The guests have been invited and the RSVP’s have returned. Now that your food truck catering client has a final head count and knows how many guests to expect, how do you know how much food to buy or order to satisfy their needs? This is a common question and is worthy of some consideration. No caterer ever wants to be in the embarrassing situation of having run out of food. Neither is it good to over-order, over-pay, and have to dispose of any leftovers.

Calculating How Much Food To Buy For Your Next Catering Job

Preparing Properly

There are many factors that should be looked at when deciding on how much food to buy for your food truck catering event. Of course, first you must know the number of people attending. However, the length of the event is also very important, as is the type of event and the type of food you plan to serve.

For example, an evening cocktail party requires considerably less food than an entire afternoon or all-day event. The longer guests remain, the more they’ll consume. It’s funny, but over time people get hungry and thirsty over and over again.

When estimating how much food to buy, always round up to be on the safe side. Some will eat more, others less. It will all balance out in the end. Try to anticipate which foods/drinks are most popular and will disappear quickly. Order more of these selections.

Keep in mind that having a myriad of different food options means that you should serve them in smaller portions than you normally serve to your regular food truck customers. People will want to try a little of everything, so you can offer bite-sized portions to give them the ability to taste your entire menu.

Rule of Thumb Catering Guidelines For Every Food Truck Catering Event


  • If you’re working an evening function with no dinner, plan on at least 10 – 15 pieces per person. Round up, especially if it’s going to be served buffet style, as people tend to eat more than if a tray is passed.
  • If you’re serving pre-dinner appetizers, plan on 3 – 5 pieces per person, and choose lighter food options, as dinner will follow.
  • If you’re catering a mid-day function with a meal following, offer 1 – 3 pieces per person.
  • Beverages: Plan on about 3 beverages per person, with coffee drinkers consuming on average one cup every 1 – 3 hours.


  • People usually drink 2 beverages on average – either juice, coffee, tea, etc.
  • Plan on a main entree per person, along with two sides, including bread. Fruit makes an excellent breakfast dessert. Estimate about 3 – 5 pieces of cut fruit per person, or one cup or less of fruit salad.
  • If you’re serving pastries only, plan on 2 pieces per person.


  • For hors d’oeuvres, plan on 2 – 4 per person.
  • Offer a main entree with 2 – 3 sides, including a starch and a dessert.
  • Offer a selection of drinks, including pop, beer, lemon water, etc.
  • If you’re having sandwiches, allow for 1 -2 per person.


  • Have 3 – 5 hors d’oeuvres per person, depending on the number of courses.
  • Plan on a main entree and 2 – 3 sides, either veggies, beans, pasta, etc.
  • Offer small portions of bread, salad, or soup.
  • Always have water, along with other beverages.


  • Plan on 1 – 3 servings per person.
  • Offer one slice of cake, tart or pastry, or 4 oz. of a creamy dessert, i.e. mousse. If you have a large variety, serve smaller portions.
  • Coffee consumption peeks after dessert is served.

RELATED: 10 Questions To Ask To Close More Catering Jobs

The Bottom Line

We hope this article helps the food truck owners who already cater or those interested in starting to cater events in your area. Catering for food truck owners is a great way to supplement your mobile food business during those times in which foot traffic in your area is slower.

How do you determine how much food to buy for your catering events? Share your thoughts on this topic in the comment section or social media. Facebook | Twitter