How to Order Barbeque Catering

We get the question all the time – how do I order barbeque and sides for my group of xx?  We thought we’d write up a little primer on ordering meat, sides, and dessert for your next company get together or family reunion.  It’s not as hard as it sounds – the most important thing to know is an accurate number of guests you’re planning on feeding.  On more than one occasion we’ve had folks who have over-ordered, and under-ordered because they didn’t request RSVP of their event’s attendees.

Gauging the number of people

Since it’s the most important part about accurately ordering food, we’ll touch on a few ways to help you gauge the number of guests attending your event. Events in Corpus Christi are particularly plagued by inaccurate numbers because of lack of knowledge of letting hosts know whether you’re coming or not. The easiest method is sending out invitations (via post or even email for less formal events.) With the invitations, include a response card (if you use snail mail) or use a RSVP service like,, or to facilitate responses. You can also include a number for attendees to call to say they’re coming or not. Whether you use mail, an online service, or phone calls, it’s important to be sure to ask attendees how many will be attending.

Even with everything planned out, there will always be those who said they were coming and can’t, or those who don’t say anything who show up (we’d like to think they’re not crashing your party even though they are crashing your attendance numbers!) Because of this, we always suggest including a 10% buffer when ordering food for your party. It’s ALWAYS better to have some food left over than to have guests snickering about how you skimped on grub.

Since kids don’t always eat as much as adults, we typically recommend counting two children under 12 as one adult.

Doing the Math

Everyone hates math – we do, and we know you do.  So, we’re going to keep this part as simple as we can.  You have your number of anticipated guests, right? Great! The first thing we’re going to do is calculate the total number of people with the buffer.  So for our example, we’ll be having a family reunion with 100 adults. Including our buffer of 10%, we’ll order food for 110 people.

Take your number of adults and multiply by 1.1 to get your total including buffer.

Now that we have that number, we’ll need to figure out how much meat.  Average adults (no linebackers here) should get anywhere from 1/3 to 1/2 pound of meat, total. That’s not per meat, that’s total. Some meats are a little trickier (like pork spare ribs, baby back ribs, or beef ribs) but this guide will still work for those – estimate closer to the 1/2 pound per person. Our example family reunion will need between 36 and 55 pounds of meat total.

Take your total number of guests including buffer, and divide by 3 to get the minimum recommended amount of meat to order.

Take your total number of guests including buffer, and divide by 2 to get the maximum recommended amount of meat to order.

Sides work similarly – we recommend one gallon (four quarts) of sides TOTAL per ten people. Not one gallon of each side for every ten people. Our family reunion would need 11 gallons of sides total. That can be split up among any number of different sides – however, watch out: if you order too much variety, you’ll usually run out of the favorite while having too much of the least favorite side left over. We recommend ordering up to three different sides, but highly suggest keeping it to two sides. For our example, we’ll be getting 22 quarts each of pinto beans and potato salad (5.5 gallons of each.)

Take your total number of guests including buffer, and divide by 10 to get the recommended TOTAL gallons of sides. Multiply this number by 4 to figure out the TOTAL number of quarts to order.

Beverages are mostly dependent on your group and serving cups and ice, however as a general guide, a minimum one gallon of tea per 10 people (when using 12-16 oz cups.) Our family reunion would need 11 gallons of tea for everyone to have a single serving of iced tea throughout the party.  In reality, the average person will have 2.5 drinks throughout your event, so we recommend 2.5 gallons of tea per 10 people (27.5 gallons for our 100 person family reunion.)

Take your total number of guests including buffer, and divide by 10 to get the minimum gallons of tea / beverage to order. Multiply this number by 2.5 to get the recommended number of gallons of tea / beverage for your group.

Other Tips & Hints

  • These numbers are good only if the food is properly served to guests. Some attendees may have a heavy hand when it comes to loading up their plate, and too many of these folks will eat up your buffer quickly. It’s best to have some volunteers help serve the food to maintain normal portions until everyone has had a chance to have their first serving. Then if anyone needs seconds, welcome them to make a return trip to the buffet line for more.

  • When picking up large quantities of food, be sure to bring ice chests along to place the hot food in. We box the food up in cardboard boxes for you, but within an hour the meat will lose quite a bit of heat.  Placing the hot meat into ice chests will allow you to keep your food piping hot for several hours. You can even drop off your ice chests earlier in the week and we’ll pack the food right in them.

  • We usually always provide brisket in large quantities uncut. We’ll give you a quick lesson on cutting when you come to pick up your order.  The reason we do this is to keep the brisket as fresh and moist as possible.  As soon as it has been cut, the meat begins to cool and loses it’s moisture. If you insist, we can pre-cut all the meat for you.

  • Not all BBQ is create equal.  Try several places before committing to one for your party or event. If possible, go as late in the day as possible to see what the meat held all day long tastes like – there is a big difference from right off the pit and held in a steam table all day.

  • Make sure you consider what additional items are included – pickles, onions, jalapenos, sauce, bread, utensils, plates, cups, ice, serving utensils, etc.