Ah, the event headcount…the perfect event planning tool. It tells you exactly how many people are going to be enjoying your event, allowing you to precisely plan your menu, entertainment, giveaways, expenses, etc. What could be more valuable?
Answer – not much. If only the headcount wasn’t a mirage of event planning perfection.
Anyone who has hosted an event, no matter what size, has dealt with the dreaded headcount. The critical number that is necessary for budgeting but is almost guaranteed to be inaccurate. We’ve all been there. You’re hosting a party, and you look up only to see the face of a guest that never RSVP’d and would not respond to your communication efforts. You made the assumption they were not attending. As you force a grin on your face and make your way across the room, you find yourself blurting out, “I am so happy you are here!” as you feel your hands clenching tighter and tighter and your sarcastic brain spinning with “No, you didn’t RSVP, and no, I don’t have food for you, but of course I am just so excited to see you!” After your quick hello, you immediately go into panic mode. How am I going to handles extra people?
Although the headcount effects things outside of the menu, such as party favors, seating requirements, space issues, etc., for the purpose of this blog article I am going to focus only on food and serving tips or tricks to reduce your stress during these high pressured times.
1. Size matters
Humans are incredibly visual people, and it is common knowledge that obesity is an ongoing problem in America. We eat what is on our plate and interpret plate size as portion size even though frequently plates hold two, three or more portions of food. Solution = smaller plates.
Smaller plates give you more control over the quantity of food you are actually providing to each person and, especially if it is a more formal sit down event. People are still only going to eat one plate’s worth of food.
2. Let me help you
The method in which people obtain food matters. If you serve your food via a buffet, you are going to need to have more food on hand than if you serve a plated meal or passed appetizers. When guests have access to a buffet, they tend to over serve themselves and load up on the items they love, which tend to be the more costly items, such as meat. If you ration the food out per person, you have more control over the quantity consumed, or if you have waiters passing out finger food, people will take only a couple pieces rather than loading up a plate.
3. Diced, pulled, and filleted: Fancy ways of saying less meat
It may sound stupidly simple, but if you think you might run short on meat, modify how the meat is cut. As a guest, if you order a rib eye, you expect to receive a full rib eye and would be turned off if you received a cut edge of a rib eye as your meal. However, if you know you are going to receive steak medallions, the chunk of meat becomes flavorful morsels. Dicing, pulling and filleting meat are all ways to modify the quantity of meat being distributed per person without it blatantly showing the guest that you are limiting the meat being served to them. They focus on the delicious food and you control your bottom line.
Ideally, your RSVP system and headcount will be flawless and you can dismiss all of these tips. If you obtain headcount perfection, please share your tips with me. When you don’t, we can laugh behind the forkfuls of pulled pork.