For a big crowd, buffet-style parties are easier to prepare for and manage than sit-down dinners. But there are still some basics to keep in mind as you plan. Follow this guide to entertain large groups of people with ease and grace.
Buffet Prep by the Numbers
A big worry for any hostess is running out of food or drink. Use our basic guide to help make comfortable calculations for your party guests:
- A general rule is to prepare more food for a buffet than a sit-down meal because guests tend to eat more. However, the more selections available, the less people will take of any one item because they want to taste everything.
- If you serve appetizers before the buffet, calculate 3-5 servings per person.
- For a buffet serving 25-30 people, a good basic menu includes 2 23x33 centimetre (9x13 inch) casseroles (or one casserole plus a meat dish), 2 large salads, rolls (1 per person) and 2-3 desserts.
- For pasta, calculate about 60 grams (2 ounces) per person if it's being served as a side dish or about 115 grams (4 ounces) if it’s a main course.
Tip: Prepare your dipping items early in the day and refrigerate them in containers to make replenishing empty plates a breeze.
What about Beverages?
When planning beverages, know your crowd. In general, calculate about 1 drink per hour per guest. For a party where guests will be standing/moving around a lot, plan on 4-5 drinking cups per person. You’ll need about 455 grams (1 pound) of ice for every 4-6 guests.
Five General Tips for a Successful Buffet
- Avoid food that requires a knife for eating.
- If you serve salad, provide tongs rather than a spoon. It’s easier for guests to manage with plates in their hands.
- Make sure you have enough oven and refrigerator space for preparations. If not, ask a neighbour if you can borrow some space.
- Arrange all the dishes you plan to use on the table ahead of time to make sure there's enough room for everything.
- You can always rely on friends to supplement your table with their own creations. If someone asks if they can bring anything, take them up on the offer!