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Event Tip Sheet: Food

July 12, 2010

Here’s the second in a series of four quick tip sheets for meeting and event professionals from Jeff Hurt regarding food and beverage, and meeting room setups.  Here’s the first tip sheet: Meeting Planners Cheat Sheet: Beverages.

Breakfast Breads

Amount to serve:

  • 1 item (bagel, muffin or pastry) per person for 75% to 90% of attendees
    Example: For 100 people, order 75 to 90 items (most groups experience at least a 10% no-show factor for breakfast)


  • Bagels and muffins are usually the most popular. Minimize pastries, unless they look very appealing (i.e. prepared from scratch in-house).
  • Order breakfast breads conservatively as it is usually simple to add more cold food if needed.
  • If you’re doing a multiple day event, be sure to change things up a little each day.
  • Consider putting the buffet table outside the meeting room to limit attendees from returning to the buffet once the meeting begins. If you do this, you may need signage stating who the buffet is for to discourage those outside of your meeting from consuming.
  • If you have left over pastries, ask to put out for the AM break or have them delivered to your office or committee meeting.

Lunch/Dinner Buffet

Amount to serve:

  • 0.8-1.5 entrees per person
  • 1 beverage station per 75-100 guests
  • 1 double-sided food station per 75-100 guests


  • Estimate 50% beef, 40-45% chicken or fish and 5-10% vegetarian
  • One server for every 30-40 people for buffet style
  • Too get an accurate count of the number of attendees served, count empty place settings with folded napkins and subtract from total seats. Alternatively, you can count the number of main plates and subtract the number remaining after the function.

Passed Hors d’oeuvres

Amount to serve:

  • Before dinner – 4-6 per person or one of each kind per person
  • Reception only – 8-12 per person (passed and buffet combo)


  • To conserve on food, use butler passed hors d’oeuvres instead of buffet style
  • If you are serving hord d’oeuvres on a buffet, use small plates to help stretch consumption



  • If the hotel’s menu prices don’t meet your budget, work with your catering manager or chef to design a meal within your budget.
  • Ask if another group is having a lunch or dinner near your scheduled time. You may be able to choose the same menu and save the hotel time and money in preparing a different meal. If this is an option, schedule your meal just before the other in-house group’s time so that you don’t have to worry about the kitchen running out of food.
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