food Calculator can certainly help you with ice planning simply by adding it as a new “recipe” or an existing recipe.   If you need help getting started with an estimate of what might be needed, or what constitutes a “serving size” for ice, take a look at the ice estimator over at Art In Ice Inc which will take into consideration the use (drinks or coolers) and the venue (indoor/outdoor).


Did the host of the party invite  their gluten/dairy/meat/sugar-free friends?  Good luck putting together a meal plan!    Thankfully, WHOLESUM Food Calculator can help.

Whether it’s preferential eating, food intolerance or a critical food allergy, it’s important to have dishes that meat the needs of those that might have some common dietary restrictions.  The most common dietary restrictions you’ll need to keep in mind are:

  • Gluten Free
  • Vegetarian
  • Vegan

In addition to those categorical exclusions, about 90% of food allergies occur from reaction to just 8 ingredients:

  • Milk (Lactose-intolerant, or full allergy)
  • Eggs
  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts (like walnuts, almonds, pine nuts and pecans)
  • Soy
  • Wheat
  • Fish
  • Shellfish

You may not be able to accommodate all of these restrictions, but its worth being aware of, and making others aware of, which dishes contain the ingredients above

TIP:  When creating a recipe in WHOLESUM Food Calculator check of the common allergens/restrictions in the “Meal Contains” section.  Then, when creating your meal plan, filter out the recipes that contain these ingredients when selecting your dishes.  If you’d like, you can even add a few meals to accommodate special dietary restrictions and indicate the number of individuals that will be eating that meal.