Finger Food Catering: Everything You Need To Know

Feeding your guests with finger foods can be a simple, convenient option that avoids the need for serving utensils altogether.

Finger Food Catering: Everything You Need To Know

The diversity of dishes you offer, whether as finger food at the evening meal or as appetisers throughout the day, will be appreciated by your guests. 

Whatever the event, from weddings to baptisms and everything in between, finger food can cater to all of your catering needs. Finger food catering can be adapted to a range of situations, no matter how large or small the group.

If you are planning to have finger food at your next big event, there are a few things that you should consider.

Firstly, what kind of event is the food for and how many people will be in attendance?

And that is just scratching the surface of things you need to think about when arranging finger food. 

Here is everything that you need to know about finger food catering for parties to ensure that your event goes off without a hitch.

Menu Planning

There are a seemingly endless numbers of factors that will impact your decision on which menu to choose:

What type of get-together do you hope to have? How long will it go on?

Do you know what time of day you’re talking about? How many people will be there? Are there a significant number of vegetarians or those who don’t eat seafood? Do you need to consider religion-based dietary restrictions?

When it comes to finger food, simplicity is the main factor to consider. Don’t try to juggle too many tasks at once.

A few plates of well-balanced nibbles will be better received than a huge array of dishes that don’t go together.

You might want to consider preparing one or two sweet dishes to be served later on in the evening if your visitors are planning on staying for a long time. 

Your choice of hot and cold options will be impacted by the time of day and the season as well. For example, in the summer, there is less need to serve hot dishes than during the winter.

The selection of your guests will, without a doubt, have a considerable influence on the selection of your meals.

For a mixed event a good guideline to follow is to serve a couple of starters such as tartlets, quiches. If you are serving alcohol, food that goes with a drink and it substantial enough to soak up the alcohol is recommended. And it’s always nice to have a couple of more unique dishes for interest.

Talking of unique dishes, have you ever held a Paella Party? See here for info on Paella Catering.

Finger Buffet 

By offering attendees a finger buffet at your event, you make it much easier for them to decide what they would like to eat while also presenting them with a range of alternatives. 

The appetisers and bite-sized delights on their plate may differ depending on where you are in the world. It’s an easy way to include a range of flavours and textures.

Finger buffets are excellent for starters, either as part of a larger meal or a buffet. Whatever the occasion or the type of cuisine you choose, it’s easy to whip up some finger food. And if you can’t do it, or you can outsource to a caterer.

When of the best things about finger food is that is is comparatively simple to make. This allows you to play with a range of nibbles and themes.

Giving your guests the option to pick and choose what they wish to eat at their leisure has clear advantages. In contrast, if you provide a regular sit-down meal, you need to be sure that everyone will be happy with the dishes you’ve prepared. Furthermore, it allows for appetite size as well.

Are you about to get married? See our post on Wedding Catering for some tips.

The Type Of Event

The type of party for which you are catering will determine the types of finger foods that you will need to prepare.

Clearly, the plates at a child’s birthday party are unlikely to be the same as those for a wedding reception. Even so, keep this in mind when either making the food yourself or when communicating with a catering service. 

Many people who choose finger food catering for their event do so because they are having a more informal party. This kind of food is particularly suited to a cocktail party or a wedding reception.

No matter what though, you must ensure that you have enough food for the whole event. 

Perhaps finger food isn’t your style. If that’s the case, maybe you should consider Spit Roast Catering

How Much Food Will I Need?

When deciding on how much food to prepare or order, think about is how long the event will last.

This may effect both how much food is needed and as well as the type of food served at your event. 

Using a cocktail party as an example, here is a guide to how much food to provide.

Are you looking for some ideas to make your wedding day flow easily? Check out our Catering Food Ideas for Weddings

2 Hour Party 

How much finger food to serve during a 2-hour party is determined by the party’s start time.

As an example, if the guests are arriving directly from work for a start time of 6.30 or 7.00 pm, they will almost certainly be famished. 

