11 Best Foods for Catering Your Next Big Event

By Jason McIntosh

Are you thinking of starting your own catering company to fulfill the demands of providing delicious food at large events that local restaurants can't handle? Do you need inexpensive catering menu ideas for your clients' family reunions or work meeting events? Then you've come to the right place.

A successful catering menu is all about striking the perfect balance between variety, flavor, and creativity. Whether you're organizing a corporate lunch, a wedding reception, or a birthday party, you want to offer dishes that'll have your client's guests talking long after the event. So, let's explore the top 11 picks for the best foods that'll take your catering game to the next level.

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Top 11 Best Foods for Catering

When it comes to catering for events, the food options you offer can make or break the experience. Since it involves large groups of attendants for a special event it cannot be easy to please every palate. But unless the guests are all food critics or snobs, chances are, you will be successful as long as you can offer a wide variety of foods that can cater to each palate and preference. Having a solid list of go-to food menu ideas is essential if you want to make it in the catering industry.

These best catering ideas offer a variety of crowd-pleasing main dishes that cater to different tastes and dietary needs. Whether you're looking to do drop-off catering or food truck catering, these top 11 food options are sure to impress at your next event.

Newly weds in front of a mobile barPhoto credit: Sandy Berry Photography

1. Pizza

Who doesn't love pizza? It's a universal favorite and a great choice for feeding larger groups of people. When it comes to office gatherings or birthday parties, pizza never disappoints. Pizza is easy to serve, customize, and accommodate various dietary preferences.

But do keep in mind that pizza may not work well at formal events or wedding catering so make sure to coordinate with the event organizers to know the type of event you are catering for.

2. Tacos and Burritos

Mexican cuisine is another crowd-pleaser that offers a range of flavors and vegetarian options. From classic tacos to hearty burritos, this versatile cuisine can satisfy meat-eaters, vegetarians, and even the pickiest of eaters.

A taco station is a hit at any gathering. Guests can mix and match their favorite flavors, crafting a personalized meal that suits their taste buds and dietary needs. The best part? Mexican food is often naturally gluten-free, making it a great choice for those who are gluten-sensitive.

3. Sandwiches and Wraps

Sandwiches and wraps are a classic catering staple for a reason. They're easy to prepare, transport, and eat on the go. From simple deli sandwiches to gourmet creations on crusty bread, the possibilities are endless.

The grilled cheese is a classic sandwich that never fails to impress at any catered events. It's a nostalgic treat that both kids and adults can't resist. Want to make it fancy? Use gourmet cheeses and artisan bread for an elevated twist. Sandwiches and wraps are also ideal finger foods if you are catering for a casual event, letting guests mix and mingle while enjoying a tasty bite.

4. Salads

If you need a good idea to add something light and refreshing to your a la carte menus, then look no further than a salad. With the right combination of crisp greens, pine nuts, colorful toppings, and zesty dressings, salads can be incredibly filling and flavorful!

Salads are also fantastic catering staples because they make it easy to cater to different dietary restrictions like vegan or gluten-free. The more grilled vegetables and fresh herbs you add, the better. 

5. Grain Bowls

Grain bowls are the new catering craze, and it's easy to see why. Packed with a medley of delicious ingredients and customizable to suit any special dietary need or palate, these satisfying meals have something for everyone. Grain bowls also offer the perfect canvas to showcase the freshest seasonal ingredients from local farmers and producers.

6. Chicken Dishes

When it comes to catering, chicken dishes are the type of food that you want to be included in your menu of meat dishes. They're versatile, and affordable, and can be prepared in a variety of ways to suit different tastes and dietary preferences. From grilled chicken breasts to boneless fried chicken options, there's something for everyone.

A classic option like everyone's favorite is the chicken pot pie. It's warm, comforting, and perfect for feeding a large group for a sit-down meal. Plus, you can easily make it ahead of time and reheat it on the day of the event. Just be sure to use a high-quality cream sauce to really make the flavors stand out.

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7. Pasta

Pasta is another great option for catering because it's easy to prepare and can feed a crowd. From classic spaghetti and meatballs to more creative options like pesto pasta, there's a wide variety of pasta dishes you can offer your clients.

