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Jim A. Peterson
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Food & Beverage Quantities to Order
This is an area that makes even the most experienced meeting or event planner a bit nervous. Once the food and beverage "guarantee" of the number of people to be served is given to the caterer handling your function, you will be obligated to pay for that number of servings even if your attendance is lower than expected. You can always increase your guarantee, but you cannot reduce it after the deadline, usually 4 working days in advance of your event (weekend days don't count). You will also have a contractual obligation called "attrition" that will state a minimum you will pay regardless of when you give a guarantee, so be sure you understand attrition! More on that in the Contracts link provided below.
If working with a caterer, listen to what is recommended! A good caterer will give you good advice. But, you need to have a basic understanding about quantities to order for the number of people you expect to be served - and the options you can consider when you are watching your budget! Use the following info as a guideline, not a hard, fast rule!
Allow one beverage per person per hour for a 4-hour gathering to be on the safe side. Not everyone will drink liquor! Even those who do may switch from alcohol to water after the first or second drink, so don’t forget to order water. Bottled water will be appreciated, but by-the-glass from a pitcher will definitely be less expensive to serve!
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.