WebstaurantStore / Food Service Resources / In-Depth Articles / Catering Menu Ideas
Catering Menu Ideas

Catering Menu Ideas

Now that you've covered how to start a catering business and taken advantage of free catering invoice templates, it's time to figure out how to make your catering menu. Take your company to the next level with some original catering recipes that will blow your guests away. Follow our tips below to learn how to create the perfect catering menu for any event!

Some Things to Keep in Mind When Choosing Catering Recipes

  • Ingredient Availability—some exotic recipes and ingredient pairings are perfect on your palate—but not on paper. Fresh, exotic, or otherwise rare foods are more expensive and may need to be imported and ordered far in advance. This is an added expense and time commitment that may take a toll on profits and increase cost per plate for your customer.
  • Cost per Serving—speaking of cost per plate, remember that the customer is the boss. If they ask for an exotic or expensive ingredient, cater to their needs and make price adjustments based on menu substitutions clear from the get-go. If your customer is looking for a less expensive spread, check out our recipes section to find economical dishes to please a crowd.
  • Time in the Kitchen—some recipes are more involved and therefore require more time than others. When preparing a large amount of certain things ahead of time, you may require more staff to keep foods fresh, adding to your expenses. Consider the prep, cook, and plating times when choosing a recipe to find one that best suits your time constraints and kitchen situation.

Inspirational Takes on Old Favorites

four course meal

While some recipes are tried and true, more and more frequently offices, party planners, and the like are searching for a unique twist to make their occasions stand out. The following recipes add a fresh variation to some old favorites and will bring your catering company’s daring and bold tastes center stage. There is a lot to be said for the perfection of dependable standbys, but mix it up with a few of these dishes to add a flair to every occasion.

For an all-inclusive selection, make sure you cover the following categories:

  • Appetizers
  • Salads, Soups & Sides
  • Entrees
  • Desserts

Offering the right variety in each of these categories is the secret formula to an appealing menu for a diverse clientele. Scatter some common dishes among exotic options and don’t forget to be flexible, as we live in a world of customization.


Image credit: joythebaker.com

Start the night off right with a gooey marriage of classic cheese puffs and savory French onion soup. These French onion gruyere puffs combine sweet caramelized onions, melted gruyere, and buttery dough with a kick of mustard to create a sensational pocket-sized pastry perfect for pre-dinner snacking.


Didn’t think it could get better than the fresh and familiar combination of mozzarella, tomato, and basil? Throw in another crowd pleaser—stuffed mushrooms—and you’ve got a show–stopping salad. These caprice salad quinoa stuffed portabellas add nutty quinoa, fresh pesto, and roasted pine nuts to turn the salad course into the main attraction.


Image credit: healthygreenkitchen.com

Nothing can quite compare to a warm bowl of mom’s chicken noodle soup, but this Thai Coconut Chicken Soup is in a league of its own. With tangy ginger, coconut milk, and rice noodles, this recipe is sure to create a buzz about your business.


Mashed potatoes are a notorious staple side dish, but when you combine red potatoes with spicy chipotles, fresh scallions, and zesty adobo in chipotle mashed potatoes, your side will be anything but predictable! Fiery jalapeno poppers combined with creamy comfort food is a recipe for success.


Image credit: thepioneerwoman.com

Meat—Mix up the traditional steak and potatoes and add a little color to your next catering event with glazed skirt steak fajitas. These are perfect for a crowd; plate them beautifully or let your guests build their own at a buffet-style event with olive oil roasted sweet peppers and onions, chunky tomato and cilantro salsa, salty queso fresco cheese and sour cream. Any way you slice it, these fajitas will add a memorable spice to your event.

Poultry—How can you deviate from traditional roast chicken with crispy brown skin and tender vegetables? Pile on the flavor with this Tandoori-Style roasted chicken recipe. From marinade to creamy Greek yogurt sauce and garnishing charred onions, this recipe will walk you through a main dish that your clients will not forget.

Seafood—Salmon is a classic standby in every chef’s repertoire, but instead of a traditional presentation, mix it up! Pair creamy pasta with pan seared salmon and spaghetti Carbonara flavors to leave a lasting impression. This bavette with salmon, asparagus, and peas in pesto cream sauce will certainly leave guests with something to remember.

