How to Choose the Best Catering Style for Your Corporate Event

Are you planning a corporate event? Don’t overlook the catering – it’s one of the most essential elements of pulling off a successful and productive corporate event.

Corporate catering isn’t just about supplying some yummy nibbles and snacks to entice employees and clients into paying attention, and it’s much more than that:
Healthy corporate catering helps fuel the minds and bodies of your team when working hard, brainstorming, and putting out a lot of energy,
When the event is a celebration, occasion, or party, your employees feel appreciated and valued when presented with corporate catering options that are delicious, different, and a little on the dear side,
Finally, organising top-of-the-line corporate catering with fresh ingredients and exquisite plating-up can make your business look a lot better than just providing chips and dips or sandwiches.

It’s clear that corporate catering can take your event from good to great, but if not organised well, can also be to the event’s detriment as well. When organising catering for a corporate event, you’re going to want to make sure that the food complements the event style, and that nobody leaves hungry.

To help you out, we’ve created this guide to different corporate catering styles, the pros and cons of each, and then which catering style is best suited to different corporate event styles. Consider this your corporate catering handbook. So without further ado, let’s get started.

Different corporate catering styles

Browse the pages of any catering company, and you’ll be faced with several different catering styles. Determining the difference between all these styles can be a little difficult sometimes, so here’s a basic run-down of each corporate catering style and its pros and cons.


Finger foods & canapes

Finger food on a corporate event

Canapes and finger foods are small, bite-sized meals that are easy-to-eat with your hands while walking around. They can either be displayed buffet-style on a large table, or served by waiters circling the event venue. Canapes and finger foods are great for shorter events, networking, and pre-event socialising (such as a cocktail hour before a conference) when people tend to be walking around and mingling. These foods can easily be carried in the hands, eaten without making a mess, and still pack a punch of flavour.


  • Finger foods & canapes tend to be relatively inexpensive when it comes to corporate catering, making them a fantastic option when you do not require a big feed.
  • They’re easy-to-eat while talking, walking, and mingling, making them the perfect accompaniment to many corporate events.


  • Because they’re bite-sized, many people can walk away feeling as though they haven’t eaten a ‘meal’. Order enough canapes at your event, and you’ll make sure everyone walks away full.


Business high teas

Business high-tea catering

Perfect for breakfasts, brunches, morning teas, and afternoon teas, a business high tea is a take on the traditional high tea. Similar to canapes and finger foods, the focus here is smaller, bite-sized pieces that are easy-to-eat. Unlike finger foods, though, business high-teas are typically served at a dining table where everyone is seated. High teas are a chance to sit together, unwind, chat, and enjoy a relaxing snack.

For that reason, they’re better suited for corporate events where people will be gathered together around a table. You can serve corporate high teas during intermissions, like a client meeting or brainstorm session, for a team building morning tea, and more. The idea here is sharing an intimate cuppa while also enjoying some sweet and savoury snacks.


  • High teas encourage a communal, sharing atmosphere. Gathering people around the table to enjoy tea and snacks is the perfect environment for bonding.
  • Again, high teas are on the cheaper side of corporate catering options, making it a great choice when you want to reward your employees but don’t have a huge budget.


  • Like canapes, some people may find the food served at high teas to be too small or ‘not satisfying enough’. Again, we suggest ordering plenty of sandwiches, scones, and snacks to keep everyone happy.


Grazing tables & sharing platters

Corporate catering grazing tableAnother corporate catering style that encourages a sense of community, sharing, and fostering connections, grazing tables, and sharing platters are perfect for a number of different events. You can think of grazing tables and sharing platters as being a series of deconstructed canapes and finger foods that are displayed on self-serve platters where people can help themselves.

The idea with grazing tables is to offer a range of different gourmet ingredients and fine foods, and encourage each individual to put together their own little morsels. Fill your grazing table with cheeses, nuts, dried fruits, crackers and breadsticks, relishes, pickles, and more. Again, grazing tables are best suited at pre-event functions, served during workshops and training where people are on-the-go and can’t be sitting down to eat, or at group meetings and brainstorm sessions.


  • Grazing tables are as beautiful as they are delicious, and make a fantastic centrepiece for your venue.
  • There will always be something for everyone on a grazing table. Whether it’s deli meat, cheese, olives, or fruits, people have the opportunity to be creative and put together the flavours they like best.
  • Grazing tables and sharing platters do great for bringing people together. Having a set table where food is displayed helps people congregate around a specific zone.


  • Having a self-serve food system can sometimes mean people will ‘hog’ all of the foods or be extra generous in their servings, leaving little for others.


