Catering Questions

Above photo compliments of Pop Wedding Photography.

As much as I love all the decorations, fluff and creative details that are involved in each event, at my current job I most regularly give catering advice. For individuals who don’t throw parties or events for large groups, catering and food quantities can be overwhelming.

Now if you’re doing a plated dinner, catering is usually pretty straight forward because the chef and the kitchen take care of quantities, food ordering, etc. But what about those parties that offer more of a mingling, snacking atmosphere? Here are a few tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way!

1. If price is a concern and your event is over a regular mealtime hour, go for the full meal.
Lots of hosts/hostesses automatically decide to offer appetizers instead of a full meal because it seems like it will be the cheaper option. In all honesty, it’s usually not. If you’re inviting guests to an event, for example, from 5:30-8:00 PM, that’s over a normal dinner hour. Guests will have the same appetite they would at a meal. Therefore, you are going to have to opt for heavy hors d’oeuvres, which a lot of times will come out very similar in price as a full meal.

2. Per piece, per person, by the dozen…this language is so confusing!
Above photo compliments of Pop Wedding Photography.  
Yes, each catering company will have their own way of pricing appetizers. Per piece and by the dozen are easy to quantify in your head, but how much do you order?

Per person pricing is easy to decide on because you figure your food out by your total guest count and don’t have to worry about how much each person will eat individually.

Most per person appetizer pricing is usually roughly 2.5 pieces per person. That accounts for those guests that take an average serving, don’t eat at all and those who load up their plate with appetizers. The more variety you offer, the less of each item you will need order. I

3. Passed hors d’oeuvres are always a good idea.
As long as your group is large enough, I always suggest the idea of passed appetizers for a few reasons in particular. First, it’s a simple way to class up an event and create a fancier atmosphere. And although you usually have to pay more for the service of appetizers versus on a self-serve table, guests are more likely to eat less. And ultimately, that will save you some money. It’s true. When someone is watching you, everyone takes less food.

4. Know your guests and their dietary restrictions.
If there is one individual in a group of 50 that has a dietary need, don’t completely alter your menu for that one person. But it is polite to take allergies and dietary needs into account. I always recommend offering a wide variety of options, especially when it comes to appetizers. Offer a vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free, peanut-free and shellfish-free option.

When it comes to more formal meals, obviously it is a little bit harder to dodge all allergies, but it’s always polite to include a notation spot on an RSVP card or make a note on the invitation for guests to voice dietary needs when RSVPing. Most individuals who have these needs are usually pretty good about letting you know and/or avoiding them on their own at the party itself. Most catering companies will offer specialty meals for one-off instances like this.

5. Label, label label!Whether it’s a menu card at each place setting or labels on a buffet table, make sure to include ingredients or warnings about ingredients. For buffet tables, I love to use porcelain labels, such as these ones from Amazon, because you can write on them with dry-erase markers, and they can also double as place cards for smaller gatherings.

6. Opt for a dessert bar.

Dessert bars have been trendy at weddings for a few years now, but they are the old faithful when it comes to hosting an at-home event. Whether you’re filling your table with homemade treats, miniature cheesecakes or doughnuts, guests love to be able to pick and choose. And it’s another fun element to add in something that’s customizable, for example a build-your-own sundae bar or a cupcake decorating bar.

Now I am going to be honest, booze is a whole other topic that usually has THE MOST questions, but I will be tackling that in my next post. For now, happy tasting!