Just a quick quote from “The Graduate” to grab your attention. Many of you may be planning a graduation party this Spring. If so, we have some advice. Every year, we cater dozens of graduation parties. Here’s what we have learned.
First and foremost, it’s hard. Will it rain? Will there be other parties going on that day? How many people will show up? Does anyone RSVP in this day and age? How much are these people going to eat?
The most important thing to do here is realize that the deck is stacked against you. It is almost impossible to accurately predict how much food will be eaten at a grad party. You will most certainly get it wrong. There are just too many variables in the equation. Perhaps one day, the good people at Google will get around to developing an algorithm to assist with the planning of a grad party, but until that day comes, you have to live with a huge amount of uncertainty.
So let’s start with food quantities. In our experience, folks generally over-order and end up with a ton of leftovers. Far more than a family could eat in a week or two.
As you may know from the “Catering” section of our website, we think a pretty good starting point for feeding folks is roughly 1/3 lb of cooked meat plus two servings of sides and a starch of some kind (either a sandwich bun or a piece of cornbread) per person. For grad parties, you should have much less than this on hand. Start with the fact that lots of folks may not even show up for the party. And if they do show up, very few will eat a full meal. And plenty will eat nothing—-they ate at the other party earlier that afternoon.
So where does that leave you? First, let us offer our recommendation. Then we will explain you might want to ignore our recommendation. Once you have a reasonably accurate guess of how many people will show up, I would have about 1/6 lb of meat plus one side serving and a one small starch (a slider bun for example) per person. And depending upon the time of day (is it being held during a meal time?) and the date of the party (lots of grad parties are scheduled in June), I might even take that amount down to 1/8 lb of meat per person. This is why we refer to grad parties as “grazing” events; folks nibble, but few do any serious eating.
Now for why you may want to ignore our advice. When we are finalizing a menu for a family’s grad party, often times one of the parents say, “Just so long as we don’t run out of food.” Well, if running out of food is an unacceptable option, we need to move closer to that first estimate (1/3 lb of meat per person plus two sides, etc.) From our point of view, after looking at pans and pans of food being left uneaten at grad parties year after year, we have gotten kind of numb to the risk of running out of food mid-way through a party. We are OK with it. It will teach folks to show up earlier. And it bears repeating: the vast majority of grad parties end up with TOO MUCH food….not too little.
But usually, families don’t want to run that risk. Fair enough. And guess what? We are here to sell you all that extra food. Just be forewarned that in the aftermath of the party, your freezer may be filled with pulled chicken and cole slaw.
There is more to say, specifically about serving the food during a party. But we will save that for a future blog post. Good luck!