Pack your place for parties, big and small. Special occasions are a prime opportunity for restaurateurs, chefs, and operators around the country to rally around the collective “hurrah!” and boost sales, drive traffic, and build loyalty — not to mention have some fun with the menu.

Hop aboard the party train, because it’s a locomotive for your bottom line. A party atmosphere lends its power to several approaches to food and/or catering, filling tummies and bringing party and holiday vibes in the manner of decor and music. Here are a few culinary options to get your creative juices going.

Creative Food Bars:

Mac ‘N’ Cheese Bar — Include choice of toppings like bacon, chorizo, fresh vegetables, and spicy to hot sauces. The best part is mac ‘n’ cheese is filling! People typically won’t go back for thirds. This is a great way to utilize leftover product from days before and avoid food waste.

Egg Roll Bar — A medley of regular egg rolls, Reuben egg rolls, and southwest egg rolls with a bevy of sauces (think Thousand Island, plum sauce, chipotle ranch for starters). Eggs rolls are a low-cost product but be bold and different. Consider as a platter for big parties as well if a bar is too cumbersome.

Party Favorites:

Scotch Eggs Tray — (Hello, St. Paddy’s Day!). Boiled egg wrapped in sausage, breaded and fried — serve with garlic peppercorn aioli. These are easy items to make ahead of time and are always great sellers. With that in mind, consider charging a premium on this ultra-shareable, fun, and delicious appetizer.

Smash Burger Slider Platter — Pickled red onions, lettuce, tomato, and all the fixings served on Hawaiian rolls. Smash burgers are inexpensive items by themselves. The key is to have limited add-on options or additional charges for items like bacon, mushrooms, and dipping sauces such as pesto mayo or Buffalo sauce.

Bacon-Wrapped Grilled Shrimp — Served with BBQ sauce and jalapeno aioli. Shrimp fetch a premium menu price point at a relatively low cost when compared to its crab and lobster cousins. You can arrange these as individual pieces or skewer them for a greater menu value. This is a simple and mouth-watering appetizer to add to the menu.

Table Presence:

Street Taco Spread — Chicken and carne asada mounded on a platter with corn and flour tortillas, cilantro and onions, queso fundido, guacamole, a mix of salsas, and all the usual toppings are sure to attract attention and social media buzz. The individual ingredient costs are low, and this is a manageable sell to a group as a shareable entree or appetizer.

Barbecue Table — Spread out butcher paper on the table and include portions of pork, sausage, and brisket. Serve with buns, pickled onions, pickles, coleslaw, and a litany of BBQ sauces, from tangy, to sweet, to fiery hot! This quality item will fetch a good menu price point while wowing anyone who eats it or walks by.

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