The most memorable part of an event is often the food. Whether you’re hosting a massive sit-down meal or an intimate cocktail and canape event, you’ll want a fantastic catering company dishing up delicious produce.
Selecting a professional, experienced and imaginative catering service can make planning and managing your event much easier. Top-notch catering services will support you on every level.
In this article, we’ll outline the qualities to consider when choosing a catering service, and share where to find the best in Canberra.
What makes a great catering service?
Many types and styles of catering service companies operate in Canberra so you have plenty of choice. With so much riding on your decision, you want to be 100 per cent sure you’ve picked the best caterer for your style of event and budget.
It can be helpful to keep the following in mind when choosing a catering service:
- Delicious food. Food is an important part of an event, so you’ll want to select a catering service that creates dishes that look as amazing as they taste, whether canapes or large buffets.
- Experience. Search for a catering company with the experience to enhance your event. You’ll want a company that serves on time so your event isn’t disrupted or put behind schedule.
- Professional and polite. If you need caterers to serve food and drink to guests, check that wait staff are professional and polite and know what they’re doing. This makes guests feel important and well taken care of.
- Imaginative and flexible. Often with events, food is ”themed” to enhance the overall experience. You’ll need a caterer who has imagination and flair in designing menus. You may well need one who can also deal with food allergies or intolerances.
- Proactive with advice. Stuck trying to work out how much food and drink to serve per guest? Many variables go into deciding, including whether the food is hot or cold and where and when the event is. A seasoned caterer will advise on quantities, saving you from ordering too much. They’ll also advise you on wine and beverage matching.
The best catering services in Canberra
RiotACT’s editorial team has combed through 20 years of on-site comments to compile a list of the most recommended businesses according to you.
To be listed in our Best of Canberra series, each business needs to have consistently received positive feedback on RiotACT and maintained a minimum average of 4/5 stars on both Google and Facebook reviews.
Smiley’s Little Lunch Boxes are made for parents and enjoyed by kids. The new Build-a-Box is fun, quick, easy and perfect for fussy eaters and young ones needing gluten-free, tasty lunches.
Here’s how Smiley’s Little Lunch Boxes work. Parents and kids select Little Lunch Boxes on the website and choose from Smiley’s meal selection options (10 options each week). Any combination of meals can be created for as little as $9.90. Fresh fruit, salads and sweets are always available.
Smiley’s Little Lunch Boxes have made it simple, easy and affordable to have lunch boxes delivered that are filled with delicious and healthy meals that keep kids smiling with something new every day. They also help parents cope with busy lifestyles. Parents can order weeks in advance and only pay a flat fee for delivery straight to the door.
Smiley’s Burgers—locally owned and operated—is a small café located inside the Power Kart Raceway. It services burgers, shakes, coffees and smiles. Catering is available for kids birthday parties and corporate events.
On Google, Ben Chaffey wrote about Smiley’s, “Amazing burgers that are super fresh. Big servings and the best customer service. A new favourite!”
Planning a gathering? Need catering? Catering by the Canberra Southern Cross Club offers delicious and varied options for all types of corporate events, meetings and conferences. Catering also suits celebrations and special events of all styles, large and small. Picnics are catered for too.
Catering by the Canberra Southern Cross Club includes gourmet platters that look as amazing as they taste. Platter options feature canapes skewers, cocktail rice papers rolls, and sushi. The Artisan antipasto platter and Australian cheese platter are extremely popular.
Grazing stations are fabulous centrepieces. Packed with tasty morsels, these can be customised to suit any theme or occasion. They make a real statement and are sure to impress.
Catering by Canberra Southern Cross Club also handles morning and afternoon tea. The menu lineup includes healthy breakfast pots, freshly baked muffins, quiche with flaky pastry and sweet dessert tarts. Fruit boxes and seasonal fruit platters, as well as savoury options, are also available.
Lunch catering is just as varied. Choose from a line-up of sandwich boxes, including gourmet sandwiches, wraps, baby rolls and classic triangles. Individual salad bowls are enticing, with healthy items such as the confit ocean trout poke bowl, tofu and quinoa poke bowl, classic Caesar salad, and Soba noodle and seaweed salad. Lunch shared salad bowls serve up to 12 people as a side dish.
Catering by the Canberra Southern Cross Club cover special dietary needs and feature recyclable packing. Equipment hire is also available, including glassware, crockery, cutlery, tablecloths and buffet tables.
Edge Catering, established in 2010, delivers high-quality food and outstanding service across the Canberra region and is the chosen caterer for many private and public organisations. The team caters for large functions, corporate conferences, specialty events and public events. Punctual and reliable, Edge Catering is the ACT Government’s preferred caterer at Exhibition Park in Canberra.
Rena Sharma wrote on Google, “Edge Catering is second to none. Food was delicious and the planning and execution flawless.”
An established, professional hospitality service, Swirl Catering creates delicious, contemporary and innovative food and delivers quality, caring service. With more than a dozen menus to choose from, Swirl Catering pleases guests at government, corporate and private events and occasions. The team provides quotes promptly.
As Sally Troy wrote on Google, “I could not recommend Swirl Catering more highly - they should have 6 stars. The food was lovely and the staff were extraordinarily pleasant to deal with …”
Located in the Yarralumla Shops, this family owned business can tailor their menu to give a personalised touch or accommodate dietary requirements. From office functions, private parties or weddings Sitting Ducks delivers contemporary food made from fresh seasonal produce. Michaela and Herman keep it simple but classic as reviewed by Lisa P via Easy Weddings: ‘Amazing food and perfect service.’
If you’re looking for more information on catering and events in Canberra, you might like our articles on the best function venues, best event planners, best wedding venues and best florists Canberra has to offer.
Your experience with catering services in Canberra
Thanks to our commenters who have provided insightful feedback. If you believe we have got it wrong, please let us know.
Have you had experience with any of the catering companies listed above? If so, share your feedback in the comments below.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I provide my caterer with my own menu?
Usually, no. Catering companies will provide you with their own catering packages and menus, so there should be something to suit your tastes. However, if some of your guests have allergies and dietary requirements, or you want to provide your own cake for a birthday celebration, then caterers should be able to accommodate those needs.
Do caterers prepare food on site?
This depends on your venue and the caterer's menu. If your venue has kitchen facilities that your caterer has access to, then they will be able to prepare hot food on site. That being said, caterers may prefer not to do this for convenience's sake - cooking hot food for a large group of people can prove difficult. Talk to your caterer and find out what they're comfortable with.
How do caterers charge?
Caterers will charge you for the produce and staff wages - for a several-course meal, expect charges of $80 per person or more, as well as alcohol and occasionally cakeage if you are providing your own dessert. Caterers will usually offer fixed-price packages, so start with those and if you make any changes to the event, make sure your caterer is up-front about overall cost.
How can I cater cheaply?
Any rice or noodle-based cuisine is usually the cheapest food for catering - Mexican, Indian and Thai dishes are all easy to make in large quantities, and their ingredients are inexpensive to source. If your event is during the day, consider a breakfast or brunch-time event - earlier meals tend to be cheaper than lunches and dinners.
What questions should I ask my caterer?
Your top-two questions should be about how the food will be prepared and served - will the caterer provide serving staff, or will there be a buffet table? Is there flexibility in the menu? Do they require any information from the venue? All of these questions should be asked at least two weeks ahead of your event.