Hosting an indoor event can mean fewer unexpected variables (namely, weather), but there are plenty of other details to manage. From the venue to the menu and the decor to the dance floor, thoughtful planning is key to making any indoor event inviting and memorable.
Find the Perfect Venue
At Off the Grid we’re best known for our open-air food truck markets, but our catering team loves the challenge of helping to orchestrate indoor events as well. When choosing a venue, size and budget are major factors, but they aren’t the only things to keep in mind. Asking in advance about features such as patios, coat checks, and parking means you can get the most out of every amenity, not just the ones that were on your original “must-have” list.
If you’re planning to serve food at your indoor event (and when wouldn’t you?), make sure to ask about kitchen space. But don’t despair if your dream location doesn’t have a kitchen on site—from passed appetizers to sit-down meals, food trucks can make any venue into a full-service option. The trucks don’t have to become the main event by being parked curbside, but can prepare dishes and hand them off to servers who carry the food indoors.
Plan for Comfort and Convenience
We’ve all been there: Clutching a wine glass in three fingers, pinching a plate with the other two, using the opposite hand to ferry a too-large appetizer face-ward…all while trying to appear professional. No matter how gracefully you manage it, it’s not a good look.
Thankfully, there are ways to make things easier on your guests. If a seated event isn’t on the menu, consider adding a few high-top tables so guests aren’t juggling food, beverage, and phones all at the same time.
Sticking with one- or two-bite finger food is also key. It eliminates the need for cutlery and makes it possible for guests to enjoy what they’re eating rather than just choosing the items that are least likely to end up down their shirts.
Get in the Flow with Table Stations
You’ve got the menu, now it’s time for the service. While you could hire a crew to wander with platters, sprinkling self-service table stations throughout your indoor event is a cost-effective way to deliver food and drink. Plus, rather than coordinating a dozen people just one or two servers can keep tables replenished and guests happy.
When planning the stations, consider adding eye-catching centerpieces that entice party-goers to investigate their options. This works best when the display hints at what the station has to offer, like a dessert station adorned with a donut wall (we love the Bay Area’s Johnny Doughnuts) or a taco bar adorned with papel picado.
You might even consider replacing full- or self-service bars with table stations that serve up signature cocktails. This eliminates the need for a bartender and gives you some degree of portion control, whether you’re serving cocktails or bubble tea. This type of beverage service also encourages guests to continue circulating, as a curated menu and no waiting means there’s no reason to linger next to the liquor.
Define Your Indoor Event Space with Decor that Serves Double Duty
The right ambiance can help make the festivities more festive, but when it’s done right, decor can also have a more practical function. For instance, strategically placed pergolas add a wow factor and guide where guests gather by drawing them away from doorways and serving stations (read: no hovering nibblers) and toward areas designated for mingling.
Pergolas aren’t just for outdoor events, either. Even indoors, they draw guests into a space and create interest even from across the room. By changing up the decor, food, or seating options at each, partygoers are encouraged to explore every corner rather than clustering around the bar. For example, using one pergola as a photo booth complete with a backdrop and props and another as a cozy conversation area will provide guests with plenty to do as well as a reason to wander.
When working with a large industrial venue like Pier 27 in San Francisco, pergolas are also a fantastic way to personalize a space. Own the event by incorporating your logo or brand colors, class things up with flowing curtains, add a whimsical touch with floating umbrellas, or make an evening event glow with string lights. The options are endless.
Practically anyone can throw an indoor event, but hosting something truly special requires just a little more planning. Small but smart touches like thoughtful menu planning, strategically-placed stations, and functional decor make for memorable occasion that both you and your guests can enjoy.
Let us help make your next indoor event a success! Contact Off the Grid Catering for more information on how we support everything from planning to production and permitting.