How To Order The Right Amount Of Food For A Catering Event

Food and beverage orders for your catering event can be complex. Working with a professional catering company can help you walk through the entire process. But if you’re caterer isn’t as experienced as The Great Blue Heron, here are some tips to help you.

Get in touch with our team when you’re ready to plan your next catering event!

Catering Numerical Terms

The catering world is heavily driven by numbers. Guest counts, portion sizes, and delivery dates all factor into your food service, and even small number changes can make a big difference when it comes to serving dinner to hundreds of guests.

Because of all this a firm grasp of catering numbers is needed to ensure food quality and amounts to satisfy your event. Here are some of the most important terms and numbers you’ll need to know to order the right amount of food for your event.

Estimated Count


This is the number of guests you initially build your event around. There is no real obligation with the estimated count as it’s a “working number” used to estimate costs and staffing needs.


Expected Count

The expected count is submitted a few weeks in advance of an event. It represents a more accurate count of anticipated guests, and it will likely be written into your contract

Final Count

This is the number of guest meals you will pay for, and it also represents the number of place-setting the catering team will set inside the room.

Any changes made to this number after the due date can incur penalties or late fees. Thus, it is important that planner set an RSVP date that falls before the guarantee deadline.

Factors To Consider When Ordering

When you’re planning out the amount of food, it’s also important to figure not only the raw number of guests, but the types of guests. Not all guests will eat the same amount of food. Some considerations would be:

  • all adults or mix of adults and children?
  • ages of adults and children?
  • the overall menu - number of entrees, appetizers, etc.
  • length of the party and whether it is over a meal time
  • type of event
  • ‘style’ of guests – are they plain eaters, an active sports group, are they expecting something unusual on your menu?
  • allergies & special food requirements – unless you know, ask.