16 Tantalizing Ways to Display Event Catering

Catering is a necessity for most events. It can, however, take up a lot of space or seemingly be pushed away from the buzz of the event to avoid detracting from the décor or flow.

But, your guests need food.

It’s not an option to remove the catering from your event (attendees will definitely protest!), particularly if it lasts all day or, like meetings, requires any sort of brain power. Finding catering solutions that integrate well with your venue without taking up too much space can be tricky.

Instead of tucking the buffet table away in the corner, bring it center stage. Make food displays more interactive so it’s part of the event you can be proud of. Food structures draw attention, make food part of the fun and are social-media worthy, creating plenty of photo opportunities. Here are some of the best ways you can do this for an event buffet table you can be proud of.

1. Shrimp Tower

Shrimp cocktail is a traditional favorite for starters but don’t restrict it just because you’re having a buffet instead. Rather than pre-making prawn cocktails and seemingly going back in time, go extravagant and futuristic with this chilled shrimp tower. It uses the ice to keep the shrimp chilled and guests can choose from squeezed lemon or Tabasco sauce as an accompaniment, plus the shrimp luge is a funky wave to make it more interesting too.

Credit: Chisel It Ice Sculptures

2. Chip Hors d’ oeuvres

Just because you’re going sophisticated or corporate does not mean you have to give up on chips on the catering menu. They can be particularly difficult to serve at a buffet because no one likes the cold and soggy ones at the bottom of the tray and they don’t look appetizing in a heap. This is an awesome alternative that turns mini portions of chips into hors-d’oeuvres that are individually dished out. Using this tray makes them mobile, creates a stunning display and the newspaper wrappers are a cute twist too and could be branded or a reprint of a significant day in history.

Credit: Meaps

3. Salad on Ice

If you don’t have space for a salad bar this is a cool mini alternative that still makes the healthy options appealing and fresh. These salad buckets are served on ice and they are build-your-own with toppings and dressings. A tray this size could serve individual tables and still be decorative as an interactive centerpiece.

Credit: Sherly Hermawan

4. Hanging Buffet

If you don’t have much floor space or are looking for ways to incorporate a buffet table, without the table, go wild with this swing invention. If you can pull this off without disaster it would be a quirky and whimsical idea that definitely makes an impact.

5. Food Tree

A really cool idea if you are lacking table width at your venue and want to sneak food in is this treat tree. This option has desserts on every level but you could incorporate brain food instead by having savory and sweet snacks on different tiers and it works really well in confined spaces. A few well-placed trees spread around the venue would negate the need for as many wait staff to keep the budget down and attendees can pick up their appetizers as they mingle. This would also be an interesting idea for samples at an exhibition or trade show.

Credit: Catered by Design

6. Podiums

Particularly useful if you have feature food such as cakes or towers, you can incorporate these branding and signage opportunities into the buffet or station. This is an excellent example with each podium containing a different sweet treat at different heights to create a dynamic display that is decorative and interesting. Segregated platforms are stepping up the food display game.

Credit: All Things Sweet Boutique

7. Miniature Lines

If you’re opting for smaller snacks for the tables, you still don’t want to miss out on the decorative element and these miniature lines are an option that attendees won’t forget. In addition to the gourmet catering, the little tiny buckets are for dipping too so everything serves a purpose and looks great on tables for a quirky but quick interactive snack idea.

Food Glorious Food! // Today is our annual Chinese New Year feast, all made from scratch by my amazing mum, so I naturally have food on the brain while I’m waiting to tuck in! ~ Just look at this little culinary masterpiece (which I have named Pigs on Pegs) I just love seeing what my couples have decided to feed their guests; hog roasts, nibbles on sticks, 3 courses of their favourite dishes – and the best bit is that I get to join in too! . . . . . . #weddingphotography #ukweddingphotography #weddingphotographer #ukweddingphotographer #weddingfood #weddingfoodideas #thefinediningcompany #pigsonpegs #sausages #instafood #food #weddingideas #weddinginspiration #weregettingmarried #imgettingmarried #bridetobe #groomtobe #samanthakayphotography #weddingstyle #photo #cheshirewedding #cheshireweddingphotographer #chinesenewyear #letseat #foodporn #amazing #foodgloriousfood

A post shared by Samantha Kay Photography (@samanthakay_photography) on Feb 21, 2018 at 9:46am PST

Credit: Samantha Kay Photography

8. Chalkboards

Not just used for signage, chalkboards can create an awesome food display idea for build-your-own stations. Although excellent calligraphy would be perfect here, it’s an informal but classy way of sprucing your display and completely adaptable if you need to reuse tables throughout the event. Clearly labeling food is a must to keep lines flowing and anyone with allergies and dietary requirements well catered for.

