San Francisco Bay Area Catered Events
Hors d'Oeuvre Planning
What are hors d'oeuvres?
Hors d'oeuvres are little snack foods, small 1 or 2 bite items of food served before or outside of ("hors") the main dishes of a meal (the "oeuvres") which are intended to stimulate the appetite. The terms hors d'oeuvres and appetizers are often used interchangeably, but there is a difference: hors d'oeuvres are the small savory bites, typically finger food, served before a meal, while appetizers appear as the first course served at the table. The name hors d'oeuvres comes from the French and is literally translated as "out of the work," but it's more logical to think of it as meaning "apart from (or before) the meal."
How many hors d'oeuvres should be provided per person?
The number of hors d'oeuvres you need often depends on how long the cocktail "hour" is, the time of day, and if a meal will also be served following the cocktail hour.
For a two hour party plan for:
10-12 bites per person
20 bites per person if the hors d'oeuvres replace dinner (e.g., if the party starts at 7:00 pm)
When hors d'oeuvres are served before a meal, plan for:
5-7 bites when served before a light meal
3-4 bites when served before a full dinner meal
People eat more during the first 90 minutes. After two hours consumption picks up again, especially if hors d'oeuvres replace dinner.
Young people eat more than an older crowd and guests eat more at casual parties than formal functions.
How many varieties should be served for an hors d'oeuvre only party?
For up to 35 guests plan for 4-5 different kinds of hors d'oeuvres
For 35-60 guests, plan for 7-9 different kinds of hors d'oeuvres
For more than 60 guests, plan for 9 or more different kinds of hors d'oeuvres
If hors d'oeuvres take the place of dinner, include some substantial meal type foods that can be served like hors d'oeuvres (for example a carving station).
Remember to provide a variety of foods to please everyone. That means something for the vegetarian as well as the meat eater. Having both hot and cold foods also helps to keep everyone nibbling happily.
If hors d'oeuvres take the place of dinner, also include several bites of sweets per person.
How do you figure how many of each type of hors d'oeuvres to prepare?
A fairly standard formula is used by caterers to figure out how many pieces should be prepared for each kind of hors d'oeuvres being served:
Number of bites desired per person times the number of guests divided by the number of different hors d'oeuvres being served.
Should hors d'oeuvres be served for breakfast or lunch?
Hors d'oeuvres are not needed for breakfast or brunch. However, 2-4 light hors d'oeuvres can be served per person for lunch, if desired.
Functions are much more enjoyable if you can create that perfect balance of personal space. When planning a party, remember to keep guests close enough to produce an energetic vibe, but with enough space for them not to worry about bumping into other guests. To ensure adequate space, here are some general guidelines:
Cocktail parties (stand up): 5-6 sq. feet per person
Cocktail parties (some seated): 8 sq. feet per person
Reception, tea type (some seated): 8 sq. feet per person
Dinner (using banquet tables): 8 sq. feet per person
Dinner (using round tables of 10): 10 sq. feet per person
Cathedral Seating (seating in rows): 6 sq. feet per person
Dance Area: 2 to 4 sq. feet per person
Drinks Per Bottle: Highballs, Cocktails, Mixed Drinks (1.5 oz. liquor servings)
|750 ML (25.4 oz.)||16||33||67||101||135||169||203|
|Liter (33.8 oz.)||22||45||90||135||180||225||270|
|1.75 L (59.2 oz.)||39||78||157||236||315||394||473|
Drinks Per Bottle: Table Wines, Champagne, Sparkling Wines (5 oz. wine servings)
|750 ML (25.4 oz.)||5||10||20||30||40||50||60|
|Liter (33.8 oz.)||6||13||27||40||54||67||81|
|1.75 L (59.2 oz.)||10||20||30||40||54||67||81|
|3 Liter (101 oz.)||20||40||80||121||161||202||242|
|4 Liter (135 oz.)||27||54||108||162||216||270||324|
Bottles of Wine Per Guest Count: Table Wines, Champagne, Sparkling Wines
(2 servings at 5 oz. per serving)
|750 ML (25.4 oz.)||2||2+||3+||4||5||8|
|1.75 L (59.2 oz.)||1||1+||2||2||2+||4|
Generally, bottle quantities recommended provide some small overages of wine from 10 oz. per guest formula.
"+" sign indicates somewhat less than formula and additional bottle may be desirable to have on hand.
Items Per Guest Count
|Number of People
Increase amounts for
events longer than 4 hours
|Wine & Champagne||5 bottles||13 bottles||25 bottles||50 bottles|
|Beer||20 bottles per hour||50 bottles per hour||100 bottles per hour||200 bottles per hour|
|Liquor||1.5 bottles per hour||3 bottles per hour||6 bottles per hour||12 bottles per hour|
Go heavy on tonic water
|4 liters per hour||9 liters per hour||17 liters per hour||33 liters per hour|
|Olives and Maraschino Cherries||1 jar each||3 jars each||5 jars each||10 jars each|
Reduce this number if you are offering plates for food
|40 per hour||100 per hour||200 per hour||400 per hour|