One thing to keep in mind when catering pasta dishes is to make sure it's cooked al dente. Overcooked pasta can get mushy and unappetizing, especially if it's sitting out for a while. And don't be afraid to experiment with different sauces and toppings - a creamy Alfredo sauce or a spicy arrabbiata should be among your pasta menu offerings.

8. BBQ

BBQ is always a hit if your client is looking for a more casual catering option. Whether you're serving pulled pork sandwiches or grilled chicken skewers, BBQ is a great way to bring some local flavor to an event. One trend that is recently making waves is the rise of food truck catering, especially for outdoor events.

Food trucks offer a unique and fun way to serve up delicious BBQ dishes, and you can use fresh, local ingredients to create signature flavors. Plus, being able to provide a food truck to community events can add an extra element of excitement and interactivity for the guests.

9. Breakfast Foods

Breakfast foods aren't just for morning events - they can be a great option for catering any time of day. There are plenty of delicious breakfast dishes, from classic breakfast sandwiches to more elegant options like quiche or frittata.  Build-your-own parfait bar is also a great breakfast catering idea.

So set out a variety of yogurt flavors, fresh fruit, granola, and other toppings, and let your guests create their own custom parfaits. It's a fun and interactive way to serve breakfast, and it's perfect for accommodating different dietary preferences. Just don't forget the cream cheese for the bagels.

10. Desserts

No catering menu is complete without some delicious desserts. From classic cookies and brownies to more elaborate options like mini cheesecakes or chocolate truffles, there are endless possibilities when it comes to sweet treats.

One of the best things about desserts for catering is that they can be served in a variety of ways. You can set up a dessert buffet with a selection of different options, or have servers pass around trays of bite-sized treats. And if you really want to wow your client's event attendees, consider setting up a build-your-own sundae bar or a chocolate fountain. It's a fun and interactive way to end the meal on a sweet note.

A box of macaronsPhoto credit: Bri Bond Photography

11. Cheese Boards

This type of food is best suited for buffet style catering. However, when done correctly this can be one of the most delicious options you can have in an event. For example, an event that caters to wine drinkers may find this very appealing as cheese goes really well with most alcoholic drinks.

Of course, cheese can cause food allergies and if possible consult your client or event manager if they prefer to opt out of having this on the food choices.

Tips for Choosing the Best Catering Foods

When it comes to choosing the best food items for your catering business, there are a few key things to keep in mind. First and foremost, consider the event type and your client's preferences. If you're hosting a large corporate event, for example, you'll want to offer dishes that are easy to serve and can accommodate a variety of dietary preferences.

It's also important to think about the catering setup and how the food will be served. Will you provide a buffet-style setup, or will servers be passing around trays of hors d'oeuvres? This can help guide your decisions about which dishes to include on the menu. Additionally, don't be afraid to get creative with your menu items.

Finally, think outside the box and consider having unique options like food trucks or interactive food stations. Always taste the food to ensure that everything tastes good and it will meet your client's expectations.

At the end of the day, the key to a successful catering business is to choose foods that are delicious, easy to serve, and accommodate a variety of tastes and preferences. With these tips in mind, you'll be well on your way to hosting a memorable and enjoyable event for all your customers.


Key Takeaway:  

For a winning event, mix classics like pizza and sandwiches with trendy options like grain bowls. This combo pleases everyone, fits all diets, and keeps things exciting. Chicken and pasta dishes are always winners for catering, offering versatility and crowd appeal. Don't forget BBQ for a casual vibe or breakfast food any time of day. Sweeten the deal with an array of desserts, from cookies to chocolate fountains. Remember, the right food choices can make an event unforgettable.



So there you have it, my friend - the top 11 best foods for your next unforgettable catering event. From savory pasta noodle dishes to brownie a la mode, these delectable options are sure to make your client's guests smile and their taste buds dance.

To crush your catering game, mix it up with a smorgasbord of flavors and textures that'll make everyone think of how great the event was because of your food offerings. Got vegans? Gluten-free foodies? No sweat! With a little creativity and your own special touch, you can put a fresh spin on tried-and-true favorites that'll leave 'em all raving.

Now that you're armed with this delicious knowledge, it's time to start planning that epic event for your client. With these best foods for catering in your arsenal, you're well on your way to delivering a party that people will be talking about for years to come. Let's get cooking!

Tags: catering, event planning


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