Passed Hors d’oeuvres or Stationed Food-Which is Right For Your Party?

Are you planning a cocktail party and trying to decide between passed hors d’oeuvres and stationed food? Figuring out the best catering option to go for can be challenging. On the one hand, passed hors d’oeuvres and canapes bring an element of elegance and sophistication to an event, while stationary food (aka grazing stations) offer a greater variety and make for a relaxed atmosphere.

In this post, we’ll help you decide which catering format is right for your event.

What are Passed Hors d’oeuvres?

Passed hors d’oeuvres, also known as canapés, are bite-sized appetizers that are served by wait staff on trays. These cute little bites require one hand to eat, leaving the other hand free for holding a drink or engaging in conversation.  They’re great for cocktail parties, corporate events that encourage mingling -or any event where guests will be standing and socializing. Some classic passed hors d’oeuvres include mini grilled cheese, stuffed mushrooms, and bruschetta.

What’s a Grazing Station?

A grazing station is a display of food set out on a table where guests can serve themselves. They feature a variety of finger foods, such as charcuteries, cheeses, fruits, veggies, dips and individual hors d’oeuvres and canapes. Grazing stations have been gaining in popularity here in New York City post covid.

Here are SIX things to consider when deciding which format is right for your event.

1-Consider the atmosphere

The atmosphere of an event can greatly influence the type of catering you choose. If you want a more formal and high end vibe, passed hors d’oeuvres might be the way to go.  This format is well suited for galas, fundraisers, and corporate receptions where the setting is upscale.

On the other hand, if you’re aiming for a more relaxed and casual atmosphere, then grazing stations may be the better option. This format works well for company happy hours, showers, and outdoor gatherings where guests can mingle freely while enjoying the food at their own pace.

2-Consider the type of food you want to serve

Another factor to consider when deciding between passed hors d’oeuvres and a grazing station is the type of food you want to serve. Passed hors d’oeuvres are easy to eat while mingling.  This format works well if you want to serve hot food, since the chef will heat the food just before the servers pass it around. 

Grazing stations are better for serving chilled or room temperature foods. These stations also offer greater variety so your guests can try different types of food throughout the event.  And with a grazing station, guests can revisit the food as many times as they want.

3-Think about the flow of the event

The flow and layout of your event space can also play a role in deciding between passed hors d’oeuvres or a grazing station. If you have limited space for food displays, passed hors d’oeuvres might be the better option since they require less room. If you have a larger event space and want to create a focal point with a beautiful spread of food, a grazing station would be the better option.

4-Consider your guest list

Another important factor to consider when choosing between passed hors d’oeuvres or a grazing station is your guest list. If your guests are the type who enjoy mingling with others and meeting new people then passed hors d’oeuvres would be a good choice.  This format encourages guests to move around and interact with others while enjoying the food. It’s well suited for networking events and fundraisers because it lends to mingling.

However, if your guest list includes a lot of children, older guests or people who require seating then a grazing station would be the better option.

5-Think Budget

Your budget is also a factor to consider when deciding which catering option to choose from. Passed food can be more costly than stationed hors d’oeuvres. This is because the caterer will need to provide more servers to continuously walk around with trays of food.

For a grazing station, the catering company staff will set up the station, and it takes fewer staff to maintain and replenish the food throughout the event.

6-Personal Preference

Last but not least, personal preference is important. For some, passed hors d’oeuvres are more chic and sophisticated, while others might prefer the relaxed, laid-back atmosphere that a grazing station provides. As a party host or event planner, it’s essential to factor in your personal preference. I always tell our clients that whichever format seems they like best is the right one to go with.

Ultimately, there are pros and cons to both passed hors d’oeuvres and a grazing station. Deciding which catering option to go for will ultimately depend on the formality of your event, your guest list, budget, and personal preference.

Whichever format you decide to go for, your catering menu should provide guests with variety and  fit the overall feel of your event.  No matter which format you choose, both passed and stationed food  have one thing in common – they’ll keep your guests satisfied and happy throughout the event.

I hope this helps you make the best choice for your event!

Get in touch with us to learn about our catering services or to book your next event in NYC.


Sweet Basil Catering