What’s more fun than having good friends over? Having good friends over without all the work. Catered parties are an easy (and surprisingly affordable) way to relax and enjoy yourself — before, during and after the party. Here are seven tips to keep in mind, brought to you by Evite in partnership with Qdoba.
Tip 1: Plan your menu. Consider how many guests you will be serving, any dietary restrictions, whether you need kid-friendly options, and whether you want to serve dessert. Offer two or three entrees (Qdoba, for example, gives you a choice of a Hot Naked Burrito® Bar, Nacho Bar or Taco Bar) with customizable sides and toppings whenever possible. You’ll also want to think about foods that are easy to serve and eat. Wooden salad servers are tricky to wrangle at a casual buffet, while soups are challenging to eat on a couch. Go for lots of finger foods that aren’t too messy and that hold up well for hours at a time.
Tip 2: Choose a caterer and place your order at least a few weeks in advance. You don’t have to do it all yourself. Just call a caterer, place your order, sit back and relax. You can always adjust the size of your order slightly up or down as the event draws closer and you learn exactly how many guests are coming. Follow up with the restaurant catering manager the day before the party to confirm your order and arrival time.
Tip 3: Optimize your table setup. Place food on a kitchen island or dining room table that allows for free circulation in all directions. Try to leave space all the way around the table or island so that guests can serve themselves from either side. Keep in mind that each chafing dish will take about two feet of space.
Tip 4: Separate beverages from the food. Chill beer and wine in an ice-filled metal tub on a side table along with plastic cups. Underneath the table, stash a cooler filled with water and sodas. For extra points, offer a margarita bar with a pitcher of margaritas at the ready. Include an ice bucket, plastic cups, one small bowl with lime sections and one small plate with rock salt.
Tip 5: Walk yourself through the line and put things in places that make sense. For example, plates should be first, napkin-wrapped utensils last. Offering sauces, salsa or other toppings? Place them close to the edge of the table (and thus close to people’s plates) so they don’t drip into other dishes.
Tip 6: Provide serving utensils appropriate to the dish. Offer tongs for breads, tortillas and green salad. Large serving spoons are best for most sides. Soup spoons work well for cheeses, sauces and other garnishes. Keep a saucer next to each platter for the utensil to rest on between guests. Offer two sets for a two-sided buffet line. Be sure to check with your caterer to see what they provide — some offer utensils, chafing dishes and napkins along with the food.
Tip 7: Put garbage receptacles in convenient places. Use sturdy trash bags and replace them as needed. Encourage guests to recycle too with a separate can (clearly marked “Recycling Only”) set up for empty glass and plastic beverage bottles.