6 Tips When Ordering Food for a Crowd

Ordering for delivery or carry out is often a Hungry Dad’s duty. You are the man of the house. The provider. Just as your Y-chromosomed caveman ancestors had to hunt a mastodon whenever the Croods came over to your cavern, you now must take the burden of feeding your family and your family’s guests.

If there are more than four adults and/or four plus kids, its futile to consider individual orders. You’ll be passing around the menu for hours. Couples will debate, argue, and ultimately divorce.  Kids will ask for things that aren’t on the menu or don’t exist on this planet (“I want peanut butter pizza with a Doritos as the crust.”)

These people need a leader. And that leader is you.  They trust your food instincts.  They are too busy chattering to engage in the effective food compromise.  They are being polite, graciously saying that they don’t care.  Get whatever,” they say.  No pressure, right? Wrong!

Make sure your order goes from “ho-hum…” to “YUM!”

These guests many not be food obsessed now. But when the food comes, and they are hungry, there will be plenty of criticism or praise to go around, depending on how you handle your next move.  Make sure your order goes from “ho-hum…” to “YUM!” with these tips – making you an ordering hero, instead of an ordering zero – like Jesus feeding the multitudes, you too can be praised for your good food deed.

Hedgehog family copy(1) Order early – If you are able, have the food in the house and ready to eat when people arrive. People always want food, but aren’t going to ask for it.  The first thing everyone is asking on the way to your house is, “I wonder if we’ll eat?”  You’ve been the guest and entering the door. Seeing that food will put you at ease knowing that: (a) you will eat, (b) you will eat soon, and (c) you won’t have to enter into group decision-making hell after everyone has arrived – including the jerks who show up late.

If you cannot have the food on-site before people arrive (timing or logistical reasons), then be sure to make food discussion the first discussion. It will let your guests know that they are being fed and that the host has his priorities straight.  But keep it simple. Ask for basic food restrictions and allergies. Broad preferences may be considered, but you should not solicit special orders.  You don’t want this to get complicated.

You want to pig out and have leftovers, don’t you?

small plate, appetizer, vegetable(2) Order enough food for two or more extra people – This is a good idea as to ensure that your guests are well fed, of course. But more importantly, this is a boon for you. You want to pig out and have leftovers, don’t you?  And think about it, god forbid you order exactly they right amount of food. If it all gets eaten, won’t guests assume that you didn’t order enough?  And lets say there is literally one thing left?  Who is going to be balls enough to take the last slice of pizza in a room full of hungry people?

(3) Always get apps/sides. Always. – Even if nobody asks for them.  Even if everybody says they won’t eat it. Appropriate sides. Exciting sides.  Fries with the burgers? Of course. But wow your guests by going the extra mile and do it right. Heck, do it better than right. Apps and sides are like pairing a fine wine with the main course, you want to make sure you compliment the meal and add weight when needed.

Choosing apps and sides are like pairing a fine wine with the main course…

Chinese food + a Pu pu platter: Egg roll? spare ribs? chicken wings? chicken fingers? beef teriyaki? skewered beef? fried wontons? crab rangoon? fried shrimp? – yeah, this stuff will get eaten. If you order this, get ready to hear, “Good call on the pupu platter, bro!”

wing ring

Pizza + wings: Wings are an essential meat pairing with pizza.  Its often an understandable (albeit regrettable) decision to order plain pizza. Toppings negotiations can be complicated, divisive, and time consuming. Wings infuse your meal with an essential meaty, saucy, component. You can give your kids a few of those carrot and celery sticks to pretend that the meal is a little healthy. And you can dip your otherwise dry, tasteless pizza crust into blue cheese dressing and wing sauce runoff.

sandmacSandwiches + cole slaw + macaroni salad: Cole slaw and macaroni salad are additions above and beyond the standard issue side of potato chips. Of course you get chips with sandwiches. But if you want to please the crowd, get these “salads” to round out the meal. Cole slaw is there to go ON the sandwiches. Make sure you are properly advising your guests on proper sandwich construction. Macaroni salad is tasty and a nice filler for big eaters who don’t want to be seen going for multiple additional sandwiches.

Macaroni salad is tasty and a nice filler for big eaters who don’t want to be seen going for multiple additional sandwiches.

(4) Adding dessert will get you crazy bonus points – While dessert is not mandatory like the sides/apps, it will gain huge bonus points. You can pass on this tip if your guests brought chocolate covered twinkies or cinnamon babka with them.

(5) Step out of the room when you make the call to order – You don’t need an audience.

CaptureFirst, you don’t love public speaking, especially when the topic is so important. If you call in front of everyone, the whole thing will be like an oral exam for a panel of highly-interested reviewers.

Second, people will start yelling special orders, corrections, and last minute additions. That is not allowed.  You’re in charge here. They chose you to be the decider.  Remember that.

Third, you want deniability in case somebody doesn’t like an order, so you can blame the restaurant. If nobody hears your make the call, then you can say things like, “I asked for mild and, yeah, these seem hot,” or “I’m sure I ordered diet soda, they must have screwed up,” or “I definitely said anchovies and peppers on half, not whole.”

IMG_0581(6) Pay the bill – This is not because you are generous. Its because you’re lazy and awkward. Plus, remember all that extra food you ordered?  You want to keep those leftovers. Splitting the bill may mean splitting the leftovers. You don’t want that. If you give up leftovers, what would you eat for your second dinner after everyone leaves?


Splitting the bill may mean

splitting the leftovers.

Trying to take up a cash collection is going to be annoying and exhausting. Credit card splitting is worse. Some people want to split the bill. Some people want to “pay for their own.”  NOBODY considers the tip.  Your guest may make a polite and half hearted reach for their wallet. To be effective and appreciated, this gesture need only consist of a slight hand motion toward their butt (where the wallet presumably is, even if its not).

Some guests will persist by actually pulling out money. Still refuse. However, if they are so insistent that they become hostile, just take the cash and pretend you don’t want it.  Remember, you were doing this whole pay-the-bill thing to avoid awkwardness. If taking their money will make it less awkward, so be it.  But remember, now you have to reciprocate at their house. Don’t forget or you’ll be a dick.  Hope you are keeping a notebook of who let you pay and who didn’t.

You can ignore this tip if your parents are the guests. Parents always pay. You should feign an effort to reach for your wallet and ask if you can pay. But do it slowly. Give Grandpa enough time to tell you that its not necessary.  Make sure he sees it clearly.  Do it loudly.  He’s getting old so you may have to try it two or three times before he hears you.