How do you top your Mac and Cheese?

A post shared by Royal Fig Catering (@royalfigcatering) on Mar 28, 2017 at 8:34am PDT

Credit: Royal Fig Catering

9. Dessert Wall

If you want to turn your dessert station into a showcase, this is how you do it. This stunning example is made out of black acrylic and features shelves for different desserts which is perfect if you have an amazing caterer that you want to show off. Food displays like this turn into a feature décor piece and using a backdrop and height can fit more food in that attendees will love to capture, but be warned, at first some may feel it’s too good to disrupt by eating this work of art.

Black Acrylic Dessert Display Wall

A post shared by MEAPS (@meapsaustralia) on Nov 26, 2017 at 1:51am PST

Credit: MEAPS

10. Repurposed Charcuterie

For low budgets, repurposing furniture can be ideal rather than event rentals. Turn ordinary feature furniture like this ornate dresser into a food display for a quirky station that attracts attention at the venue. If it’s sturdy enough you could also fill the draws with wrapped food or even have a cutlery and napkin draw.

Credit: Arroz Con Leche

11. Sushi Boat

When it comes to your display, tying the theme or food choice into the idea can yield cool results like with this sushi boat. Fresh fish couldn’t really be served in anything else and this sliced layout makes it easy for attendees to get their hands on the food for nibbling which is the appeal of sushi. Logistically this could hide ice underneath in order to keep the fish chilled and it is able to allow for a wide food selection to go in the center of the table or at the buffet.

Credit: Mr. Sam Sushi Boat.

12. Bread Crates

Some attendees are only in it for the bread selection but it can be difficult to spruce it up. Give attendees a wider choice with this rustic picnic display that makes use of old wooden crates to separate bread types and easily stack them. The addition of the succulents add an understated and on-trend foliage decoration and the gourmet sliced cheese is perfect for the ultimate carb lover at your event.

13. Table Waves

It can be difficult to display catering on circular tables because it means everyone has to walk the entire way around and few items can be reached in the middle (particularly with larger diameters) so you’re often stuck with a ring layout that gets boring. However, this wave idea uses plenty of space without making the table look cluttered and offers easier access from different angles. You could easily incorporate more waves into this design without overfilling the table and the combination of food colors in their uniform waves looks great aesthetically.  

Credit: Blue Star Burgers

14. Hanging Edible Spoons

This is an interactive food idea that creates a really unique display. The multi-height cookie “spoons” that are suspended from the ceiling can be picked by attendees so they can pair it with their favorite pudding. You could experiment with different flavors and even ask attendees to decorate the spoons as part of a participatory event activity.

Credit: Miit Studio

15. Mermaid Croquembouche

What would this list be without a croquembouche which is an edible self-sustained structure that does all the displaying itself! Obviously, you still need a stand or plate but add this to one of the podiums we mentioned earlier and you’re onto a winner. This particular example is just amazing and incorporates the mermaid/unicorn themes that are popular at the moment for a food display that can act as an edible centerpiece or hold its own in the room.

Mermaid.Dessert.Tower #croquembouche #canberradesserttower #canberradesserts #marbledchocolate #ediblecentrepiece #emandbear #canberra

A post shared by Em And Bear (@emandbear_) on Feb 28, 2018 at 11:10pm PST

Credit: Em and Bear

16. Ladder Display

Use everyday items to make your food display stand out like this open ladder that uses boards to create adaptable and mobile shelves for catering. Each shelf could follow a theme and with plenty of room in the middle, you could incorporate a feature piece too as the central part of your structure. This is a stunning example of how you can combine food and décor for a beautiful finish without having to bust the budget.

In Conclusion

Now there’s no excuse for a boring buffet table at your event with some of these powerful ideas for food displays. Talk to your caterer about the options for display when you are deciding on food options early on to give you the most flexibility to see what you can come up with.