Choosing the Right Menu for Your Special Event: the Basics

Posted on Mar 12, 2014 in Services

Any good party has a few key ingredients…seating, décor, specialty drinks, etc., and all are important…but the food served is often in the limelight, and thus often causes the most stress.  Now, there is literally tons of information about choosing food items, and one article can’t hope to encompass it all. But, in reality, it doesn’t need to. You have your caterer for that, and truthfully that is part of their (or your party planner’s) job. It doesn’t mean that you need to walk in blind though, information is always a good idea, and can certainly help you along your way.  And anything that can help you paint an appropriate picture for them to narrow down into your party will be greatly appreciated.

​So. Food. What to serve? There are really only three main rules to follow; guidelines if you prefer that when adhered to, will help you immensely. Know you party. Know your crowd. Know your budget. And really that’s it.  Pretty simple right? Even Better?…as your read through this and apply it to your scenario, you will find a lot of the work will be largely done, and if not that, then at least a solid box will have been drawn that you can now work within.

​Know your party. A black tie fundraiser is a little different than a BBQ. Both are awesome in their own right, but caviar and salmon mousse don’t generally fit the back yard, and ribs don’t generally court congressmen.  Every party has an identity, and keeping the food on that mark is a very good idea.  You should keep in mind things like décor, any theme elements you may have, or special needs your event may call for. Theme trumps all pretty much, and sets the tone for all else at your event.  Hosting a local fundraiser to raise money for community activities? Look to include things that elevate and create the mood. If you’re looking to have the money bring in festivals include fun items like cotton candy, some rendition of snow cone, or other “fair” fare. It will bolster why people are there, force them to lighten up and have fun, and take on more of a festival mentality. Even in suits and gowns, this is a good thing.

​Know your crowd. Barring the above for a moment (because theme still does come first), the second thing to consider is “who” will be attending. What sort of things do they like? Try to match your offerings to what sort of people will be there. If your party consists of a large vegetarian contingent, it’s probably a good idea to leave the bacon at home. Sometimes it’s difficult to gauge who will be there, sometimes you just don’t know. But, more often than not, you have at least an idea, especially of who the function is primarily for, and that alone can help guide you in your decisions greatly.

​And of course, last on our short list, but certainly not least…the budget. This is always a difficult topic, one neither client nor caterer likes to breach. It can be awkward, offsetting, etc, but hiding from the inevitable can’t last forever. The inevitable is, well, inevitable. So, when thinking about your menu, keeping your budget concerns along for the ride will greatly help both you and the company you’re hiring to work the event. No matter what you will want a decent range of items, some warm, some cold, some savory some sweet, and knowing early which things are a “must” and which would simply be nice to have is important. It saves time, it savesaggravation, it is really just a good idea. And being able to tell your caterer which is which, or having a few ideas that they can help you price out and eventually narrow down is priceless. Have options, have a plan, a realistic one, and all will be smooth sailing.

​There is beautiful flexibility in food, and any caterer worth their salt will gladly work with you to make your function a reality, and work within your budget. Remember, a memorable party is rarely about the final price tag, it’s about matching your party’s needs to what you eventually produce.  It should “fit”.   And this fitting comes from you, the one putting it together. A planner or caterer can certainly do a lot to help figure it all out along the way, but having an idea, a game plan yourself before launching into it will go a long way, keep you sane, and truly make your event, from planning to production a memorable and enjoyable experience.

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