Planning an outdoor picnic for 30 people is a difficult process because it can be hard to determine exactly how much food and drink is necessary. Caterers and food service professionals have formulas for determining the correct serving amounts in any location and for any size crowd. Provide the correct amount of food, and your guests will be extremely happy.
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Find the location of the picnic and figure out the time of year it will be held. The venue and the time of year will alter menu options. Most picnics are in the spring, summer or fall. You will want to choose a menu that matches the weather and that fits in with the venue. For example, you would not want to have a casual menu at an outdoor wedding.
Plan the menu. Outdoor barbecue is a classic picnic food, as is fried chicken and sandwiches. However, there are many more food choices than this. Foods that are easy to prepare in large quantities for 30 people include soup, chicken salad, baked beans, potato salad, chili, salad, lasagna, chicken, steak, fruit, pasta, cheese, crackers and other appetizer-style foods. For dessert, cakes, cookies and pies are easy to make ahead and bring to a picnic. Knowing what you’re serving will help determine the correct amount to bring.
Find out the ages of the guests. If it is a mostly adult picnic or if a bunch of teenagers will be there, then you will need more food than you will if the picnic is attended by mostly children. If the food is spicy, children will not eat as much, nor will older people. Children will eat more desserts and drinks than older people. Teenagers will eat the most of anything. Adjust the amount of food for your guest list.
Plan on about 12 pieces of appetizers for each person attending the picnic. Since a picnic is outdoors, people may eat slightly more than average. For 30 people, this will be 360 servings of appetizers. You can serve all one kind of appetizer, or mix it up with several different appetizers.
Plan on half a pound of side dishes per person. For 30 people, this will equal 15 pounds of side dishes. You can have salads, vegetables, beans or any other side dish you want, or just serve one.
Serve half a pound of main dish for each guest as well. Fifteen pounds of main dish should be enough for 30 people. When in doubt, always round up slightly. To ensure everyone gets enough, serve 18 or even 20 pounds of main dish. Remember that the weight measurements are skewed for meats with bones. The weight measurement is edible food, not food plus bones. Double the required amount of main dish if bones are involved.
Plan for each person to drink about 24 to 40 ounces at a picnic. For 30 people you will need about 1,200 ounces of drinks, which is almost 20 gallons. If you are serving individual soft drinks, plan on at least three per person. For alcohol, stock enough for each person to drink two beverages for each hour of party.