Tips for Choosing Your Catering Menu

Catering menus need to take more than food into account. What you serve is important, but how you serve it is also critical to a successful event. To achieve the ideal menu, whether you are wedding catering or dinner party catering, keep the focus on your guests and the type of party atmosphere you want to create.

Theme: The food you serve should blend with your party's overall atmosphere. It is easy to choose food for some themes, like St. Patrick's Day or Oktoberfest. However, other parties are tougher. Consider the mood and if guests would prefer an elaborate three-course meal or a simple barbecue.

Amount: No matter what you serve or how you serve it, you must make sure you have enough for everyone. It is better to have leftovers than to have hungry and upset guests. Once you have accepted the fact that you will have leftovers, discuss with the caterer how they will be handled and if they can be given away to guests or to a local homeless shelter.

Serving Style: Buffets give guests the most control over portion size, but waiters serving guests at the table creates a more formal presentation.

Drinks: For less hassle, keep it simple and stick to a few types of beer and wine. Or, if you are having a party with a specific theme, go with beer, wine and a signature cocktail, such as a classic margarita for a Mexican-themed party.

Food for Children: If you expect little guests, their parents might bring food for them, but don't count on it. Young kids are picky eaters, and they probably won't like anything too complicated, so ask the caterers if they can prepare simple dishes like hot dogs just in case.

Dietary Restrictions: When you invite guests, ask them directly what they will and won't eat. Then you can ask the caterer to include vegetarian dishes. Food allergies, particularly peanut allergies, are also important, and a caterer should be experienced in choosing dishes that are safe to eat.

Portability: Appetizers, hors d'oeuvres and the main meal should all cause minimal mess. At a formal event, ask yourself if guests will be able to eat a specific appetizer while standing up during the cocktail hour. Anything with a messy sauce might not be a good idea. Even informal gatherings can pose problems. At a barbecue, you might not want to serve any meat that is tough to cut with a fork, especially if guests might be eating with plates on their laps.

With these tips, you can offer a variety of foods, and you can rest assured that guests won't leave the event hungry.

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