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Catering Ideas in 2021 to Host Successful and Truly Memorable In-Person, Hybrid and Virtual Events

Luisa MeloniMarketing & Sales Intern

Luisa Meloni,

Marketing & Sales Intern

Sep 11, 2021

Whether you are planning to host a small, private event or a huge, high-profile ceremony, the food you serve is crucial. If you want to make your event memorable and stand out from the crowd, you need to come up with creative catering ideas that will please and satisfy attendees.

Organizing a catering event in 2021 is never easy. You are not only bringing food to the table, but you are creating a culinary experience for the company to enjoy all together.

In this article, we will help you master your skills in finding ideas for the perfect catering on every occasion—by event type, season, budget, and more.

Quick Reads

Meal Catering Ideas

meal catering ideas

Below you can find the best catering ideas for your event whether you choose to host it in the morning, afternoon, or evening.

Breakfast Catering Idea

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day .This type of catering is easier to serve since it will be the first meal of the day for your attendees who will be more willing to try everything.

If you are also looking for something cheaper, breakfast catering is an excellent option since they are more suitable for dietary restrictions and budget. As for beverage items that are essential to complete a rich breakfast, you could offer basic drinks such as coffee and tea, and alternatively smoothies and orange juice.

For the actual menu, there are many simple, affordable options that will make your catering stand out: waffles, crepes, bagels, eggs but also fruit, yogurt, and cakes.

Lunch Catering Ideas

Lunch more or less is always on our minds. Anyone can order a hamburger, but to really create an unforgettable lunch for your company, you need to dive into exclusive and trendy catering lunch ideas.

When organizing a company lunch, you need to consider the dietary needs or restrictions, potential food allergies, and vegan guests as well. Attendees will appreciate seeing that they are being taken care of, offering them food that meets their dietary requests.

There are many different ideas for a company lunch, either for a more relaxed lunch or a sit-down lunch. In both cases, there are some food options that cannot miss in your banquet. Salads are an example. Whether if you offer pasta salad, Caesar salad, or Greek salad, they are a great and healthy option for people that want to have a light lunch.

Pasta is one of the cheapest yet most loved food that you can offer. There are many ways to serve your pasta, but in many cases, your guests will surely dive into it. You could go for tacos or nachos or a classic American hamburger with French fries for another fun and customized lunch option.

Dinner Catering Ideas

When planning a dinner catering, you have to consider that it should be more relaxing, a bit fancy and formal. Attendees might want to sit down and enjoy their dinner while attending the event.

For this kind of occasion, you can opt for fancier dishes, always looking up to the dietary restriction of your guests. As for beverage items, cocktails are a must for dinner, either alcoholic or non-alcoholic. Spoon-ready food is a new trend that consists of items ready to eat in one bite.

Sushi is another fancy alternative to include in your dinner catering since it’s easy to eat and healthy at the same time. Soups are also perfect either as a course or with a side of bread, and they can be of many different kinds to satisfy everyone’s tastes.

Finally, it’s not dinner if dessert isn’t served. Choose from beignets or chocolate strawberries to fresh fruit tarts or tiramisu.

Light Food Catering Ideas

catering ideas depending on season

Here you can find a list of light food catering inspirations if you are looking for something more casual to offer in your event.

Sandwich Catering Ideas

The simplest and most appropriate catering food to offer for an event is, without any doubt, sandwiches. They are the easiest and least picky choice to bring to the table, as well as the lightest and healthiest option. So why not organize a food catering for an office event based completely on sandwiches?

They are a delight to eat and guests won't have to worry about making a mess while eating. However, sandwiches can be boring sometimes. To avoid that, make a list of different kinds of sandwiches to order for your event. You will then decide what sandwich options work best, and which alternatives are suitable for dietary restrictions as well.

Artisan mini bread and sandwich platters are a must when it comes to delicious food without being messy. They fit in your hand, and they are smaller than an average sandwich.

If you want to play it safe, you can go for the classic triangle sandwiches that are delicious and cheap as well. If someone is not feeling sandwiches, you can offer some amazing light and soft wraps that you can arrange on a sandwich platter as well.

Dessert Catering Ideas

Desserts never go out of style. Some can go with a glass of bubbles, and some others are light enough to be eaten even after a big meal. So, whatever the occasion is, you can never go wrong with desserts.

From the most trendy like chocolate-covered strawberries to a more popular choice like cupcakes, desserts are always the key to a successful event. If you want to enrich your dessert buffet without being too much, crème brulee is an amazing dessert to include in the list. On the other hand, if you want to add lighter choices, there is always the option of fruit, ice cream, or sorbet that

Catering Ideas by Event Type

Still don’t have any ideas for your event type? Be sure to go through this list to find some inspiration for your special event.

