Catering with Tapas and Small Dishes

Posted by Patrick Maness +

In recent years, more catering companies have been asked to design and cater entire menus featuring small plates. In these situations, not only is a catered meal made up of small plates a fun and exciting alternative to the typical chicken or salmon dishes, but it lets people sample a variety of foods. This is a great way to ensure everyone eats something they like.

If you run a catering business, it's likely that you already have experience with small-plate catering, namely, through preparing and serving appetizers. It might seem like catering an entire meal with small plates would simply be a matter of expanding your appetizers and hors d’oeuvres menu, and in many ways it is. However, the major shift you need to take into account is that where hors d’oeuvres and appetizers are merely components of your overall meal, they will now become the main event.  

Because of this, the entire way you serve and select these small plates will have to change accordingly. Here are four big factors to consider when catering small-plates events.

Buffet or table service – One of the biggest decisions you'll make is whether to set up a buffet or have staff members serve plates to guests. Needless to say there are advantages to each, but because of the number of plates that will need to be delivered to tables, all at different times, a buffet will greatly reduce staffing costs. To avoid the wait that comes with long lines, you can set up several buffet bars.            

Seating – The other is big issue to address is how people will be seated. Because tapas and small plates are generally shared, many caterers prefer to seat people at a long, family-style table, which is an arrangement that emphasizes the theme and spirit of the meal.

Provide multiple stations – Some people will find it odd to eat only small plates, and some will likely want larger portions. Whatever the reason, it’s a good idea to have a grill station or a salad bar. If you’re catering tapas, consider complementing the plates with a paella station, which leads to our next point.

Themes – While deciding which plates to serve, you should also keep in mind the overall theme of the meal. Think of it not only as a meal but as an experience, and make sure to choose drinks that work within that theme. Tapas demand some sort of sangria or Spanish table wine, and you can even choose to provide beer flights with the meatier plates. This is a real opportunity to be creative and wow your guests.

The small-plate trend is likely to grow as people look for more creative ways to cater and celebrate big events in their lives, from graduations to marriages and more. As a business owner, it’s an opportunity to provide a creative and immersive dining experience. 

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