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Sarah Ward

Catering Menu Design: 5 Factors of Catering Menu Design

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Catering menu design–and the process to develop a catering menu–is an important factor in your catering business plan. Of course, you should also focus on choosing the types of catering events you want to work at. Getting a catering license, hiring catering service staff, and coming up with catering business ideas are also important. 

The process of how to start a catering business requires you to focus on your catering menu ideas and design. In this blog post, we’ll walk through some classic catering menu types to prepare you for setting up your own menu.

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Food Catering Menu Sample

A food catering menu sample is a great place to start when you’re getting ready to design your catering business menu. It gives you an idea of what you need to include on your menu.

The general outline of a food catering menu is two-fold. This is the menu you share with clients and health department officials to make sure your ingredients are safe and high quality. The menu has a full breakdown of ingredients, where they are sourced from, and how you will prepare each dish.

Then there is the menu you share with the host and event guests. This menu has less detail and more design qualities. It showcases the dishes you’ll serve and involves a chosen font, aesthetic color themes, and your company logo.

Breakfast Catering Menu 

A breakfast catering menu is an opportunity to show off your ability to make breakfast foods irresistible. Whether it’s a family reunion breakfast or a corporate breakfast menu, there are many breakfast catering menu design options. A lot of it comes down to the type of breakfast you are serving. 

A good way to format a breakfast catering menu is to organize it by type of food. That typically means sections for:

  • Bread products–such as pancakes, toast, or waffles
  • Toppings–including butter, fruits, sauces, and whipped cream
  • Drinks–with coffee–including white label coffee, tea, juice, and potentially even some morning mocktails
  • Quick bites–for anyone looking to eat quickly, this could be something along the lines of muffins or fruit cups

Working within those sections will help you fill out the necessary information. Odds are, you’ll also find additional information to add, such as coffee creamers or cereal options.

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Banquet Catering Menu 

A banquet catering menu is typically used in the hotel industry–and the greater hospitality industry. Everyone–from hotel staff to banquet servers to the banquet manager–has a role to play. They all help to make sure the banquet catering menu is fully functional.

A banquet catering menu is unique in that all of the food is generally prepared on location. This means the menu items have a little more room for change depending on how the food preparation goes. You can prepare for the possibility of change in the menu by having multiple options accounting for food supply chain issues or kitchen mishaps.

"Key Takeaway: The general outline of a food catering menu is two-fold. This is the menu you share with clients and health department officials to make sure your ingredients are safe and high quality. Then there is the menu you share with the host and event guests."

Brunch Catering Menu 

A brunch catering menu is similar to a standard brunch menu in many ways. Odds are it will include cocktail drinks and non-alcoholic mixed drinks for teetotaler guests, pastries–perhaps prepared by a pastry chef, and common breakfast and lunch foods. While your host and their guests focus on the best brunch outfits, you’ll be serving up a streamlined menu of brunch café classics.

A brunch catering menu is set up similarly to any catering menu design. The key difference is the mix of breakfast and lunch dishes. The best way to organize your menu is to group items of the similar composition together.

Catering Services Menu

A catering services menu is all about efficiency, clarity, and preparation. Those three factors come together well in any situation. They are especially important for a catering services menu because of how hectic a catering business can be.

Efficiency is important for a catering menu design because catering is a busy business. A menu with a lack of frills and fluff is a must. 

For a menu, efficiency is all about having a streamlined process for order management, meal planning, and cooking needs. The menu should make every step easier.

Clarity for a catering menu refers to the need for transparency in ingredients. You’re dealing with a lot of people enjoying your food. You need to be clear about what is used in the dishes in case of allergens or dietary preferences.

Preparation is key for any menu. A catering menu–in its full form–should make it clear what preparation will be needed for each dish. This involves a food safety system and checklist and recipe instructions.

Frequently Asked Questions About Catering Menus

Catering menus, from a brunch catering menu to a classic catering menu, take a lot of work. You need to take care of sourcing ingredients and mapping out dishes and full meals. 

You also need to take inventory of what you have to be ready for every menu preparation. Our answers to these frequently asked questions will help you prepare.

How Do I Set Up a Catering Business Menu?

To set up a catering business menu, you need a list of your chosen dishes, as well as every ingredient involved in those dishes. You should have backups in case of food supply chain management problems or a changed mind on behalf of a client. Setting up a catering business menu involves planning for every potential outcome.

What are the Basic Menu Formats Used by a Caterer?

The basic types of menu formats used by a caterer are:

  • À la carte menu, where every item is listed individually
  • Table d’ hote menu, which is a restricted, course-driven menu
  • Cycle menu, which is a series of table d’ hote menus
  • Elective menu, where the entrée determines the main price and sides and appetizers are interchangeable
  • Combination menu, which is often an à la carte with specials

These menu formats are also common in restaurant and bar business operations. They are classics that suit different occasions.

What are the Qualities of a Good Caterer?

The qualities of a good caterer are:

  • Attention to detail
  • Organizational skills
  • Customer satisfaction focus
  • Strong communication skills
  • Passion for food
  • Grace under pressure
  • Leadership skills
  • Planning skills

Those qualities make for an efficient, effective person in any profession. They are especially useful for caterers, as it is such a high-energy job.

What Is a Menu Pattern?

A menu pattern is defined as the outline of the food items to be included in each meal. A menu pattern is both crucial for ingredient transparency in catering and important for serving a well-balanced meal. It is also often used in reference to home meal preparation and cafeteria food–even company cafeteria food with corporate cafeteria menu ideas.

When you’re setting up a menu pattern there are several things to consider for the structure of the meal. They are a balance of ingredients, nutritional quality, aesthetics, and a variety of colors, textures, flavors, shapes, and food sizes.

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Catering Menus: Map Out Your Menus To Reach Catering Success

Planning your catering menu design is a key component of setting up your catering business for success. To back up your planning with software support, check out BinWise Pro, paired with the BinScan mobile app, for all your inventory needs. BinWise takes the weight of inventory off your shoulders, so you can focus on building your business.

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