How To Cater An Event

How to cater an event needn't be complicated or overwhelming. You just need to decide a food theme for your event. For example, do you want an outdoor barbecue style, a picnic style, or a more formal Italian or Mexican style? Once you have an idea of your food theme you can start thinking about the most popular foods in that category. To learn how to cater an event you'll need all the supplies that your guests will expect with the food such as napkins, plates, and the like.

   To cater an event, you'll need:

  • Two entrees or main courses: Roast beef, fried chicken, roasted turkey, standing rib roast, barbecue ribs, kabobs, crab legs, or lobster tails, for example.
  • Three salads : Perhaps potato salad, Cole slaw, pasta salad, green salad, Greek salad, or 7-layer salad.
  • Two to four side dishes: Baked potatoes, rice dish, pasta dish, vegetable dish or casseroles. Corn on the cob, macarone and cheese, or baked beans are popular.
  • Cold drinks: Water with lemon, sodas, and fruit juices.
  • Hot drinks: Tea and coffee are the most common.
  • Two  desserts: A cake or pie to fit your occasion work well and maybe a nice tray of cookies, Danish, or other pastries.
  • Condiments: Salt, Pepper, ketchup, mustards, hot sauce, melted butter, barbecue sauce, buffalo sauce, and a couple of chip dips.
  • Serving ware: Large forks, spoons, slotted spoons, tongs, and toothpicks may be needed.
  • Warming trays: These are usually just jars of sterno or candles lit under a metal rack holding the foil or metal serving tray.
  • Cooling trays: Fill large trays with ice and set the cold food trays on top to keep cold.
  • Tableware: Plates, dessert plates, appetizer plates, and bowls may be needed. Make sure there are plenty of napkins also.
  • Silverware: Forks, spoons, and knives are usually needed.
  • Condiments: This could include black olives, green olives, radishes, cherry tomatoes, dill pickles, and sweet pickles.
  • Bread tray: If you're serving roast beef sandwiches you know you'll need buns. To go with the other foods you can serve Italian or French bread, garlic bread, dinner rolls, or cocktail rye bread.
  • Appetizers: You can serve a simple chip tray and/or a shrimp tray.


  1. Professionals who know how to cater use pretty and colorful trays and bowls whenever possible.
  2. Put your napkins, tableware, and silverware at the start of your buffet table.
  3. Next will come your appetizer tray or trays.
  4. Knowing how to cater means place your bread and relish trays next.
  5. Place the salad, entree, side dishes next.
  6. Arrange the condiments next to the side dishes, making sure to offer salt and sugar substitutes.
  7. To cater your hot and cold drink station put them next in line.
  8. Lay out your desserts adjacent to the drinks.
  9. Try not to crowd the trays of food because the guests won't have room to get their food if everything is pushed together. It's better to use another table if need be.
  10. Consider that guests will take food from either side of the table so don't make it awkward by putting the trays too close to one edge unless your table is against a wall. Learning how to cater is both fun and easy.
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