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6 insider tips you need to know before you order a catered buffet

There are many steps to organising a party, but perhaps none as important as getting the food right. After all, having a good or bad spread can make or break your party (and your reputation as a host).

But how do you perfect a catered buffet that you have little control over in terms of preparation? Here are 6 tips that will help you know what to pay attention to when you place your order.


1. It’s possible to get more variety for the same price

The more dishes you have, the bigger your buffet looks. Not to mention a wider spread usually draws more smiles. To extend your buffet line without paying a hefty top-up for extra dishes, consider catering for 5 to 10 guests fewer than your actual guest count, but adding an additional 2 to 3 courses.


Penang Catering's Buffet with Full Setup
Huge spread, big smiles.


2. Some dishes really don’t travel well

Unfortunately, many caterers continue to offer dishes that shouldn’t be on catering menus because their quality really suffers when they’re transported. Knowing what these are will make sure your guests get the best experience at your event.

Here are 3 to take note of:

1. Scrambled eggs

By the time your last guest peers into the tray, these would have become an omelette.

2. Stir-fried soft vegetables

Think greens like kang kong and spinach. These vegetables will wilt and collapse into their own juices, and start looking like a pool of mush.

3. Mango/papaya/pomelo salad (unless you’re ordering via Catersmith)

Most caterers pre-mix and dress their Thai or Vietnamese salads before they reach you. This causes the fruits to lose water and shrivel up, even before they hit the buffet line. That’s why we at Catersmith are particular about tossing your salad a la minute, only when we reach your venue.

3. Most menus can be easily shaped to accommodate vegetarian or vegan options

Don’t let anyone tell you that it’s difficult to change up non-vegetarian dishes to vegetarian ones. Most can be made vegetarian-friendly without much difficulty.

For example, many types of fried rice and fried noodle dishes have their proteins added as the last step, which means that caterers can easily omit the proteins without compromising on taste. These proteins – such as the shrimp in kueh pie tee – can be kept on the side, so non-vegetarian guests can add them later. (A smart thing to do when you’re not sure who’s vegetarian and who’s not!)

So the next time you’re hosting an event, don’t be afraid to ask.


Penang Catering's Kueh Pie Tee
Pro-tip: Request to have the shrimps placed on the side for a vegetarian Kueh Pie Tee option from Penang Catering.


 4. Don’t be fooled into thinking that swapping out dishes from a fixed catering menu is expensive

Hosting elderly folks who don’t like desserts, or guests on a low-carb diet? Easy peasy. Simply ask to change that course for something else or top up for another dish. At Catersmith, this usually costs nothing for equal-priced courses, and between $0.50 and $2 for higher-priced ones.

5. Familiar dishes with a twist are surefire crowd-pleasers

From our experience, guests tend to gravitate towards interesting takes of dishes they know. Case in point, the Thai Herbs Blue Fried Rice from our partner Nara Thai catering menus. While the rice is an Instagram-worthy blue, it tastes like fragrant garlic fried rice. Best part is, these dishes don’t just taste good – they can be pretty good conversation starters too.


Nara Thai Catering's Thai Herbs Blue Fried Rice
Nara Thai Catering's Thai Herbs Blue Fried Rice. Bonus points for that pop of colour!


6. There’s a trick to laying out your buffet to ensure a smooth traffic flow

Be sure to start the buffet line where there’s space to queue. Having a continuous buffet line will also ensure that no one misses out on any food. The kiasu ones will thank you for your thoughtfulness! Additionally, the buffet line should be close to power points, as there may be a need for heat lamps, electric cookers and warmer pots.

And there you have it: a few tips to hosting your best event yet. Now all you have to do is order your food, then sit back and watch your guests enjoy the feast.