Photo credit: Southern Wedding

Food is an integral part of any event, no matter the locale, the time of day, the attendee profile, or the occasion. One thing you can always count on is having to account for a menu. But the new wave of creative catering has moved away from the traditional fondue and carving stations, to something much more inventive and engaging — interactive food displays!

Whether you’re hosting a corporate breakfast, an all-day event, or a dinner party, these ideas should help to involve your audience and ensure they have fun with their food.

Bloody Mary Bar
This is a popular and classic option, but you can make it new and exciting by allowing guests to mix in their own flavorings, like Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco, and then offer elaborate garnishes like pickled vegetables, candied bacon, or cocktail shrimp.

Decorate Your Own Deviled Eggs
This is a great brunch option for events with finger foods, and allows guests to have a little hand in the fun. Arrange plain deviled eggs on a platter, and surround with toppings like chopped bacon and fresh herbs, for a little bit of finishing fun.

DIY Parfait Bar
Instead of offering individual yogurts or cold cereal, a parfait bar where guests can layer their favorite type of yogurt, granola, fruits, and nuts is much more exciting, and allows for a much more personalized breakfast option.

Make-Your-Own Taco Bar
Offer a selection of meat and vegetarian options with all the fixings. Guests won’t need to distinguish any dietary preferences with this one, and everyone is sure to create something they’re going to enjoy.

DIY Sliders
This is just like the taco option, but for those who prefer their dinners to be served on buns instead of shells. You could offer a beef, chicken, fish, and veggie option, again with all the toppings you might traditionally find on a burger.

French Fry Station
This is absolutely one of our favorites. Offer a variety of fries — curly, waffle, sweet potato, and even tater tots — and serve them up with delicious and inventive dips like truffle ketchup or garlic aioli.

Make-Your Own Popcorn Packets
Similar to the french fry idea, you can offer guests a choice from say butter popcorn, kettle corn, and a fun flavor like caramel, parmesan, or herb, and then display a variety of different toppings to go along with the popcorn. Salty and sweet combos, like butter popcorn with M&Ms, or kettle corn with roasted nuts, are especially delicious here!

Dip-Your-Own Candy Apples
This is a really fun fall-themed idea, where guests can pick their apple, pick their dip (think caramel or chocolate) and pick their toppings! It may be the messiest of our suggestions, but also maybe the most fun.

Hot Chocolate Bar
Instead of a chocolate fondue station, allow guests to dress up a mug of hot chocolate to their liking. You could offer a few different flavors —maybe white, milk, and dark hot chocolate — and then an array of toppings like marshmallows, spices, and more shaved chocolate. For adults-only events, a splash of Bailey’s or Kahlua would be a wonderful addition here!

The ideas are endless for how to make food more fun at your next event, but these are just some of our favorites.

What’s your favorite way to engage event guests?