Expert catering tips for a stress free Christmas!

Oh hey there! I’m Hannah and I work part-time with Phoebe. What I do with the other part of my life is own and operate a café in Daylesford. I’ve owned cafes with my mum (and best friend), Kathy since 2014. By now, you’re like, yeah yeah, so why are you here, so what? I grabbed the reigns of Phoebe’s blog today to share a few pointers about catering events as we head into the Christmas silly season. I’ve got a bit under my belt when it comes to food, styling, budgeting and feeding the masses. So I hope you get a few ideas and money saving tips out of this blog to set yourself up to host some amazing Christmas and end of year parties that don’t cost you an arm and a leg.

First up, ask questions to get the deets…A big one to consider is what are your best skills…can you even cook or are you a great planner and outsourcer? Think about who is and who can help then…

Know how many guests are coming
Are there dietary requirements or allergies
What time of day is the event
Where are you hosting and what equipment will you have (think oven, microwave, bench space etc)
Do you have a budget to keep to
Do you have to consider styling, location and equipment hire
Do you need to factor in your own time and energy too?
Are you hosting for yourself or are you lending a hand to someone else?

So let’s talk money. Catering isn’t cheap but it really doesn’t have to be super expensive either. Outsourcing to a local café or restaurant is going to be more expensive than getting sangas from a bakery or wraps from a supermarket deli or fast food chain. I’m forever short on time in my life and therefore cannot expect myself to cook, bake and prepare ALL the food (I always think I can but it never happens). I find the best way is to have a balance of made and pre-bought food and one of my best tips is to unify the presentation. If you are getting a plate of sandwiches from a café, take the glad wrap off, and place them on your own plate with a few sprigs of rosemary. Write a cute sign for your guests to know what’s what and be sure to note any allergy cautions. Phoebe loves her hack of buying uncooked sausage rolls from the local butcher, cutting them into bite size and sprinkling some black sesame seeds on top before cooking. Serve with a gourmet relish and, bam – fancy!

Get quotes! I suggest getting at least two quotes. Divide the quote total by the number of guests to know the cost per head and assess if this meets your budget. Divide the total by the number of bites and then by the number of guests to know the average cost per bite. Always ask questions and see what flexibility the business can offer you to meet your budget. Be sure to always factor in one bite of each piece per person. It’s always disappointing when there’s a lot of variety but only a few bites of each so when you are chatting away during the event hearing all about how good the French onion tarts are…but they’re all gone already. So one bite per person guys, it’s only fair and it’s much more cost effective. Hosting 20 people – ordering 20 bites of caramel slice is cheaper than 5 bites of caramel slice, 5 bites of brownie, 5 lemon tarts and 5 macarons.

We now live in a world where we need to consider dietary requirements and allergies in a BIG way. Give your guests plenty of notice to RSVP with any requests. Catering can get expensive when you are offering different foods for people with differing allergies. A great tip is to try to come up with an offering that ticks the box for multiple dietary requests in one go. Ask the café to help, as a cafe owner I excel at just this. And remember, these foods can still be delicious and served to everyone not just those with the allergy. You must take allergies super seriously. Make sure you prepare allergy food separately and present in a separate bowl/plate away from other food and labelled loudly! If you’re an avid dinner host there’s a great FREE course that I highly recommend. It’s just great general information that you just never know where or when it will come in handy.

This time of year flies by as we are wrapping everything up at work and are more social than any other time of year. Write a menu and a plan for the day then break it down in what needs to be done in what order. Ask for help to share the workload. Get to know what people around you are capable of, and where their skills lie and be grateful for whatever they can bring to the party to ease the workload. Think about preparing food early. What can be made well in advance of your event? Make the chilli jam now (see our newsletter two weeks ago for the recipe), make and freeze the sausage rolls and whip up the salad dressings a week before.

A great money saver is to reuse, repurpose and recycle! Hosting two events, repeat the menu and make the sausage rolls just once. Borrow the Christmas table centre decorations from your friend who hosted Christmas the week prior. You don’t need to buy new! Revamp last year’s decorations or add a new colour into the mix to freshen up the look. Get savvy, I am a keen op shopper and always pick up a few new decorations or vintage wine glass collection that are always a highlight at Christmas.

This festive season is about making memories with your loved ones. If you are too stressed and anxious about the event, will you truly enjoy it? Weigh up whether outsourcing in this case might be a better choice. I’m sure your friends would prefer to enjoy the time with you than have you up tight and stuck working in the kitchen. Also, leave the dishes for the next day (or bribe someone to lend a hand).

Enjoy the Christmas season and I hope you devour all the delicious nommies!

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