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outdoor catering: what does it takes?
Outdoor catering is popular in many regions during their prime seasons for the most comfortable weather. In Houston, that usually means most of the year, but the most ideal times are fall and spring. Still, even daytime events in the winter months and nighttime events in the summer can be held outdoors at times.

Outdoor catering is ideal for casual events, like company picnics or backyard barbecues, but if done right it also can be great for formal events, such as wedding receptions and galas. Options abound for ways to provide outdoor catering, so it may be helpful to contact a professional event planner or catering company that specializes in outdoor events to inform you of the possibilities and help you choose the best setup and menu for your needs and budget.

Things to Consider
When you’re planning an outdoor event like a corporate picnic or class reunion, there are specific things to consider. Although many requirements are the same regardless of the location, the conditions for outdoor catering can be more challenging because of exposure to the elements. These challenges and details vary depending on the type of event, venue and the time of year, but it is important to know the general considerations and requirements unique to this kind of event catering service.

Every catered event needs certain things, such as plates, napkins and utensils. The difference in the outdoors is the use of disposable materials rather than glass, ceramic or china dishes due to their ease of cleanup and portability. This can be a challenge for an elegant outdoor event, but disposable products with a sophisticated look can be found.

Having an outdoor event also means potentially combating insects, depending on the climate and environment you’re in. Part of the catering challenge then becomes implementing a variety of measures to ensure that insects do not ruin your event. For the best anti-insect measures, consult with a professional that has experience organizing outdoor events and keeping them bug free.

The Perfect Setting
It is important to choose an outdoor venue that will accommodate all your guests comfortably. Parks or gardens are great ideas for catered outdoor events. If it is a corporate picnic, make sure there is a place to hang up decorations or signs that indicate the event’s location.

Mother Nature may not always cooperate with your schedule or the fact that you have planned this event for months, so you need to consider an alternative space. Perhaps that means renting a large tent or a pavilion. If it rains, your guests will remain dry and comfortable; if it’s a sunny day, the cover provides an excellent shady place to cool off and relax.

Don’t forget about the importance of other basic accommodations, such as lavatory facilities. If they are not available at your chosen outdoor venue, you may need to rent portable toilets.

Menu Planning

When planning a menu for an outdoor event, consider the typical weather and temperature on that day. For example, on hot or warm sunny days, guests prefer something light and cool rather than a heavy, hot dishes.

It is also important to make sure the foods stay at the correct temperature during an outdoor event in terms of both safety and pleasure. Food meant to stay cold can spoil and harbor bacteria if it becomes too hot in the sun thus creating a hazard for guests’ health. Regarding pleasurability, people simply expect foods to have certain temperatures when they eat them—burgers, hot dogs and other main dishes need to stay hot and salads, fruits and beverages are best enjoyed chilled. This can be a challenge depending on the weather.

Also consider whether you want guests to move around as they eat or settle in at tables. Providing finger foods and appetizers lets guests stay mobile and mingle more easily while dishes that require plates and silverware incur extra costs because of more extensive seating setups and tableware.

Barbecue catering is the most common form of outdoor food service, especially in Texas, since the best preparation of that food is done outdoors anyway. Plus, barbecue offers a variety of meats and side dishes that enable all guests to find something delicious. Another option for a casual event is make-your-own deli catering since it only involves providing your guests with trays of assorted cold cuts and cheeses plus a few sides so they can create their own snacks and sandwiches.

More complex or elegant catering at an outdoor event certainly is possible, but it’s a good idea to consult a company that specializes in or is familiar with catering outdoor events. Formal setups require additional accommodations, such as table seating and dressing; and food availability for haute cuisine can differ greatly depending on the region of the country.

Entertainment Options
Just like any event, outdoor occasions need a little entertainment. Luckily the options are abundant and diverse. A corporate picnic or reunion can be much more fun with a few sports or team-building games or even a DJ while live musicians or fireworks truly can enhance an elegant outdoor wedding reception or gala. Check with your catering company about whether they can include entertainment with your food package. Many catering companies already partner with local businesses that offer entertainment brought to you at a discounted rated.

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