Corporate buffets

Corporate catering - buffet styleFor unrestricted lunches and dinners, you can’t go past a corporate buffet. This is a sit-down style of dinner where guests can get up from their seats and serve themselves from a spread of different foods. These can range from appetisers to mains and desserts, depending on the function. Corporate buffets can be assisted or unassisted, meaning you can have waitstaff serving the employees, or allow them to serve themselves. Having waitstaff is usually more suited for formal corporate events, while the self-service style is perfect for casual events.

Buffets are perfect for corporate events that are more than just a casual affair. We’re talking awards nights, Christmas parties, office warmings, conferences, and more. A buffet is the icing on top of a long day of doing business.


  • Since people can serve themselves at a buffet, you’re less likely to have food wastage.
  • There’s nobody who doesn’t look forward to a buffet. Something about unbridled food where you can help yourself just gives people a rush of dopamine and excitement.


  • Buffets can be expensive, and if you haven’t properly accounted for the number of attendees and how much food you’ll have to have, you could either end up with lots of leftover food or running out of dishes while people are still hungry. It takes careful planning.



Sit-down meals

Gala dinner gourmet foodLike a corporate buffet, sit-down meals are designed for events where people will be seated at a table for the majority of the time. Unlike buffets, however, people won’t have to stand up to get their food – instead, it’s usually served at the table by waitstaff (or a chef!) Sit-down meals are basically the same as eating at a restaurant, except it’s your caterer who’s doing all the work for you. Perfect for awards nights, conferences, christmas parties, and more.


  • People won’t have to get up to serve themselves for sit-down meals, meaning you can stay and have long, consistent chats at the table.
  • There is less food wastage as each person is accounted for with a plate.


  • Sometimes people can feel confined or restricted at a sit-down meal.



Best catering style for different events

Now we’ve covered the different corporate catering styles available, let’s go through some popular corporate events and the best catering style for each one.

Business lunch

Business lunches are best catered with sit-down meals or buffets. It will really depend on the venue, context, and purpose of your business lunch, but generally these two styles are best. For client or investor meetings, sit-down meals served by waitstaff are best, while large business lunches for the whole office go down well with a buffet. To truly impress, hire a personal chef to cook, prepare, and serve your business lunch.


Boardroom meeting

Long days spent inside a boardroom need proper fuel. Boardroom meetings are best catered with finger foods, canapes, grazing tables or sharing platters. These can be placed on the table, in the middle of the group, and people can help themselves as they wish. Since these foods are easy-to-eat, people will be able to grab a bite and stay nourished while still being able to interact and talk freely. The foods don’t demand too much attention, and can easily be slipped in the mouth during a discussion.



There are a number of different catering styles suitable for a conference, depending on time of day, venue, and group numbers. For pre-conference events, when people are mixing and mingling with a cocktail in hand, canapes & finger foods are a great option. For smaller conferences, a grazing table or sharing platter set up in a corner of the venue can last the entire day. Larger conferences that run for multiple days, or through till night time, will demand more complex catering styles like sit-down meals or buffets.


Cocktail party

Cocktail parties are the ideal setting for serving canapes and finger foods. Easy-to-eat while people are mixing and mingling and walking around the place, they’ll also help offset the alcohol intake. You can also cater to a corporate cocktail party with a grazing table or shared platter set up in a corner of the venue, encouraging people to congregate in a certain area and serve themselves.


Christmas party

Christmas parties are all about showing your employees that they’re appreciated, and there’s no better corporate catering style for that than a good old buffet or sit-down meal. Buffets are great because people are given plenty of options to help themselves, and sit-down meals can be a winner depending on the food served. To truly wow your team, hire a private chef and have them cook something impressive that’ll make your christmas party memorable.


Client meeting

Client meetings can range from short, casual affairs to longer, more formal meetings. Depending on the nature of your meeting, you could go for a range of different corporate catering styles. Short, casual client meetings go down well with canapes, finger foods, grazing tables, sharing platters, or even a business high tea for mid-morning or afternoon meetings. More formal and longer meetings can do well with a sit-down meal during intermission.


Training or workshop

Workshop or training days need constant fuel to help people stay focused, alert, and energetic throughout the day. You’ll probably want to incorporate a range of catering styles here, from grazing tables and sharing platters (for during the event) to sit-down lunches or buffets (for after or in the middle of the event). Ask your caterer if they can provide your meals in an on-the-go box with individual portions for each of your team members. This way you’ll spend less time having lunch, with everything all pre-packed and ready-to-go.


Awards night

Awards nights are complex affairs that can also demand a number of different catering styles. You’ll always want a sit-down meal (or corporate buffet) at your awards night, but for pre-show receptions, intermissions, and cocktail parties after the event, you might want to go for canapes, finger foods, or grazing tables.


Have a good idea of the corporate catering style you want? Let us do the work for you. CHEFIN connects you with a private chef, to deliver exceptional corporate catering that’s fresh, gourmet, and unique. Get in touch now!