Serving take-out for supper? Take these catering tips to heart.

So, you’ve decided to go the somewhat easier route and serve take-out for dinner. There’s nothing wrong with that – sometimes you just have to be realistic about what you can handle given the time you have, and picking up takeaways will save you many precious hours at the end of a busy day.

The only catch is, take-out food, if served straight out of the container or flopped onto a plate, can look a little sloppy and unappealing. Luckily for you, there are a few simple hacks you can draw on to improve the aesthetics of any dish. Take these five presentation tips to heart to serve up takeaway meals that look like they’ve been prepared by a professional catering company (like us at Food Matters).

Five catering tips to remember when serving takeaway food 

1. Pick the right plates

Rather than just grabbing the first set of plates at the top of the pile in your kitchen, give careful thought to what to use as the backdrop for the food you’re serving. As a general rule, use bigger plates that allow for some empty space to be left around the edges of the meal – this looks much more elegant and appetising than a smaller plate heavily laden with ingredients. Also be sure to stay away from multicoloured crockery with busy patterns as this tends to detract from the food and just look messy. A plain white plate is always a safe choice – especially if the meal is quite vibrant in tone – but black crockery or wooden boards can also look very appealing below food in more muted colours.

2. Work with the clock

It sounds overly simple, but this basic approach to positioning ingredients works every time. Professional chefs recommend that to achieve the perfect balance of meal elements visually, you should think of a plate as the face of a clock – place the take-out centrepiece (the meat or fish, for example) at 6 o’clock, the vegetables at 11 o’clock and the starch or sauce at 2 o’clock. This arrangement will introduce a slight asymmetry that’s appealing to the eye.

3. Inject a pop of colour

Unless you’ve specifically opted for a certain food colour scheme, like all-white, for example, it’s a good idea to play with tones to add some interest and energy to the look of the food. If you haven’t opted for takeaway food that naturally features a variety of colours, pick up a few extra ingredients that’ll inject some vibrancy onto the plate. Edible flowers, microgreens, orange zest and pomegranate seeds all work well. Alternatively, you could use a brush or piping bag to add a lick of brightly coloured sauce or mustard to the dish – just make sure it complements the flavours of the take-out.

4. Layer your elements

Just like you would if you were setting up a floral arrangement, place elements on the plate at different heights to add visual interest. You could either keep your take-out components separate and position them carefully to stand at different levels – for example, a mound of rice with a lamb chop leaning against it, next to a line of peas – or you could build them up on top of each other, starting with something sticky or saucy and ending with ingredients that are light and crisp.

5. Don’t forget the drinks

A well-made, interesting drink can make a gathering that much better and add a lot to the aesthetics of a meal. Since you’ve saved time on food preparation by opting for takeaways, why not spend 30 minutes or so whipping up a delicious, beautifully presented beverage – a customised cocktail, for example, or even something as simple as gin and tonic with various garnishes (like cucumber, rosemary or even chilli).

If presentation is important to you (as it should be), and you simply don’t have the time to put together a meal from scratch for a particular occasion, you could always lower your stress levels by calling on a professional catering company. At Food Matters, we pride ourselves on creating upmarket customised menus for private parties and a range of other event types, with a focus on flawless delivery, sophisticated service and great food that’ll guarantee a memorable experience for all.

Eager to save time and stress by working with a full-service custom catering company? We can help.