Organising a cocktail party at a time when most people are eating dinner means plenty of food. You will need to give careful consideration to your catering requirements.

We would recommend no less than 6 to 8 pieces of finger food for a successful 2-hour cocktail party. We also suggest that both hot and cold canapes amongst the plates.

Keeping party food cold can be challenge. Luckily, this clever serving dish – the Prodyne SB-5 Flip-Lid Appetizers On Ice – provides and attractive and practical solution.

Our preference is for ‘heavier’ or more substantial finger snack foods for cocktail events that last throughout the evening hours. This means items like pies, tarts, and sandwiches. 

A nice idea is to set up food stations for your guests. It is something that you might think about when doing your event preparation.

Wondering what drinks to serve at your event? Take a look at our Easy Cocktail Recipes

3 Hour Party

When preparing for a 3-hour party, take the 2-hour event as your starting point. From there add one or 2 extra finger food options along with a couple of ‘bowl’ choices.

Smaller versions of main dishes such as salads and pasta are ‘bowl’ food. The term used to describe foods that are considered more substantial. 

Other excellent and more substantial alternatives to offer include bread items such as pork sliders or little Turkish schnitzel rolls. These are small but satisfying. A variety of salads is also a great idea. Another trendy party food idea is mini fish and chips.

Is gin your thing? Try our Classic Gin Cocktail Recipes

4-5 Hour Party 

4-5 Hour Party 

The longer the duration of your event, the more finger food items that will be required to feed your guests.

If your cocktail party will go longer than 4 or 5 hours, you might want to think about offering 2 courses. Perhaps start with a range of hot and cold canapes. Later, you could move on to a variety of hand-held substantial items to complete the party. 

Serving warm food at a party is a great idea, but how do you prevent it from going cold? The Chefman Electric Warming Tray/Trivet with Adjustable Temperature Control is ideal for events catering

Desserts can also be served as sweet finger snacks. Apart from being practical, they make a lovely addition to the whole presentation.

For longer cocktail parties, you could consider using street food stands. These could a terrific addition to your event. And if you choose your finger food menu smartly, food stands can be used to add colour, entertainment and a point of difference to an occasion.

Are you catering for gluten intolerant guests? Maybe our Gluten-Free Dessert Recipes can help.

Who Will Be At The Party?

You’ll want to be certain that the food you provide is something that your guests will like eating.

If you are catering a children’s party, make sure that the finger food you provide is nutritional and wholesome.

Include a variety of options on your menu, such as savoury dishes, desserts, pastries, and bread-based foods., as well as savoury meals.

While putting together your menu, keep in mind that you want to provide your guests with a range of alternatives from which to choose.

Are you in Perth and looking for a caterer for your next event? Check out our post on Miss Maud Catering for some inspiration.

Storing The Food

When it comes to catering events that include finger meals, finger food preservation is a major problem for the caterers.

Occasionally, when it comes to a certain cuisine, you may be required to think outside the box.

Why not impress your friends with party food from the Philippines? Here are 20 Filipino Catering Food Ideas to get you thinking

Depending on a variety of criteria, such as serving space, the number of cooking surfaces available, the number of refrigerators and freezers accessible, table layouts, and so on, your menu may need to be tweaked a bit.

When putting together a dinner for a party or other event, it is important to take all of these concerns into mind.

A party planner’s first concern when organising a gathering is ensuring that their client is pleased with the cuisine that they have prepared for them. Apart from that, they have to take all necessary precautions to ensure that the event goes smoothly.


You must take numerous aspects into account when creating a finger food menu for your next big event. 

To prepare for the event, you must be familiar with everything from the location, to who will be attending and how many people are on the guest list.

You should also know how much space is available, what cooking facilities are available, and how much storage space will be available for you to use in the days leading up to the event.

Before preparing a meal for your family/friends/customers, check for any dietary restrictions, allergies, or culinary preferences they may have.

All of these ideas will aid you in producing the perfect dinner for any occasion.

Dylan Cole

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