Vegetarian—Accommodating vegetarians and being creative with dishes sometimes proves a struggle—and when you throw vegans into the mix, options are reduced even further. With this lasagna béchamel, everyone will be happy! The bright sweet potato and subtle cauliflower flavors combine into a dish that is second to none.



Chocolate covered strawberries provide a short and sweet ending to any meal, but this tuxedo twist is guaranteed to add elegance to any black tie affair. Tweak your dessert presentation to add an extra special touch to your events with these black-tie strawberries. Guests will love this cute trick and your company will get points for creativity!

How to Create Your Own Unique Menu

If you’re looking for more creative license in your journey to recipe discovery, here is a quick guide to forming your own recipes in four easy steps. Spend a day experimenting in the kitchen and you may discover your own secret blend of herbs and spices!

Choose a Course and a Base

Appetizers Salads Soups Sides Entrees Desserts
  • Puffs
  • Dips
  • Skewers
  • Canapés
  • Sweet

  • Savory
  • Broth Based
  • Cream Based
  • Starches
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Casseroles
  • Pastas
Meat Poultry Seafood Vegetarian
  • Roasted
  • Fried
  • Grilled
  • Casseroles
  • Pastas
  • Cakes
  • Cookies
  • Pies
  • Tarts
  • Tortes
  • Parfaits
  • Trifles
  • Crisps & Crumbles

Start with a Proven Recipe

baker kneading bread

For example, to create your own cookie, begin with a proven recipe as the base:

Throw out any ingredients that are not vital to the production of the substance (in this case we would keep flour, butter, sugar, eggs, salt, and leavening).

Combine Ingredients and Add Your Own Flavors

Decide whether you would like to create a sweet or savory dish and add unique flavors to make it your own. Consider these ingredients which pair nicely in any recipe:

Maple Cheddar Apple Tomato Mozzerella Basil Apple Cinnamon Orange and Chocolate

Revamp Your Presentation

When in doubt about veering from favorite recipes, try to present a classic favorite in a new way. Cut it into a certain shape, add garnishes, or stack things in a different formation to give plated items a makeover. You would be surprised how far little presentation changes can go in making your dish more unique!

Once you make your own masterpiece, check out protecting your recipes: trade secrets and patents to keep your original creations under lock and key.

Related Resources

How to Start a Catering Business

Seeking a flexible alternative to running a restaurant? A catering business allows you to run a foodservice operation that doesn't require standard hours or a predictable schedule. Catering businesses are typically much easier to start than a restaurant. You can rent all needed equipment when starting, and as you make more money, eventually invest in your own supplies. You can even rent approved kitchen space. The Advantages of Starting a Catering Business Event hours vary, making this a flexible restaurant career. Guest counts help you efficiently plan so you know what profits to expect. This makes for more predictable profits than running a restaurant. A catered buffet style set up doesn't require waitstaff, eliminating the need for paid

Free Catering Invoice Templates & How To Price Them

We've already provided a starter guide on How to Start a Catering Business . Now it's time to learn how to write a proposal that will outline your catering prices for your clients! By mapping out anticipated catering costs beforehand, you will avoid the hassle of disputed fees between yourself and your customers. This allows your clients to know exactly what type of service to expect before the event, and in turn, allows you to adequately prepare. Additionally, keeping a copy of all invoices helps you stay organized for income tax purposes. Templates: To help you get a head start, we've created a catering invoice that you can download for use! Choose from blue, gray, green, and yellow invoice templates. Simply click to download. Contact Inf

How to Cater Your Own Wedding

Wedding receptions are expensive. From high venue costs to even higher food costs, the price of a dream wedding can be astronomical. Add in the fact that limited or restricted menus can hinder your creative spirit, and you’re left with one downer of a day—the biggest day of your life at that. To get around these costs, and let your inner foodie soar, perhaps it’s time to consider catering your own wedding? Catering your own wedding reception certainly has its share of obstacles, but with proper planning, it’s easy to get the fairytale ending you’ve always dreamed of. Keep calm, get organized, and remember that this is going to be your day, so enjoy it! Stay organized. Nothing is more important when catering your own wedding than staying org

Subscribe now for great deals and industry tips! Sign up for our mailing list to have weekly discounts and industry knowledge sent right to your inbox.

Food Service Resources

Guides, ingredient calculations, food management, and help!

Explore Resources
  • Visa
  • Discover
  • American Express
  • MasterCard
  • Paypal