How To Plan Hors D’oeuvres or Appetizer Parties
Today, you hear these menu items used interchangeably but there truly is a difference between the two. Hors d’oeuvres are small bite-sized foods served before a meal. They can be hot or cold and are typically a more savory offering. These should be something to eat before the dinner is served, but not be so filling that guests won’t eat the actual dinner. Fruits, cheeses, dips, nuts and vegetables offer a light bite for your hungry guests without filling them up too much.
Appetizers on the other hand, technically are served at the table prior to the meal. They are also small in portion size and should complement the actual meal being served. Items like soups, salads and shrimp cocktails would all be appropriate as a meal starter, or appetizer. Today, since both names are used to imply small bite sized food served prior to or as a meal we’ll consider them together. So, how much do you need? That all depends on a few factors:
1. What time of day is the party?
If you’re hosting an afternoon get together, the amount of food you need to offer would be less than if you were having your event at dinner time.
If you’re hosting a cocktail party first, then the amount of food you need to offer would increase depending on how soon dinner will be served. For a one hour party, typically 4 – 5 bites per person would be appropriate. For a two hour party, because people will eat more the first hour than the second, you’ll still need the 4-5 bites and also about 2-3 more per person for the second hour so a total of 6-8 bites per person.
2. How many types of appetizers?
The number of people you’re expecting will determine how many different types of appetizers you should offer. A common mistake people make planning their menu is offering too many options with too small an amount of each. If 25 guests are attending, don’t plan on 15 different appetizers with only 10 bites each. Limit the number of actual appetizers and make sure you have enough of each type for each of your guests. To help balance out your appetizer menu, plan on using one meat, cheese, vegetable or fruit, and a fish or shellfish item.
3. How many bites per person?
If you’re hosing 25 -35 guests, plan 3-4 bites per person if a full dinner is to be served afterwards, or 5-7 bites per person if a lighter meal will be served. If you’re hosting a party of 50, then you can offer 6 to 9 different items. Parties with over 60-75 guests can easily have 9 or more items without over doing it.
4. How long will the party be?
The length of the party will also be a determining factor in how much food to plan. The longer the party, the more food you’ll need. People will eat more the first hour and about half as much for the following hour so depending on when dinner is served, about 4-7 bites per person should be sufficient, depending on the how large the dinner is. For a lighter dinner, plan more appetizers, for a full meal, plan fewer appetizers. For example, for a cocktail hour for 25 people, you’ll need at least 100 total appetizer “pieces” or bites if a full meal follows.
5. Will alcohol be served?
Alcohol will always influence how much food should be served and always increases the quantity, almost doubling how much food you’ll need. Again, the time of day and any dinner that might follow will determine how much to offer your guests so plan on more rather than less.
6. Are they being served before a meal, or as the meal?
Appetizers for dinner is becoming more common with action stations, carving stations and more hearty hors d’oeuvres allowing guests to mingle and mix and match their menu item choices. If appetizers are replacing an actual dinner, then for a two hour party, the amount of appetizers needed to “replace” the amount of food a dinner would be requires about 18- 20 bites per person or 4 to 5 times as many if a meal were to be served.