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The Complete Catering Equipment Checklist for Small and Big Events

22 Sep 2022
The Complete Catering Equipment Checklist for Small and Big Events

Are you looking forward to hosting a big event or a private function at your hotel or restaurant? If so, you’ll understand how much work goes into planning the perfect event. Organising a party can be stressful, especially if you have a million other things to do and don’t have the time to plan ahead.

There’s so much to organise and remember, so we’ve created a catering equipment checklist to help you get started. Our catering equipment checklist will help you to organise your commercial catering equipment supplies for a successful and stress-free evening.

We’ve covered everything from Serving Equipment to Buffet Equipment and Beverage dispensers. Be sure to check off each item as you go about planning your event!

Commercial Catering Equipment Checklist for Any Event

Below, you’ll find a complete catering equipment checklist, broken down into serving, buffet and bar equipment.

*Print out this page, and you’ll be able to check off each item as you determine whether it’s a crucial part of your event.

Must-Have Serving Equipment and Food Presentation Items

If your food and drink are the main events, your serving equipment represents the essentials that ensure your show goes as planned.

Serving Equipment

Your staff will need a range of tools at their disposal to ensure that they can serve food and drink to your guests efficiently, including:

Serving Carts

There is a range of serving carts you can use to facilitate quicker food service at your event. These include dessert carts and full self-service stations for desserts, popcorn, sweets and chocolate, and more.


Nobody wants to drink wine out of a beer glass, or vice-versa. Having the correct type of glassware for each beverage you serve is essential to ensure that you give your guests a memorable experience.

  • Highball glasses
  • Pitchers (for cocktails, water and so on)
  • Water glasses
  • Whiskey tumblers
  • Wine glasses

Table Settings

Depending on the size and purpose of your event, the table settings you need will vary. For business meetings, a scaled-back affair will likely be appropriate compared to a lavish wedding.

Pay mind to the following pieces of equipment:

  • Cutlery
  • Napkins
  • Tablecloths
  • Chairbacks

    Buffet Equipment

    Buffets are a crowd-pleaser, allowing you to cater for a range of tastes in a single sitting. However, your food must be presented well and kept warm for long enough that all guests have time to enjoy it.

    Here are some essential pieces of buffet equipment for displaying your food with style while ensuring it remains appetising:

    • Chafers and Chafer Fuel: Chafers are Trays that are Designed to keep Cooked Food Warm. At an event that includes a buffet with hot food, chafers are an absolute necessity to keep food appealing and guests happy.
    • Display Equipment: You can do a lot with display equipment. How your buffet is presented is just as important as the taste when it comes to impressing guests. Finishing touches can include anything from display signs, such as mini blackboards, to full serving stations, such as a bakery display case.
    • Serving Bowls: You’ll need a variety of pottery and serving bowls, depending on the size of the function you’re running. Melamine Serving Bowls are ideal for a range of events. Larger, deeper bowls are perfect for buffet food, while smaller dishes can be used to ferry canapes at weddings or other big functions.
    • Serving Utensils: Your serving utensils will largely depend on the food that you’re presenting in your buffet. However, you want the experience to be a stress-free affair, and choosing the wrong utensils can affect that. For example, choose slotted spoons for dry dishes, solid serving spoons for sauce-based dishes, tongs for noodles, plates of pasta and so on.
    • Sneeze Guards: Despite the name, these Shields Protect Your Buffet Food from more than just sneezes. Your guests can rest assured that your food is free from dust, dirt and germs generated by heavy footfall around the buffet table while protecting it from pests.

    Beverage Bar Equipment

    Your beverage bar could be anything from a self-service station with a few bottles of wine and spirit to a fully-staffed bar with a mixologist and a menu. Whatever your requirements, consider the following beverage bar equipment for your event:

    • Beverage Dispensers: For self-serve bars or large groups in general, you’ll be able to serve up cooled iced tea, lemonade, infused water and other drinks With such a vast capacity, Dispensing Jars with a Spout can reduce the manual involvement needed by a bartender or waiter.
    • Cocktail Equipment: If you’re employing the services of a professional mixologist and offering cocktails, you’ll need to invest in cocktail equipment. At a minimum, this means a cocktail shaker and jigger – the latter is required to ensure you’re staying on the right side of the law in serving measures of alcohol.
    • Commercial Coffee Machine: While alcohol is a given at most weddings, coffee is a popular choice. Whether you’re serving refreshments or accompaniments for a dessert, you’ll need a commercial coffee maker to handle sizeable groups of guests. Make sure you cater for both caffeinated and decaf coffee with a second pot or machine.
    • Ice Machine: Your guests will generally always want ice in their drinks, especially in the summer months. If you’re running a full bar, complete with a bartender, then an ice machine becomes absolutely essential to providing a good service and allowing them to do their job to the full extent possible.
    • Water Carafes: For longer events, your guests are going to want water. Water carafes are an eco-conscious choice for event planners who are mindful of their impact on the environment. However, they also afford a touch of elegance compared to serving bottles.
    • Wine Coolers: For guests indulging in wine, a wine cooler or wine bucket, will help to keep the bottle chilled. Your guests will appreciate this touch of elegance and attention to detail.

    Commercial Catering Equipment FAQ

    1. 1. What buffet equipment do I need for my event?
      This will largely depend on the size of your event and the buffet that you’re putting on. That said, some of the essentials for any buffet remain the same. For example, you’ll need Chafers and Chafer Fuel. A chafer is a tray you’ll often see food served within; it has a source of heat beneath, which keeps the food warm, so you’ll need a fuel source too.
      You’ll also need serving bowls and utensils, of course. From here, you can expand further to please your guests if you wish, with additions such as mini blackboards to indicate dishes, and display cases for sweet treats.

    2. Why does food presentation matter?
      When we eat, we don’t simply use our sense of taste. The key to impressing your guests is to tug on all of their senses. Food presentation, however, in terms of the appearance of your dishes, is one of the most important indicators of a good dining experience.
      Good food presentation creates a memorable experience in your guests’ minds. It’ll also make them more likely to capture the moment and share it with their friends and family, which is essentially free advertising!

    3. Where can I purchase professional catering equipment?
      While you can purchase day-to-day culinary supplies from most major supermarkets and homeware brands, you’ll only be buying equipment intended for home use. For commercial catering equipment, you need to turn to a company with years’ worth of experience in the industry.
      Since its beginnings in 2009, Top Shelf Concepts has been owned and operated by a family that believes in creating the best dining experiences in the food service industry.
      Top Shelf supplies a range of food presentation tools and buffet equipment, among other items, which you can use to wow your guests at any event.

    4. Why Top Shelf Concepts?
      Our experience in the food service industry has led us to create the ideal solutions for catering to small and large events.
      We’ve worked with some of the most well-known names in the hospitality industry, including MasterChef, Holiday Inn and Sofitel.
      So, if you need help preparing for your big event, we can help. Get in touch with Top Shelf Concepts for more information and to explore the range of catering equipment we offer.
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