Party Planning Strategies: Planning The Food and Beverages
For those wanting a trendy vodka martini cocktail with fruit flavors, cosmopolitans -- also known as cosmos -- are a favorite. Needless to say, a party planner must use a professional bartender who is familiar with past and current cocktail trends.
Here are some of the latest trends in non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages/cocktails:
- Flavored/enhanced water
- Espresso/specialty coffees
- Bottled water
- Filtered water
- Craft/artisanal/micro-brewed beer
- Energy drink cocktails
- Martinis/flavored martinis
- Micro-distilled/artisanal liquors
Restaurants serve as one of the most popular off-site venues selected by event planners, and it's understandable when planners try to stay ahead of the next big food and beverage or catering trend. With $558.3 billion projected in restaurant food and beverage sales for the U.S., special event and party planners are eager to incorporate catering trends into their menu selections. Whenever you meet with your catering manager to plan your event menu, research the latest food and beverage trends and ask you caterer to incorporate them into the menu.
Here is a listing of the top 10 favorite appetizers. All of these recipes are available at www.southernfood.about.com/od/appetizersandsnacks.
- Ground Beef Nachos
- Barbecued Chicken Wontons
- Tangy Cocktail Franks
- Artichoke Dip With or Without Roasted Red Peppers
- Festive Sausage Balls
- Broiled Barbecued Chicken Wings
- Creamy Shrimp Dip
- Crab-Stuffed Mushrooms
- Sweet and Sour Meatballs
- Tortilla Roll-Ups
Appetizer or cocktail parties are a great way for guests to socialize while eating. Appetizers can please your party guests, help create a festive atmosphere, and have an enjoyable mouthful -- all at the same time.
Prepare dips and marinated dishes one or two days ahead. Decorate the party area and set out non-perishables, serving utensils, and dishes the prior night. Beware of Fido. Pre-slice and chop ingredients, and store them in the fridge in plastic bags or containers. Assemble them the day of the event. When serving sweets, figure three to five per person. Beverages should average about one cup non-alcoholic beverages per person, per hour; coffee and tea is about one cup per person.
Don't try to serve all vegetarian appetizers just because one or two people are vegetarians. The best strategy is to plan an appetizer menu with variety. Stay away from repetition of food or flavors. Too much chicken is too much chicken. Bland appetizers don't go over well, nor do flavors that conflict with one another. Make certain you have enough texture and color. Too many fried foods are a turn-off; fresh is in.
Fruit slices and a simple veggie tray are good fill-ins for vegetarians and weight-watchers. Garnish the trays with kale, parsley, olives, and lemon or lime peel. Line bowls with leafy cabbage leaves. Make appetizers small enough to be eaten in one bite with less mess.
Use your most beautiful serving bowls and platters, and try using other interesting vessels -- such as hollowed out bread, cabbage, or watermelons. If possible, place appetizers in multiple places. Stack fresh trays of appetizers in the kitchen, or outside if the weather is cold enough. Keep a waste receptacle handy for used napkins, skewers, and paper plates.
Don't use your party guests as guinea pigs. If you want to try out a new recipe, make it ahead of time to see how it tastes. Leave nothing to chance.
Buffet or Sit-Down Dinners
1. Who are the attendees? How many of the attendees will be at the event? Children? Adults? A child's birthday party, for example, will have mostly children attending and parents helping to oversee the children.
2. What is the theme or occasion? What type of party will this be? A family reunion? A birthday or anniversary party?
3. When is the actual date of the party?
4. Where will it be? If the client doesn't have a place in mind, dig into your book of venues and come up with some ideas. Indoors or outdoors? Formal or informal?
5. Why? Every client has a reason for putting on a party or event. Perhaps the family has drifted apart and it's time to renew old relationships,whereas, a celebration of 50 years of marriage doesn't need much explanation.
6. How? This may take some interviewing expertise to determine exactly what the client wants the guests to remember about the party. Will it be the food? The entertainment? The special desert tasting? An auction? Answering these questions will help to decide which aspects of the party will be important to your client.
7. How much? Since most people are watching their pennies nowadays, the clients may have to lower their expectations about some ideas. Telling clients this news is not a job for the timid or faint-hearted. Tact is a word to be stretched to the limit here, if you want to stay in your client's good graces.
Determining Cost Per Person
- $15 to $30 per person. A casual meal at the host's home, followed by informal activity (bingo, charades, etc.) Food can consist of a back yard barbecue, spaghetti or lasagna with salad and bread, or chili and corn bread.
- $35 to $150 per person. More upscale dinners and activities, either at the host's house, or at a restaurant. After-dinner activities can include clubbing, jewelry making, horse shoes, and a slumber party. Included is the cost for a continental breakfast.
- $150 to $300 per person. This can include hiring a personal chef to come to the host's home and cook a gourmet meal, a five-course meal at an upscale hotel, a spa treatment and a sushi meal, a limo party and a hotel suite party.
There can be prop costs, such as a tiara for the bride; party favors can cost anywhere from $5 to$15 dollars per person. Alcohol, such as wine and champagne, can run from a medium-priced bottle of wine or champagne, to the high-end sticker shock.
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