crucial to the success of any catered event, the way the
menu is presented and served often is what the guests
clients. Stainless steel serving pieces, venues with
exposed pipes, cutting-edge menus. This look isn’t to
everyone’s taste, but it will get guests talking.
Although themes can range from elaborate and fanciful to
a relatively simple menu with a few décor touches, most
events fall within a relatively small range of themes. Your
creativity is what takes an industrial theme or a seasonal
theme and makes it special.
local, local, local
Almost anywhere you go, people want events that reflect the
history, geography and food of wherever they are. Northwest
Coast seafood for Washington and Oregon, traditional
Southern for virtually anywhere in the South, lobster and
clambakes for the East Coast. “Many of our customers want
a Chesapeake Bay sort of style,” says Scott Hoffner of Main
Event Caterers in Arlington VA. “It amazes me that they want
something they can look outside of their window and see.”
Some customers want to show their guests that they are
environmentally aware, so they want local food in season,
compostable and/or recyclable products, little to no waste.
But some want a setting that just looks, well, green. Live
plants instead of cut flowers, grass or moss on tabletops—
or actually be outside for the event. This kind of “green”
event may or may not be particularly eco-friendly.
The opposite of the green event—and increasingly
popular with younger clients, as well as many corporate
Obviously, most clients are going to want winter-themed
events in the winter and summer-themed events in
the summer, but how caterers carry them out can vary
greatly. (Wouldn’t it be fun to do a summer theme in the
middle of a cold January?)
There is a wide range of possible island themes, from
the Caribbean to the Seychelles. Call it “tropical” and
the range is even wider, from the South American rain
forest to Southeast Asia to Africa. Themes that focus on
cuisine from hot climates and colors we tend to think of
as tropical have been popular for decades—and they
still are, although today’s events show a much more
sophisticated sense of the world than when a Hawaiian
theme seemed impossibly exotic to mainlanders.
A Roman dinner, a Mad Men cocktail hour, a scene from
the client’s childhood … providing the atmosphere—
and menu—for an historic era, whether it’s the client’s
personal history or the history of the world, gives caterers
a chance to research history and recreate it.
PHOTO CREDITS Clockwise from top left: JPC Event Group; Culinary Crafts; Santa
Barbara Caterers; Millie Holloman Photography, Natalie Norton Photography and
Jessica Claire, for WeddingAces.com; By Word of Mouth Catering; JPC Event Group.