Party Catering Ideas

No matter the time of your next event, there are few important things to consider when it comes to partying.

A party beverage menu needs to have a wide variety of drinks. It is best to offer different kinds of beverages, alcoholic and non-alcoholic, to satisfy your guests.

The ‘’finger food’’ is a next-level alternative that will allow attendees to taste delectable food in just one bite without making a mess. An example could be bruschetta, mini burger bites, chicken wings, or mini pizzas, all to enjoy in one single bite.

Picnic Catering Ideas

Everyone enjoys picnics, whether with colleagues or with friends. Picnics allow you to spend some quality time while chilling. This is why hosting a picnic party should be all about enjoying the weather and relaxing with simple but delicious food.

To make it even more special, here we have some suggestions for your picnic catering that will please everyone. First of all, picnic drinks. When you spend many hours under the sun and the heat, you need to stay hydrated. Healthy and refreshing drinks such as orange juice, iced tea, or lemonade are simple and cheap options that everyone likes.

Among the many picnic food ideas, the most popular and loved ones will always be toasts and sandwiches, but if you really want to give your picnic a fancy touch, you should really go with charcuterie boards.

Outdoor Catering Ideas

Outdoor catering is the perfect idea for your employees to get out of the office and meet together in an outdoor space. It’s suitable for every situation, whether a more casual party or a formal event. Your attendees will be pleased with some fresh air and good food while being in a naturally socially distanced place.

There are numerous options available to plan an outdoor catering event. You can opt for a classic barbecue or even play safely with the food trucks or big buffet that will serve different cuisines to stimulate everyone’s interest. The drinks should never be missing when it comes to an outdoor event. From a bubbly glass of wine to a refreshing juice, you should include both types of drinks to please everyone.

Office or Corporate Catering Ideas

It’s great for your employees to get together to enjoy lunch and have an opportunity to chat and get to know each other better. An office catering is a way to show appreciation to your staff, and what is the best way of doing it if it’s not with a lunch? The social interaction with your staff will help them bond and have a better working relationship, which will benefit your business in the long run.

Pizza is a typical dish to enjoy while being in the office, people love it and can easily share it. Also, there are different toppings and flavors available to satisfy everyone’s preferences and dietary restrictions.

Mexican cuisine like nachos or Mexican bowls, that combine rice, onion, and cheese is another tasty option that will make everyone satisfied.

If you want to go for something fancier but still healthy, you can serve poke bowls that combine rice, tuna, seasoning vegetables, and sauces.

Large Group Catering Ideas

Food is central to any event, small office events, or large corporate reunions . Choosing the right food to offer is crucial.

When it comes to large group events it’s better to go for a bigger-scaled breakfast event, where guests can choose from a variety of pastries, bagels, fruits, and drinks of their preference.

Regardless of what you decide to serve, offering breakfast for large group events will be the key to success and cost less than a fancy dinner or corportate event .

Catering Ideas by Season

It’s wise to consider the season when hosting an event to avoid any unforeseen problems and make the most out of that particular time of the year. Below you will find a list of ideas for catering events based on the season.

Spring Catering Ideas

When spring comes with its warm weather, we welcome outdoor parties and activities as well. No one wants to spend time in the kitchen making complicated meals and stressing out. Instead, let your guests relax and make the best of the freshest and seasonal ingredients like asparagus, spinach, and more.

Quiches and fresh creative salads could be your main course, accompanied with mint-based beverages to make them more refreshing. Cold soups with crusty bread or cold pasta with vegetables are another easy option to pull together to please the guests.

For the drinks, offering mimosa or adding fruit like pineapple and berries to other cocktails can make things more interesting as well.

Summer Catering Ideas

Summer means light food, great drinks, and good times. Especially in the summer, you might prefer to feature all the flavors of the season, without offering food that is too heavy or difficult to eat.

Keeping it fresh and light should be a top priority. Fruits are often the ‘’main dish’’ during summer. You can serve them in various ways like a fruit salad, covered in chocolate, or with cocktails.

Summer also means going for fresh and light food like fish and cold pasta. With this in mind, some ideas could be sushi bar, insalata caprese, fruit salad, fresh focaccias, or seafood appetizers.

Fall Catering Ideas

Fall means warmth, coziness, and rich flavors. When organizing a catering, you might try to translate them into the food as well. Ingredients like cinnamon, pumpkin, apple, and chestnuts come to mind immediately.

The options are endless and you can go with simple yet delicious creamy pumpkin pasta, apple pies, or cinnamon rolls with caramel topping. The key is to opt for affordable ingredients that you can bake and combine with pumpkin and spices.

Winter Catering Ideas

The sweater weather with cold temperatures and snowfalls shouldn’t stop you from hosting a catering service inspired by winter. When temperatures go down, it’s better to opt for hot food and drinks to warm everyone up.

