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It's Holiday Party Season: How Are You Getting Creative?

It’s pretty unbelievable that another year has come and gone. But if you’re not thinking about creative ways to wow your guests at holiday parties, seasonal galas, and corporate end-of-year celebrations, you’re falling behind! Meetings and events are back, friends. In fact, 88% of companies surveyed are planning in-person events this season and beyond. That’s a promising (and highly profitable) outlook for the near future. 

So, today, we’re sharing inspiration from two of our favorite CATIE Award finalists from the Best Buffet or Action Station category. Their creative concepts can be used to wow at any upcoming holiday event!  

Interactive stations to get people moving & mingling 

Inspired by Partyman Catering’s "Thomas Wedding Sea Station" - Finalist 

It’s tough when you are catering your executive chef’s wedding and he says, “Surprise me!” Talk about the pressure being on! But Partyman Catering’s team stepped up to the challenge and wowed this executive chef who has prepared menus for and attended hundreds of weddings in his lifetime.  

So, what made it unique? 

Personalized, themed elements 

The couple loves spending time in the outdoors, fishing, and hunting, so the team tied that in with a “Land & Sea” theme. Tying in unique features from the clients’ preferences is a great way to add personal flair! 

While some think you can’t create personalized themes with corporate clients, that couldn’t be farther from the truth! Tie in brand colors, ask for executive favorites or consider fun stories and achievements the company has experienced in the past year. Use that to come up with a theme that’s beyond the average “White Christmas” theme (although we do love that one too).

Natural decor that pops

Since the theme inspiration was drawn from nature, they pulled those natural elements into the decor. The ramen bar was highlighted with big letters covered in real moss spelling out “RAMEN.”

Fresh ideas & interactive fare

Perhaps the highlight of the sea station was the “Bobbing for Ramen” area. They transformed what could have just been a plain ol’ station into an interactive experience for guests. They filled a galvanized tub with water and pre-filled ramen bowls in fully encapsulated plastic balls that guests fished out with a large strainer. Then, they took their ramen bowl to the topping bar to add all the fixings. Guests, and especially the bride and groom, ate this idea up (literally)! 

The 'Bobbing for Ramen' station where a galvanized tub was filled with water and pre-filled ramen bowls in fully encapsulated plastic balls that guests fished out with a large strainer. Photo courtesy Partman Catering

They also featured the freshest seafood around for the other dishes, including ahi tuna poke bowls, white fish ceviche, spring rolls and lotus chips. Don’t underestimate the power of quality sourcing! 

An unforgettable dose of luxury & unique culture 

Thomas Caterers of Distinction "Cool Car Concept" - Winner  

Photo courtesy Thomas Caterers of Distinction

There’s no better way to serve up Italian cuisine than with a guest chef from Italy, eh? That’s exactly what Thomas Caterers of Distinction did for a luxury “car concept” event for a client who is a luxury vehicle manufacturer. All the stops were pulled out, and guests were wowed. 

Engage a guest chef 

Perhaps the biggest stop pulled out was flying in a talented chef from Faenza, Italy. He offered two signature dishes from his company’s repertoire and collaborated with the Thomas Caterers of Distinction team to cultivate complementary dishes that would surprise and delight.  

Photo courtesy Thomas Caterers of Distinction

While this may not be in the budget for every client, luxury and high-end clientele will find this one of the most innovative ideas they’ve seen yet.  

Time food service with event highlights 

Especially for events like galas, you want the food service portion of the evening to complement the event, not “get in the way” of the reason why the guests are there to celebrate, fundraise, etc. Thomas Caterers of Distinction used their passed hors d’oeuvres and stations to tickle tastebuds, a crescendo of complexity and flavor combinations leading up to the main event, the launch of the car. 

Photo courtesy Thomas Caterers of Distinction

You can do this with your menu design for nearly any style holiday party, and it’s a fun way to add a more celebratory feel to the occasion.  


International Caterers Association

For motivated caterers, International Caterers Association is a resource that provides Education, encourages peer to peer Relationships and Inspires creativity while embracing all segments of the catering industry. For more information, visit