Deciding on an appetizer menu can be a difficult process. There are many options from which to choose, and a host can quickly become overwhelmed while making selections. The most important things to consider when choosing appetizers are the overall budget of the party, what type of cuisine is being served as the main course and the guests themselves. Appetizers are the first — and sometimes only — food that guests will encounter at a party, and it is important to make a good first impression. The host also will need to consider whether he will be preparing the food in house or utilizing a catering service.
Cost is typically one of the most important factors when choosing an appetizer menu. While every host might want to serve imported caviar to his guests, most people will have to deal with a tighter budget. A host can save money by selecting appetizers that he can prepare by himself ahead of time. He also may look at the appetizer trays available from his local grocery store. Several stores offer trays with fruits, vegetables and meats arranged in a tasteful manner.
Once the host has decided on a budget, he also may want to plan around the main course, if he intends to serve one. The appetizer menu should be of a similar cuisine to the main course, while still providing a contrast in taste and texture. Some appetizers, such as fresh bread and cheese, can be used as an introduction for many types of cuisines. For some parties, the host also may wish to consider the types of wine that will be served and make sure his appetizers pair well with the drinks he plans to serve before dinner.
Another important consideration when determining an appetizer menu is the guests themselves. Food that is appropriate for a bridal shower is much different from that expected at a football tailgating party. Guests with healthy appetites need more substantial food to tide them over until it is time for the main meal. The host also may need to plan a special menu for any children who show up, because they tend to be picky eaters and may not eat appetizers geared toward more adult tastes.
Finally, the host will need to decide whether to use a catering service. While caterers can help plan an appetizer menu and take much of the work off the host, this is usually the most expensive option. Catering also makes it more difficult for the host to have total control over the final taste and appearance of the food being served. Despite these issues, catering does provide a way to provide food for guests while still allowing the host time to greet his friends and enjoy the party himself.