caterer setting up hors d'oeuvresperson wearing vinyl glove and setting out hors d'oeuvres

How to Make the Most Of Food Fest Tables

Every restaurant owner and manager knows the drill: at least once a year, you’re asked to participate in some type of food festival. It might be a neighborhood food fest, a charity event, or a magazine party. It will require time, effort, and energy to produce the hundreds of small bites that will be needed.

Most restaurant owners aren’t able to participate in every event that they’re invited to, but try to be part of at least one or two a year. If you’re about to take part in a major food event, keep these tips in mind.

Keep it easy

While you want to put your best foot forward, keep in mind that you’ll be preparing hundreds of dishes, so make it easy on yourself with a simple, yet impressive dish. In warm weather months, try something easy to serve, like a refreshing gazpacho, and keep the accompaniments to a minimum to make prepping and serving a breeze.

Use one impressive ingredient

A little foie gras goes a long way at these events. You want guests (and possibly editors and writers) to remember your dish, so choose one ingredient to shine in the spotlight.


Think of your table or booth as an extension of your restaurant, and make sure that it’s on brand. Typically, you’ll be given a white tablecloth and a name plate. Make the table your own with a lovely table runner, a vase of fresh flowers, and a sample menu in a picture frame.

Get the right gear

Event managers may supply the plates, bowls, and utensils that you need to serve your food. Sadly, these are usually polystyrene foam or basic paper tableware. Stand out from the crowd, and let your culinary creations shine with special eco-friendly disposables, like palm leaf tableware, bamboo plates, serving boats, and bamboo knot picks. Depending on the look or theme you’re going for, you can also choose from a variety of other food and cocktail picks.

Have business cards on hand

There will always be someone at these events who hasn’t heard of your restaurant, or doesn’t know where you’re located. A stack of attractive business cards is a small investment with a potentially big return. Give them out liberally.

Hire someone

If you’re the chef at your restaurant, most of the guests will want to meet you and speak to you. That can be pretty hard to do if you’re the one serving up each dish. Hire someone to plate and someone to serve so that you’re free to mix and mingle.

Email Sign-ups

Want to build your email list? These events give you a great way to do it! Have guests sign up for a random drawing – raffle off anything from a gift card to a dinner for two – and make sure they include their name and email address. By the end of the event, you’ll have hundreds of new names to add to your list, and will be able to reach out to these potential diners on a regular basis.


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