2 Core Principles of Catering: Surprise, Delight, Satisfy – and Make It Easy to Eat

Almost every fun, surprising, and successful food trend you can find can be traced back to these 2 core principles of catering: surprise, delight, satisfy – and make it easy to eat.

What that boils down to is:

mini grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup shots1. Think ahead to what people will truly enjoy (versus feeling boxed in by what tradition dictates should be served)
2. Make food that’s easy to eat (not too messy, very manageable)

These two principles can even help you give your old recipes a face lift!

Let’s talk about the first principle, “surprise, delight, satisfy”. What is it that people really want? What has the potential to surprise guests intellectually while satisfying their palate?

Too many people still get stuck on tradition. “What are we supposed to serve?” Well, there’s nothing like breaking with tradition and following your own heart (and stomach) to decide what to serve at an event. Choosing foods that are special to the guests or hosts at birthdays, weddings, and other events is a quick, easy way to instantly personalize an event, too.

Looking for food preparation ideas and ways to surprise, delight, and satisfy your guests? Think about:

  • Familiar foods presented in new ways. Mini appetizers are such a fun way to serve food, and everyone loves seeing things they’re used to seeing as full size in a miniature form. Very popular right now are favorites such as mini grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup shots and mini pies made from food ingredients that aren’t normally pies, such as cheeseburgers, pizza, and lasagna. (Check out these 10 recipes you can make in a muffin pan for inspiration.)
  • Foods they know and love in unexpected settings. Sometimes, going to a fancy event and seeing small BLT sandwiches or gourmet mac and cheese bites can make people excited. It gives people a moment of, “Oh, wow, it’s like they thought of me!” And sometimes it’s the presentation! A trend we hope will never go away is serving fresh fruit and other treats in waffle cones, like this s’mores ice cream cone recipe. (Don’t let the fact that it’s on a kid blog deter you – grown-ups will be just as delighted by the treat.) Or make your own pizza cone!
  • New flavor combinations. It’s like that first time someone said to themselves, “I like chocolate. I like peanut butter. What would happen if I put them together?” This year’s unexpected flavor combination winners include chocolate and avocado (to the delight of vegans and the health conscious everywhere), sriracha and peanut butter, and olive oil and ice cream. (See all 18 strange food combinations, so you can experiment with them yourself.)
  • Mozzarella, grape tomatoes, and basil on skewersAnd if all else fails…serve it on a stick. Create your own kebobs, from fruit to dessert to hors d’oeuvres, like these mini caprese kebobs.

Speaking of serving things on a stick, that brings us to principle 2: Make it easy to eat. No one wants to look ridiculous while they’re eating or mess up their fancy clothes. And juices or sauces dripping down one’s arm is just not pleasant.

  • Make it mini! Because who can resist cute little versions of their favorite foods? They’re so cute! And manageable bite-size portions mean people can enjoy their food while still carrying on a conversation. Check out these mini app recipes for inspiration.
  • Resist sauces. Unless you can find a way to serve your food in such a way that it won’t get on people’s fingers, clothes, chins, and other unexpected places, like these very trendy edible spoons. (No waste either!)
  • Think self contained. Wrap ingredients in pastry, the way samosas, egg rolls, and wontons come served. Or, put ingredients in a crust, the way one does with mini pies and quiches.
  • Pretzel crusted deep-fried brownie on a stick with caramel drizzleAnd if all else fails…you guessed it. Find something you can serve on a stick. (We’re fans of this deep fried pretzel-crusted brownie on a stick from Saz’s Ribs and Catering, which they produced for the Wisconsin State Fair.)

Reading article after article about food trends, it seems everything leads back to these two principles. Brides and grooms are starting to serve pie or doughnut towers instead of cake. Why? Because they don’t like wedding cake, and the doughnuts or pies are more meaningful to them. The guests are surprised and delighted, yet comforted and satisfied by the familiarity of their favorite treats. Edible spoons are hot, because they are less wasteful (nothing to throw away or wash), and they make messy food easier to eat.

So get inspired! What do you already make that you could present in a different way? What will surprise, delight, and satisfy the guests at your next event?

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