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6 Yummy Ideas for a Gala Dinner Menu

Updated on October 9, 2013

Gala dinners are special nights surrounded by good company, ambiance, and most importantly: good food. Your dinner will be the highlight of the evening and determine success of your event. Knowing what food to serve and tailoring your menu to match your theme is paramount and requires careful consideration. If you are having trouble deciding what to serve, here are some guidelines and ideas to consider while building the perfect presentation.

Menu Variety

The key to offering a satisfying meal is to ensure that the menu meets all guest’s needs and preferences. While most of your guests will not have limitations on what they can eat, there will undoubtedly be a few guests who have special requests. Be sure to include vegetarian dishes and vegan dishes on your dinner menu. When preparing your menu, be sure to inform your guests of any ingredients that people may have allergies to. Providing your guests with options and information will ensure that everyone in attendance will enjoy their meal. If you plan on serving alcoholic beverages, make sure to have a variety of non-alcoholic beverages too so that your non-drinkers also have options.

Food Costs

One of the most important things to consider when planning your meal is price. Careful budgeting is necessary in creating the perfect evening and you will likely need to contact a number of places in order to find the right dishes at the right price. Keep in mind that higher price does not necessarily mean higher quality. Most catering services offer an extensive menu and a diverse price range, so be sure to thoroughly research potential companies. When in doubt, ask the staff and management important questions regarding the dishes they offer and the cost associated with each one.

Dinner Theme

Providing a meal that matches your theme is one of the most important tips for making a gala dinner successful. Although a juicy steak may be an enticing dinner menu, it wouldn’t make much sense served at a nautical themed dinner. Tailoring your menu to match your theme provides a more complete experience for your guests. Like many of these aspects of providing the perfect dinner, research is a powerful tool. Look to online sites and past successful gala events for information on which dishes fit with certain themes. It may also be a good idea to ask the catering companies if they have any input, as many of them have prior knowledge and experience with catering themed events. Like dishes, drinks can also be tailored to fit your theme. Certain colored cocktails or non-alcoholic drink choices are staples at certain events, and other themes can be complemented with drinks that fit your color scheme.


A great dinner menu revolves around adventure and food that is out of the ordinary. It’s perfectly fine to serve a common dish, but a small change can work wonders. Experienced chefs generally have their own specialty dishes and their own touch on popular meal items. Since you will likely have your meal catered, seek out establishments who have a reputation for creativity and understanding of which dishes complement each other. Drinks both alcoholic and non-alcoholic add a creative accent to a meal and can really tie the experience together.


Knowing your audience may be the best advice of all. Will your event be full of adventurous eaters or individuals who may prefer a more traditional fare? Having a number of courses including appetizers and desserts is a great way to please your guests and ensure that everyone enjoys their meal. The beauty behind knowing your guests’ tendencies also allows you to better judge just how much you are willing to experiment with the menu. If you plan on serving drinks take note of how many people would enjoy cocktails and how many are non-drinkers. Having a good idea of your audience allows you to plan accordingly, make the most of your budget, and ensure the enjoyment of all your guests.


Most great chefs will tell you that presentation is one of the most important parts of the experience. The appearance of a dish enhances the meal and creates a beautiful visual to go along with the dish. Garnish and decorate in a way that complements the surrounding environment and adds flair to the dinner. Many catering services understand the important of presentation, but make sure to let them know about any special requests you may have. If you plan on serving wine with the meal, make sure to read about how to present it, either from personal research of asking your catering company. There are a variety of guidelines that wine enthusiasts will surely pay attention to and appreciate if executed correctly.


Preparing the optimal meal runs much deeper than simply choosing a few dishes and presenting them to guests. Knowing your audience and offering a diverse spread will ensure that every guest in attendance experiences a meal to remember. Planning carefully, asking questions, and not being afraid to push the envelope are great ways to make your gala dinner shine.


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