You can choose from a wide array of winter soups with toasted bread, pot pies, and pasta of all kinds. For drinks, you cannot go wrong with delicious and warm mulled wine with a great note of cinnamon.

For desserts, rich and tasty chocolate is everyone’s favorite. You can serve it with fruits or chocolate brownies, or even just a hot chocolate drink with marshmallows.

Top 4 Catering Mistakes and the Best Practices to Avoid Them

catering mistakes to avoid

Organizing an event is never easy. You might want to go over this checklist to avoid any mistakes and to run your event smoothly without any flaws.

Supplying Too Little Food

Sometimes if you are on a budget, you could make the mistake of serving a catering that won't have enough food for everyone. Avoid this when hosting a catering event. Your guests should be surprised by the amount of food and the presentation and not by the scarcity. With this in mind, it's best to calculate the number of adults or children and do your best to meet their expectations to avoid running out of good food.

Not Knowing Your Audience

You are hosting your first catering event but you don’t know your guests’ food preferences? We recommend that you try “personalized catering”. Attendees will be able to eat their favorite food from the buffet, choosing from many options available, and be completely satisfied. Be sure to include vegan meals, non-dairy and gluten-free meals for dietary restrictions.

Not Keeping the Budget Under Control

There are many challenges that an event organizer may face. One of them is managing and sticking to the budget. To avoid spending too much and go over it, you should organize the budget for more splurges. In this way, you will also consider the uncertainties that will cost you more money than expected.

Not Offering Sufficient Food Choices

Offering a poor choice of food doesn’t mean that you will save on the budget. When organizing an event, you should go for the cheapest food that everyone likes, which will please everyone and give a good impression on your event. Pasta or noodles are the clearest examples of how you can serve a dish that you can combine in multiple ways, which can be gluten-free and vegan. It’s also super cheap, and everyone loves it!

Budget-Friendly Event Catering: Save Money without Looking Cheap

budget friendly catering

Host Your Event In-Between Meals

Don't worry if you're an event planner who follows a strict budget, but you still have to offer a significant amount of food for a large public. There are still plenty of ways to mix things up without going over your budget.

One strategical option is to host your event in between meals. In this way, guests won’t be too focused on the food and will enjoy chatting with each other instead. Indeed, an event is not only about keeping people full, it’s mostly about the experience.

Offer Appetizers and Snacks

If you are looking for something more casual and easier, you can always provide your guests with delicious appetizers and snacks to munch. You can include a variety of food that will satisfy everyone while keeping your budget low. Some great examples could be cheese and crackers, fresh fruit appetizers, shrimp cocktails, or pizza and flatbreads.

Offer Vegetables and Fruits

Offering beautifully arranged vegetables and fruits can make a great addition to your catering. For vegetables like carrots, cucumbers, and tomatoes, you can always serve them with delicious dipping sauces. In case you’re going with fruits, you can make a big, fresh fruit salad or even pair them with a chocolate fountain to add a fancy touch. They are budget-friendly and excellent alternatives for people who want to stay light and eat healthy.

Offer Cheaper Meat Such as Chicken

One effective way to reduce the final cost of your event is to use less meat. At the same time, if you want delicious meals but on a tight budget, you can always buy cheaper cuts of meat like chicken.

Overall, buying chicken gives you the best value for your money. Also, you can serve it in many ways: fried chicken breast, chicken nuggets, or roasted chicken. You can also finish the dish by adding mashed potatoes gravy, coleslaw, or potato salad to it.

Use Smaller Plates

Choosing to use smaller plates will allow your guests to have more mobility and have their hands free from cocktails. They can easily and comfortably fit in one hand, and unlike big plates, they will be easier to wash, so you can save up on cleaning as well. Your guests will enjoy the food better since they can taste a bit of everything and sample all the food.

Avoid Expensive Glasses and Linens

You can give your live event catering idea a fancy look without having to go for expensive glasses and linens. They can break easily, are expensive, and your guests won't pay attention to it if the whole event in itself is well organized and elegant. Plus, you have many other ways of making your event stand out. For example, when it comes to the food presentation, you can organize the food in a surprising and original way.

Offer Popular Dishes Only

You can never go wrong with easy food that everyone likes . Pizza, pasta, hamburgers, and salads are classic food that everyone enjoys. If you are worried about resulting basic, you can always serve them in various ways. For example, there are so many toppings for the pizzas than just the regular pepperoni one, same goes for cooking pasta.

Serve Soft Drinks, Lemonades and Margaritas, Avoid Wine and Beer

Alcohol drinks like wine and beer are quite expensive. If you are planning on a big event you may want to focus your guests’ attention on drinks like lemonades, juices, and margaritas. They are a great substitute for alcoholic drinks like wine and beer, and they are lighter as well.

