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Determining Entree Quantity on a Buffet?

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
Okay, my Culinary Degree training didn't teach me this one and even though I've catered a few parties now, I always seem to run into this dilemna (and definitely don't handle it properly)... How do you know how many of each Entree to prepare on a buffet with multiple protein options?

Example: I have been asked to bid on a Class Reunion for 150 people and they want Prime Rib and Chicken on a buffet with side items. How many of each protein should I plan for when costing out the menu? (Obviously, I don't need 150 of each, but I'm always scared of running out of something and typically end up cooking WAY too much, which cuts into the profits.) HELP! Thanks! :lips:
post #2 of 16
They didn’t teach you how to do this at Culinary school because determining the answer is part math, part psychological profiling and part dark arts of mystical conjuring from your Magic Eight Ball.

The beef or chicken choice is a bit easier, because fewer people will grab “a little bit of both”. In this case I wouldn’t think that it would be too terribly out of line (if it’s not too late in the game) to ask the organizer to help you get a feel by asking those who RSVP to check beef or chicken. Then prepare only a small percentage extra of both for those who change their mind.

People always choose buffet to defer cost, explain that this is another way to defer cost.
post #3 of 16
I find Dungeon Dice to be an invaluable tool.

With 2 proteins, I would go for 4 oz. of each, with a 5% or so buffer.
Being as one of your proteins is Prime Rib, it would be difficult to hit that mark unless you featured it as a carved item, where you can control the portion.
Even then it would be difficult.
You would most likely have to shoot for 6 oz. per person.
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
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Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
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post #4 of 16
I perfer stationing staff to serve proteins off buffet lines.

4oz tough to carve on prime rib.

dungeon dice....you guys.....

I have increased sales by offering varying portions of prime rib.....OH you have alot of males or people more apt to eat larger portions for x amount you can have 6oz ,x amount 8-9oz......works. May not work for a reunion though.
cooking with all your senses.....
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post #5 of 16
Prime rib:
"Prime rib" is a term of art, but it can vary by user. It usually means a beef roast taken from the middle 6 ribs of the rib primal. The roast may be between 3 and 6 ribs. A "standing rib" roast may be between 2 and 8 ribs.

When figuring service amounts, the first thing you have to know is whether you're cooking "bone in" or "bone out," If you're cooking "bone in" you should allow two to three persons per bone, depending on whether you want to be generous or tight. "Bone out" is also called a "rib eye" roast -- and includes the "flap" as well. For most affairs, 2.5 people per bone, or a roughly 10 oz (allowance before waste) serving, is adequate. Before waste, an 8 oz slice of prime rib is a "lady's" portion.

Chicken:
Chicken servings are usually figured per piece, rather than by weight. Birds are usually broken into 8 pieces. Assuming 3.5 pound dressed out birds, broken into 8 pieces, 2-1/2 to 3 pieces per guest, may be considered an average allowance.

Figuring a 2 Entree Allowance without other input:
Unless your client specifies otherwise, it's a good idea to guess the entrees will split equally, but to allow overage with both in case either is a standout with the particular crowd. Also, it's a good idea to allow more food for a buffet than a plated and served dinner. Buffet dishes must be kept sufficiently filled to present an appetizing appearance; carving stations must have a nice piece visible -- and ultimately this means some waste.

With an entree as expensive as prime rib, it's a good idea for the hostess/client to request that her guests order in advance as part of the RSVP. Otherwise, you'll either run out at the part, or you better have a dynamite prime rib hash recipe to pass along. In any case, it's a good idea to discuss the relative expense of prime rib with your client.

(Grain of salt!) Unless it's a done deal, you might want to suggest roasting large pieces of top sirloin as an equally good, but less expensive alternative. One of its advantages is that sirloin carves into thin slices beautifully, which will encourage a "some of this, some of that" approach by the guests. Before agreeing with me though, a "Santa Maria" style top sirloin grill was one of my signatures when I still catered -- so take the recommendation with a grain of salt

The exception to the 50/50 rule is something expensive vs. chicken. While a lot of people are watching their weight, "don't eat red meat," etc., some people just can't resist the luxury. And beef is, well, just so darn beefy. I'd break an average crowd down as more than 85 full servings of prime rib, and less than 80 full servings of chicken.

