Whether you’re planning a small, low-key affair or a massive corporate event, food is essential. Get it right, and people will be talking about it for weeks. Get it wrong, people will still be talking but for all the wrong reasons.
To stand out from the crowd and turn your event into the memorable experience you hoped for, you need to get creative with your catering.
As an event planner, staying abreast of the latest food trends can feel like a Herculean task. But, with this list of catering ideas, your event menu is sure to be a crowd-pleaser.
From office catering to a wedding menu, you will find your inspiration here.
Before we dive into some trendy and unique catering ideas, there are a few things that you should keep in mind during the decision making process.
Consider the season. It is often best to build your menu around foods and flavors that are seasonally appropriate. This doesn’t mean, for example, that everything should be pumpkin spice flavored in the fall but it does mean featuring seasonal produce whenever possible. This will also help keep the costs down.
Account for dietary needs. Make sure that you account for potential food allergies, dairy and gluten restrictions, and vegan guests.
Choose food that fits. It is important that the food choices you make are appropriate for your event. If you are hosting a conference comprised of a series of breakout meetings and workshops, you aren’t going to want to choose a traditional sit-down dinner.
Booze-Free Options. If there will be alcohol served at your event, be sure to include non-alcoholic drink options. Think outside the box and offer something more than water and ginger ale.
Don’t Oversell. Make sure that your ticket sales do not exceed the number of people you can reasonably feed.
11 Creative Catering Ideas to Make Your Event Memorable
Catering menu ideas do not have to be a boring cold cut platter. Here are some ideas that are sure to thrill the taste buds and make your event the talk of the town!
1) Coffee Bar
Think outside the box-ed lunch a little. Forget the lukewarm coffee on a table in the corner with tiny creamers and packets of sugar. Dress it up. Offer a variety of options like cold brew, nitro, and/or multiple non-dairy milks. If the idea of putting this together seems overwhelming, reach out to a small local coffee shop or cafe. They may be more than willing to travel to your venue and not only help you set up but help you serve. It is a partnership that can serve both parties well.
2) Food Trucks
Hiring food trucks for your event is not exactly a new trend but it is one people can’t seem to get enough of. Reach out to some of the most popular and creative food trucks in your region as well as some food trucks that are doing something completely different. If you can only have one truck at your event, consider making it a dessert related offering. Some of the greatest food trucks on earth are serving sweet treats. Take advantage and provide your guests with something fun. Ice cream, anyone?
3) Popcorn Bar
For the midnight snack at a wedding reception, or a small scale event like a community movie night or school fair, set up a popcorn bar. People love to customize their food. Provide a wide range of sweet and savory toppings and your guests will be smiling for days. Think olive oil, caramel, chocolate, nutritional yeast, candy pieces, pepper flakes, anything you can imagine adding to popcorn.
4) Go “Locavore”
Eating local food is not only an ever-growing trend, but it is also a great way to support local merchants and make your event more green.
If hiring professional catering, try to include menu items that will source local ingredients. If you are acting as chef and caterer, consider visiting farmer’s markets to see what is fresh and in season and build your menu ideas from there.
5) Local Restaurants
If you want to stay local and present unique dishes to your guests and attendees, try partnering with a local restaurant. This partnership can produce some really creative catering. Similar to the coffee bar idea, local restaurants may be thrilled by the exposure your event will bring or, if they are already well established, they may function as a draw for your event. They are also likely to be a little more flexible than hiring traditional catering services. Sit down and have a conversation, collaborate and see if you can’t come up with meal ideas or appetizers that perfectly suit your event.
6) CBD-Infused Food
From Kim Kardashian’s baby shower to Martha Stewart’s kitchen, CBD oil is everywhere. This non-intoxicating substance can be added to everything from drinks to finger foods. Even though this substance won’t cause a literal buzz for your guests,, a CBD theme will definitely cause a buzz at your event.
The ability to pull this one off will depend on where you live. CBD oil derived from hemp with a THC content of 0.3% or less is legal at the federal level but in some states, it remains illegal. Be sure to check your state laws before including CBD oil-infused foods on your big day.
At most events, attendees prefer small bites of food to large, sit-down entrees. Tapas are a fun mix-and-match alternative to sandwiches and can serve both lunch and dinner functions. What’s more, you can cater your tapas choice to match seasonal ingredients and wine pairings. Tapas provides cost-effective variety to your menu.
8) Artisan Donut Wall
Artisan donuts are everywhere these days and people can’t get enough. Instead of trying to find specific breakfast catering, create a donut wall. Decorate a peg board and hang the donuts from it. Not only will people get a great breakfast that is far more creative than the traditional continental breakfast, they’ll be treated to an incredible statement piece. A donut wall makes a visual statement that is likely to prompt many Instagram posts. It also provides a great branding opportunity for your event. Partner with a local bakery to design donuts that are on-brand and suitable to your event’s theme.
9) Smoothie Bowl Bar
Smoothie bowls are another way to keep catering prices down. If you are hosting early morning sessions, a smoothie bowl can power your attendees through the morning better than a coffee and danish ever could! Smoothie bowls typically consist of fresh fruit, seeds, oats, yogurt, chia, hemp, and natural sweeteners like honey and maple syrup. These ingredients are easy to pull together on your own if need be. All you need is a blender and you’re ready to go.
10) Taco Station
Tacos are a delicious way to allow your guests to express their own creativity. All you have to do is provide the shells and the fillings and the rest is up to them. Tacos are an easy way to accommodate a range of dietary needs and cover lunch or dinner meal times. You can include vegetarian meat alternatives and a wide range of vegetables. And who doesn’t love tacos?
11) Craft Beer Slushies
]All you need is a margarita or slushie machine and a local craft brewer to partner with you. These frosty concoctions are perfect for summer events and provide a fun and interesting twist on the same old adult beverage. For best results, start planning early. Work with the brewer to find the best mix of flavors and even come up with a unique name for your brew to contribute to your branding efforts! My personal favorite is the `Shark Tracker Light Lager` where Cisco Brewsers from Nantucket partnered with the OCEARCH team to raise aware for shark research and to protect the oceans!
Any one of these creative catering ideas will make your event memorable. Some of these ideas can even work as marketing tools and generate anticipation so making reference to your plans on your event website is a good idea.
While catering is only a small part of your event, it is one of the pieces that people will remember most. Try to think outside the box. Your event menu is only limited by your imagination (and your budget!).