Quantity planning for appetizers and drinks

As you determine the appetizer quantity, consider what purpose the appetizers will serve. If you're serving appetizers before a main meal, you don't need as many as you do if the appetizers are the meal itself. Because appetizers are different from other food items, how much you need depends on several factors. Appetizers don't lend themselves to a quantity chart, per se, but let the following list guide you:

  When appetizers precede the meal, you should serve dinner within an hour. If more than an hour will pass before the meal, then you need to increase the number of appetizers. Once again, always err on the side of having too much rather than too little.

Concerning drinks, let the following list guide you:

  Again, err on the side of having too much. If people are eating a lot and having fun, they tend to consume more liquid.

Quantity planning for soups, sides, main courses, and desserts

The following tables can help you determine how much food you need for some typical soups, sides, main courses, and desserts. If the item you're serving isn't listed here, you can probably find an item in the same food group to guide you.

You may notice a bit of a discrepancy between the serving per person and the crowd servings. The per-person serving is based on a plated affair (where someone else has placed the food on the plates and the plates are served to the guests). In contrast, buffet-style affairs typically figure at a lower serving per person because buffets typically feature more side dish items than a plated meal does. Don't use the quantity tables as an exact science; use them to guide you and help you make decisions for your particular crowd. If you're serving a dish that you know everyone loves, then make more than the table suggests. If you have a dish that isn't as popular, you can get by with less.

Soups and Stews

Soup or Stew Per Person Crowd of 25 Crowd of 50
Served as a first course 1 cup 5 quarts 2-1/2 gallons
Served as an entree 1-1/2 to 2 cups 2 to 2-1/2 gallons 4 gallons

Main Courses

Entree Per Person Crowd of 25 Crowd of 50
Baby-back ribs, pork spareribs, beef short ribs 1 pound 25 pounds 50 pounds
Casserole N/A Two or three 9-x-13-inch casseroles Four or five 9-x-13-inch casseroles
Chicken, turkey, or duck (boneless) 1/2 pound 13 pounds 25 pounds
Chicken or turkey (with bones) 3/4 to 1 pound 19 pounds 38 pounds
Chili, stew, stroganoff, and other chopped meats 5 to 6 ounces 8 pounds 15 pounds
Ground beef 1/2 pound 13 pounds 25 pounds
Maine lobster (about 2 pounds each) 1 25 50
Oysters, clams, and mussels (medium to large) 6 to 10 pieces 100 to 160 pieces 200 to 260 pieces
Pasta 4 to 5 ounces 7 pounds 16 pounds
Pork 14 ounces 22 pounds 44 pounds
Roast (with bone) 14 to 16 ounces 22 to 25 pounds 47 to 50 pounds
Roast cuts (boneless) 1/2 pound 13 pounds 25 pounds
Shrimp (large: 16 to 20 per pound) 5 to 7 shrimp 7 pounds 14 pounds
Steak cuts (T-bone, porterhouse, rib-eye) 16 to 24 ounces 16 to 24 ounces per person 16 to 24 ounces per person
Turkey (whole) 1 pound 25 pounds 50 pounds

Side Dishes

Side Dish Per Person Crowd of 25 Crowd of 50
Asparagus, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, green beans, corn kernels, peas, black-eyed peas, and so on 3 to 4 ounces 4 pounds 8 pounds
Corn on the cob (broken in halves when serving buffet-style) 1 ear 20 ears 45 ears
Pasta (cooked) 2 to 3 ounces 3-1/2 pounds 7 pounds
Potatoes and yams 1 (medium) 6 pounds 12 pounds
Rice and grains (cooked) 1-1/2 ounces 2-1/2 pounds 5 pounds

Side Salads

Ingredient Per Person Crowd of 25 Crowd of 50
Croutons (medium size) N/A 2 cups 4 cups
Dressing (served on the side) N/A 4 cups 8 cups
Fruit salad N/A 3 quarts 6 quarts
Lettuce (iceberg or romaine) N/A 4 heads 8 heads
Lettuce (butter or red leaf) N/A 6 heads 12 heads
Potato or macaroni salad N/A 8 pounds 16 pounds
Shredded cabbage for coleslaw N/A 6 to 8 cups (about 1 large head of cabbage) 12 to 16 cups (about 2 large heads of cabbage)
Vegetables (such as tomato and cucumber) N/A 3 cups 6 cups


Bread Per Person Crowd of 25 Crowd of 50
Croissants or muffins 1-1/2 per person 3-1/2 dozen 7 dozen
Dinner rolls 1-1/2 per person 3-1/2 dozen 7 dozen
French or Italian bread N/A Two 18-inch loaves Four 18-inch loaves


Dessert Per Person Crowd of 25 Crowd of 50
Brownies or bars 1 to 2 per person 2-1/2 to 3 dozen 5-1/2 to 6 dozen
Cheesecake 2-inch wedge Two 9-inch cheesecakes Four 9-inch cheesecakes
Cobbler 1 cup Two 9-x-9-x-2-inch pans Four 9-x-9-x-2-inch pans
Cookies 2 to 3 3 to 4 dozen 6 to 8 dozen
Ice cream or sorbet 8 ounces 1 gallon 2 gallons
Layered cake or angel food cake 1 slice Two 8-inch cakes Four 8-inch cakes
Pie 3-inch wedge Two or three 9-inch pies Four or five 9-inch pies
Pudding, trifles, custards, and the like 1 cup 1 gallon 2 gallons
Sheet cake 2-x-2-inch piece 1/4 sheet cake 1/2 sheet cake