Creating a Fun, Approachable Menu
Depending on the level of casualness, the client may also entertain the idea of having family-style or buffet fare. With these events, planners may be encouraged by the client to be innovative and have fun with the menu. The catering manager should avoid an adventurous menu, and the beverages should be suitable for a warm afternoon outside. A martini bar, for example, may not be a good idea.
The level of service changes slightly with casual events. Where a formal event may require one server for every 20 guests, a casual occasion may require one server for every 40 guests. In family-style meals, guests sit at communal tables and pass large platters of food. In buffet style, guests help themselves along one long buffet table. Meals are rarely coursed out; courses are served simultaneously.
If alcoholic beverages are being served, advise your client to employ a bartender. A bartender will manage the beverage table as well as beverage consumption. Offer punches for the adults and nonalcoholic smoothies for the children to make it fun.
Use the Theme to Create a Menu
The theme plays a big part in the menu. As always, choose produce that is in season and possibly native to the local area. For a fall harvest, serve butternut squash soup in sugar pumpkins and add cider donuts for the children. At a country inn, offer a hearty country brunch. A luau or a pig roast complements any summer event. And you can involve your guests with a Southern barbecue. For a family reunion, add a touch of nostalgia and ask each guest to make a dish from the family recipe box.
More often than not, your client will request a catered event. When you secure a nontraditional venue, the caterer or facility's chef will be your next stop. Schedule a caterer's tasting with your client. Give the caterer specific information as to the type of cuisine your client might prefer for his event. Complicated dishes may not have a place at this event. Food that is simply prepared with bright flavors should be on the menu.
Keep the Audience in Mind
In your discussions with your client, try and get a feel for the type of guests she will be expecting. Package the event with everyone in mind. Events with a large group of children may offer only grilled cheese and hot dogs, but an event at an oceanside seafood shack might offer a raw bar.
Caterers should be prepared with adequate refrigeration when cooking outside. Before the event, arrange for a walk-through for the caterer. Equipment may need to be rented if the kitchen capabilities at the venue are not adequate. Also inquire about the cooking methods the caterer will be using if serving the meal outside.
Take into account that some adults are unadventurous eaters. Your client may think nothing of offering venison as an entrée for everyone, but this may turn off some adults. A simple menu does not have to be unrefined. Grilled pizzas with fresh produce or grilled chicken with a housemade salsa make friendly meals.
Children love being involved in the cooking process. You can get children involved in cooking by arranging for a kids' cooking seminar at the beginning of the event, out of the way of the caterer of course. Children can volunteer for different jobs throughout the meal, especially dessert. Have kids make cookies, cakes, lollipops, or even ice cream. The children will be excited to show off their creations on the dessert table.