Cocktail party food displayed with Clock for New Year's Eve

How to plan quantities of food for a Cocktail Party

With holiday entertaining in full swing now, a lot of us will be planning cocktail parties.  Of all of the decisions you need to make when planning a cocktail party, perhaps the most difficult is how to estimate the correct quantities of food.  There are several rules of thumb to follow, and then there are some tips to tweak those numbers to hopefully get the closest to what your guests will actually eat.  The traditional rule is one pound of food per guest.  That is crazy, isn’t it?  If it is appetizers, does that mean you have to make a variety, and then weigh them to determine how many of them would equal a pound?  Of course not!

Cocktail party food displayed with Clock for New Year's Eve

Keep in mind, I am discussing the number of appetizers or Hors d’oeuvres for a Cocktail Party, when that is the only food to be offered, no sit-down dinner is planned.  Numbers are so much easier to work with, so here goes:

Plan up to 10 bites per person for the first hour of the party.

Plan up to 7 bites per person for each hour after that.

Chips and Pretzels:  These are great items to have an overabundance on hand, as they can be opened on an as needed basis to fill in.  If these are one of your planned items, plan on 3/4 of a pound per 10 guests.

Dips and Spreads:  A pint of dip for every 10 guests.

Cheese:  4 ounces per guest.

Many websites and books will suggest a  much smaller amount, somewhere between 4 and 7 bites per person per hour. I am sharing my experience, with my guests.  If you know you have a crowd which tends to eat light, take that into consideration.  I don’t know about you, but I NEVER  want to have a party where I am likely to run out of food.  If you have leftover food, you can store it, freeze it, or send home packages with your guests as a reminder of their lovely evening.

I hope these guidelines help you when you next plan a cocktail party!  Let me know what numbers work for you!

I will be sharing this at the following Link Parties:


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