Originally published on November 20, 2009.
I get asked a lot of questions about entertaining.
Some are very particular, such as: "If I'm entertaining a large group including both adults and kids, what type of menu should I prepare?" In these cases, I have to consider a number of event-specific factors. The time of year, for instance, raises issues of seasonality and whether it'll be an indoor or outdoor event, while the age of any kids attending will determine whether a single adult menu will suffice or two (a kiddie menu and a grown-up one) will be necessary.
Other questions, however, come up time and time again: How much wine should I buy for 25 people? How many canapés do I need for a party of 12? How much ice is required when 10 guests are expected? These questions are the easy ones. If there is one thing I have learned through the planning of hundreds of parties, it is how much product a host will need to ensure that he or she doesn't run out during the event. And if there is one thing a host wants to prevent, it's the mad dash to the corner market to grab a few bottles of mineral water after miscalculating how much was needed.
To help others calculate exactly what they will need, I initially developed an Excel spreadsheet offering a simple way to match number of guests with required quantities of whatever product they might be serving. More recently, I upgraded my trusty spreadsheet into a 3-D circular format, adapting those colour matching wheels used by interior designers into a party planning spin wheel. Think of it as doing party math.
To determine, for instance, how much wine you might need for two dozen people, you simply turn the top circle on the party math wheel until the window on it lines up with the wine heading on the bottom wheel and reveals that, voila, 24 guests will require 12 bottles each of red, white and sparkling wine. There are similar guidelines for number of canapés required, how many lemons and limes you'll need to garnish drinks and how much ice or cheese to have on hand. The number of guests covered include six, 12 and 24.
To download copies of both spin wheel parts, which you can cut out and connect with a thumb tack and small piece of cork, visit www.eatertainment.com/lifestyle/ideas/idea.aspx?IdeaID=76. No pesky long division is required with party math. And those mad dashes to the supermarket or liquor store during those extra-long cocktail parties will be a thing of the past.
Sebastien Centner is the director of Eatertainment Special Events in Toronto ( www.eatertainment.com).