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Catering Menu Ideas: Consolidating a Successful Menu 

The pressure's on. We've all been to weddings or events where the food has been the talking point, for all the wrong reasons- and it really shouldn't be!

In some cases, it's the chef or caterer that drop the ball, either through un-inspiring food or poor menu writing. Other times, it's the clients, who may have great catering menu ideas in their minds, or what they believe their guests will enjoy, but needed a little expertise and guidance to bring those ideas to the plate. That's where we can help.

Below (in conjunction with the audio) is a simple list of steps to planning your crowd-pleasing classic. You should listen and complete a few notes at the same time, as we share some vital tips and tricks on generating the perfect event menu.

The exercise is adaptable to catering menu ideas and formats, for all wedding or special event plans, whether in a restaurant, a venue, marquee, or private property or home. 

Step 1: Select Format
Four or five hours goes by very quickly, and format can be the difference between mingling, dancing, and boring.

What: small 'bites' of finger food and larger substantial dishes roamed by wait staff for the duration of your event. Items can include any ingredient under the sun!
When: you're looking promote a casual, relaxed atmosphere for guests to mingle within the crowd. Also much easier to promote novelties like lawn games, or the dance floor.
Careful with: amounts of food. Too little and the big boys might be driving through Maccas. Too much and you could be stuck with an unnecessary food bill and plenty of waste.  
Mix it up: try a roaming entree or dessert, with a classic seated main dish in between for a touch of formality/order. 

What: large dishes with sides on a central table for guests to plate themselves.
When: you want to give guests a little more choice in a relaxed environment.
Careful with: 'tackiness'. A well presented, tasty buffet with up to 15 dishes is great. A tired table containing the 'same old' roast lamb and cold pumpkin is not. If it belongs at the RSL, it doesn't belong at your event.  
Mix it up: you could add a roaming course to a buffet also. You could break the classic buffet in to stations around the room, avoiding long lines and offering a chance to theme each station. 

Share Plates
What: bringing a small buffet station to each table. Guests share large platters of food brought to their table.
When: you're promoting communal or 'family' dining. A good ice-breaker for guests meeting at the table, or a nice touch for the family to 'break bread' and try many dishes.
Careful with: underestimating this option as 'easy'. Plates need to be set and cleared, then replaced for each course, while the platters are often heavy too. Cutlery also. This format contains the most wait staff labour.
Mix it up: deliver platters 'prepped' or segmented, and have your guests finish the dish at the table before serving.

What: classic seated dining with carefully plated dishes through a number of courses.
When: you want to offer guests a formal dining experience. Though the above formats are great, you could say when this is done correctly, it is the most successful.
Careful with: trapping guests in the same seat for too long. 'Beef and Chicken'- see below.
Mix it up: add a cheese and port course. Or a chocolate course? Mmmmm.....

Step 2: Select Menu
  • VARIETY is essential. Whether canapes, buffet or plated, it's great to offer your guests as much variation in protein and cuisine.
  • Seafood, lamb, duck, chicken, veal- use all the crowd-pleasers in your catering menu ideas.
  • Spicy, crispy, sharp, creamy, crunchy, raw, cooked- mix up the textures.
  • 50-50 dining is not a rule. Make an exception! Serve your guests one central dish and add 4-5 sides for the variation.
  • *Extra tips/points on audio: listen through.

We hope this tool was useful, and we perhaps raised a few points for discussion for your venue or caterer. Of course, if you have a specific event to discuss, pick up the phone or submit the form opposite- we have a chat! Thanks for listening.



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