13 Creative Catering Ideas for Truly Memorable Events

creative catering ideas

Add a bit of fun and spice to your event with these creative ideas to serve at your catering event to boost attendee satisfaction.

Popcorn Bar

Add a popcorn bar to add excitement, color, and festivity to your catering event. They can go on well on their own or can be combined with butter or caramel. Plus, they are delicious and easy to eat.

Coffee Bar

From small office events to corporate occasions, you might want to provide an array of choices of coffee for your guests to drink. Let a barista spoil your guests, especially in a small catering where a barista can excel to serve everyone.

Food Trucks

When organizing an event you tend to be more focused on the guest experience, and that’s a reason why you should consider food trucks to take care of the rest. Food truck catering can be fun for your guests and it will be a unique experience. Also, it’s a great option if you are hosting your event in a venue that doesn’t have a kitchen, it can be much easier for your guests to choose what they want to eat and less messy for sure.

Smoothie Bowl Bar

A smoothie bowl is a fun, healthy food option you might want to implement in your catering for guests who want to stay light and eat fresh. A smoothie bowl bar can offer a set of crowd-pleasing bowls of mixed fruit, with toppings like granola, nuts, almond butter, and fresh fruits.

Artisan Donut Wall

Everyone loves donuts, and they are a real budget saver. This is why you should have them in your next event and create a donut wall where you can hang and display all the different kinds of donuts in a unique way. You can even organize them by color or by flavor so that your guests will appreciate both the food and the original presentation.

Taco Station

One of the best ways to entertain your guests is through an interactive taco bar, where they can choose their own toppings and build their taco. Just make sure the toppings are the sausages aren’t too dripping. Otherwise, it will just become too messy. The basic ingredients for tacos are guacamole, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and pico de gallo. You might add some other fancier ingredients like shrimp, jalapenos, and meat.

Tapas

Tapas have become more and more popular over the years. They are fun and easy to eat with a cocktail. They are small dishes or appetizers that can be based on bread, cheese, ham, or olives. You can also pair them with some empanadas and sauces as well.

Drinkable Desserts

Desserts are a must in catering events, but they require a spoon or a fork most of the time. Then why don’t you implement easily drinkable, hands-free desserts for your guests? There are a variety of dessert drinks that you can choose—from classic sorbet or milkshake to truffle shots or affogatos.

Virtual Meal Kits

In the unprecedented times we are living in, in-person and social events are not always possible. However, this doesn’t mean that you cannot host a catering event.

If you want to launch it online, you can do it through virtual meal kits with group ordering. Workplaces are evolving. And if you want to bring the same catering experience to your team no matter where they are working from, you can choose meal packages to send to all your colleagues and enjoy it all together in a virtual event

Planning or arranging events can be challenging, but you can make it much easier when you integrate it with a digital solution. If you want to make event planning faster and more efficient for your whole team, book a demo of Glue Up’s Event Management Software now. The all-in-one solution comes with an event website builder, custom registration forms, online ticketing & payments for efficient event marketing and data gathering.

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Top 9 Catering Companies in North America

top catering companies in North America

Take a look at the best catering companies in North America that will offer delectable dishes and help you organize your private events or corporate functions to boost attendee satisfaction.

1. On Safari Foods

On Safari Foods' goal is to offer creative and healthy food using organic and locally sourced ingredients.

o

2. Junzi Kitchen

Junzi Kitchen looks up to deliver typical flavorful Chinese dishes, offering a wide range of rice bowls, saucy noodles, and delicious salads.

junzi

3. Sirico's Caterers

If you are looking for something more elegant and fancy, try Sirico's Caterers, which offers delicious gourmet cuisine all the time.

sirico

4. Herban Feast

Herban Feast specializes in cuisine tailored and personalized specifically for the customer. They will bring a customized and seasonal catering service to make your event shine.

herban feast home page

5. Brother 2 Brother Catering

Brother 2 Brother Catering is perfect if you are hosting a big corporate event, as the company specializes in senior brunches and big events for communities or organizations. brother

6. Ravishing Radish

Ravishing Radish specializes in making simple yet delicious dishes. They are also known to take care of every single aspect of your event, from food to renting. ravishing

7. DJ's California Catering

DJ's California Catering is an award-winning catering company is known throughout Los Angeles, Ventura, and Santa Barbara for its exquisite food and high-quality catering. Every meal is specifically prepared by an experienced staff that will take care of providing delectable food to your event.

djs

8. Rocky Top Catering

Rocky Top Catering delivers many options of food and bar service. You can choose from full-service catering, corporate catering, corporate catering delivery, off-site catering, and much more. rockytopcatering

9. ZeroCater

ZeroCater catering company takes advantage of technology to employees’ food preferences and prepare custom meals and snacks that your entire organization would love. zero

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