That's 5 full (6 bone) prime ribs, 4 full (8 bone) standing ribs, or about 54 pounds of uncooked, untrimmed rib roast, or about 50 pounds of top sirloin; and 30 chickens.

Hope this helps,
BDL
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post #6 of 16
It is hard to figure, sometimes luck and sometimes guess work. Then there are your past averages. First prime rib only carved on buffet line, server to serve other proteins. Agree with BDL re. more will eat beef because it is by many considered luxury item and they dont cook it home where as chicken they do. Next I have found people are eating more now because of high prices of food. I think their logic being let me eat here and I'll eat less home?. In any event try and use the smallest dinner plate you can find, give 2 starches(potato,rice) plenty rolls,plenty salad. On buffet line rolls first then salad, starches, vegetable then server dispensed chicken then carved beef. I normally get 25 to the rib on buffet. Men will sometime ask for more and woman less. Young crowd eats more. Try to organize it and have your Headwaiter call up 1 or 2 tables at a time in order not to have a line, which looks terrible.I always have 10% backup, which if not used can be returned to your commissary and used again. Time of day and ethnics also have to be considered. This all has to be figured in your price, don"t be afraid to charge, your time,knowlege are valuable. After a while you develop a feel or instinct as to what you will use. Good Luck
CHEFED
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post #7 of 16
So so important as Chef Ed stated to have voluminous amounts of other food....the order it is on the buffet makes a huge difference.

And, ribeye roast is what is typically used here instead of bone in prime rib.....

Make sure your carver has a very very sharp knife.
8-9oz cooked is a hunk o meat.
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #8 of 16
Thread Starter 
Thank you all so much for your great responses! I do agree that this is part knowledge, part magic, but you have certainly helped with the knowledge part!

I am in fact planning to use rib-eye roast for this particular function and will work on my pricing according to the suggestions laid out here. Again, thank you SO much for your expertise! :smiles:
post #9 of 16
Ah, the guestimate aspect of this feild. part guess//part estimate. :lol: One thing you can count on is, the ribeye, will fly.

We can make this into, like a contest, for fun.

150 guest
My guestimate is: 86 ribeye and 54 chicken :look:
When I stop loving what I do, I will do something else: Clint Eastwood http://NewDreamCatering.comCharleston, SC
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When I stop loving what I do, I will do something else: Clint Eastwood http://NewDreamCatering.comCharleston, SC
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post #10 of 16
Ten guests on bread and water?
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post #11 of 16
CUTE, but maybe 10 No Shows
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post #12 of 16
Ed -- As long as I have your attention, let me tell you how much I admire the way you think. Sometimes we come from completely different directions and land in wildly different destinations, but you always blend training, experience and common sense in a really good way. I was going to say so in a PM, but figured, "What the heck! Might as well embarrass him."

BDL
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post #13 of 16
Thank you for your comment, I only wish I had as much command of english language as you do. You must be a great lawyer. I also admire the fact that for a guy not in this business "you know your onions". I just turned 66 and retired after being in this racket for 50 years and loved most of it(except working holidays) I specialized in Hi volume multiple room social catering, I am talking 11 to 17 million a year gross . I fronted running these places for the BOYS in New York, also taught cooking and catering for City of N.Y. I always wanted to write an expose on the N.Y.catering business in it's hay-day but thought I would be knocked off. Those days are over and I may start
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post #14 of 16
25 wont show, i made 15 extra :D
When I stop loving what I do, I will do something else: Clint Eastwood http://NewDreamCatering.comCharleston, SC
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When I stop loving what I do, I will do something else: Clint Eastwood http://NewDreamCatering.comCharleston, SC
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post #15 of 16
plus those damm veggy people, will knock off 5 or 6 to the count
When I stop loving what I do, I will do something else: Clint Eastwood http://NewDreamCatering.comCharleston, SC
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When I stop loving what I do, I will do something else: Clint Eastwood http://NewDreamCatering.comCharleston, SC
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post #16 of 16
CHEFED I'm sure good use was made of your Hobart attachments.

What's that one with the wide slicing blade do?
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