The Pizza Ordering Formula

At some point in your academic career, you will be responsible for catering. Yes; catering! You didn’t sign up for it, but face it, science is a social enterprise and food and drink help fuel the intellectual exchange. Scientists must learn many soft skills and organizing meals whether by making a reservation at a fancy restaurant, organizing a pot-luck, or ordering sufficient catering for a group is one of those important skills. Given the ubiquity of the grad student pizza lunch, I present to you: Emily’s Pizza Formula!

But first, an explanation. I developed the pizza formula to help me order the correct amount of pizza for a large group with the fewest leftovers. I hate leftovers, they’re gluttonous. I hate leftovers like I’ll cook all of Thanksgiving if my guests will just bring Tupperware for the leftovers! So after ordering far too much pizza event after event, I came up with Emily’s Pizza Formula.

Emily's Pizza Ordering Formula: X is the number of people attending the event, Y is the number of slices per pizza, and Z is the number of pizzas to order rounded up to the nearest whole pie.
Emily’s Pizza Ordering Formula: X is the number of people attending the event, Y is the number of slices per pizza, and Z is the number of pizzas to order rounded up to the nearest whole pie.

On the surface, Emily’s Pizza Formula is deceptively simple. Multiple the number of participants times 2.5 slices per person; divide by the number of slices per pizza; then order that much (rounded up to the nearest whole pie).

So why 2.5 slices per person? And why don’t I account for pizza size? Good questions! I’ve observed that pizza size is irrelevant to how much pizza is eaten. Most people coming to an event will either eat two or three slices of pizza, and they have probably pre-determined that number. If you assume half of participants will eat two and half will eat three, then you get 2.5 slices per person, regardless of size.  (Note- the Pizza Formula does not work for pizzas cut into squares.)

You can of course adjust this multiplier. If you’re also serving a home baked cake, people may save room and you can adjust down to 2.2 slices per person. Or if you’re doing an outreach event with the university swim team after practice, perhaps 4 is a better multiplier!

I certainly feel as though I’m breaking grad student code by advocating for no leftover pizza since leftovers make a fine free dinner for students, but department budgets are tight, so go forth and use Emily’s Pizza Formula!

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