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Tips on planning the perfect casual dining event

1 - Get in the mood

The first and perhaps most fun part of planning an event is to think about the overall impression you want to give your guests. You should always aim for the food, venue and entertainment to bring the "wow" factor but "wow" can be achieved in so many different ways. Think about how you want your guests to behave, do you want them sat talking/ watching with set groups or do you want to encourage movement around the venue. Even casual dining can be delivered in different ways so look for caterers that will help you on your journey. Having this in mind will help focus you when looking for venues, entertainers and caterers. It's worth also thinking about your guest list at this point. Are there people who you REALLY want there? Do you want to have a minimum number of people attend? If so it's worth sending out a few save the dates. These don't have to be formal, a WhatsApp group, texts or even a doodle calendar can be an easy and quick way of getting some indicative numbers.

2 - Work out your budget

Planning your casual dining event will become much easier when you have established a budget. Think about food, drink. entertainment, venue. decor etc. Think about what is a priority for you, if it's the food then it's worth looking at party caterers that will be flexible. For example if your caterer can work both from a fixed venue or from a field or friends house then it gives you plenty of scope to cut back on venue costs if needed. It's also worth finding catering companies that can provide a bring your own bottle (BYOB) service if you're wanting to offer a free bar as the booze costs can easily be the largest in an event!

3 - Choose a date and get in touch with the caterers

The first step is choosing a date for your event. Sounds obvious but as we get into the Christmas party season remember that many caterers will have existing bookings so we recommend giving as much notice as possible.

4 - Secure a venue

Think about the number of guests who will be attending, how much you want to spend, how you want people to enjoy the food and entertainment and which location is going to be most convenient for your guests. It's always worth speaking to your caterers to see if they can offer assistance in finding a venue, after all they will have probably catered in many places and can give you the kind of information you won't find on google.

5 - Get your invites out early and get people excited!

Once you have a date set you need to get the invites out quickly. In the summer and winter people tend to attend more parties so it's worth giving as much notice as possible. Be sure to include details of the amazing food you have planned at your at your event, if a guest is double booked you may just convince them to cancel their plans and come to your casual dining event or party if you make it sound exciting enough!

beef short rib sandwich for a catering event
Smoked Beef Shortrib meat stack

Talk through menu options with your caterer, they should be able to help you with artwork for your menus should you choose to send them out with your invites. Remember to offer

a range of food options to suit different tastes and dietary requirements whilst retaining simplicity to complement the relaxed yet exciting food offering.

6 - Bring the entertainment

So although the food and venue are generally top of the list when it comes to party planning it pays to think about what guests will be doing when they're not eating! Now for many parties flowing drinks are enough to create a fun and lively atmosphere but at the very least it's worth thinking about music. Be it your own sound system in your back garden or a paid DJ think about what your guests like and it's always worth airing on the side of "generic" if you're not sure on everyone's taste. Prepare some playlists to avoid the constant "what shall we have on next" throughout the night. Even though you are opting for a causal event you may still want to throw up some bunting or balloons, particularly if you are celebrating a birthday or anniversary. Think about the type of celebration and time of year when it comes to the music and decor.

If you're looking to go one step further then consider entertainment such as singers, magicians and dancing, again consider the space you're in and budget when selecting additional entertainment.

7 - Keep it sustainable and local where possible

Discuss serving options with your event caterers, they should ideally be able to offer biodegradable serving ware if you are opting for disposables. In addition we encourage you to support small and local businesses when considering your choice of caterers and other vendors. They will often bring a more personal touch to your party which for a casual dining event of any size is really important.

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