Graduation Parties 101: Menu Must-Haves To Win The Job

by | May 2, 2022

Winning a gig as a graduation party caterer takes careful planning, thoughtful and unique menu options, and a reliable partner to help you implement your strategy. As a wholesale food distributor for catering business and restaurants, Schenck Foods has the experience and catalog to be that trusted partner.

A high school or college graduation party is a special occasion. It’s a milestone celebration, acknowledging major achievements, and a chance for you as a caterer to show off your skills in bringing fresh, new ideas together with certified crowd-pleasers. There’s no set rule book here, which means opportunity—opportunity to set yourself apart from the long list of caterers vying for space in the industry.

As you plan your buffet, you’re not just serving guests a beautiful variety of delicious favorites and surprises—you’re building a word-of-mouth customer base that will keep coming back for more. These parties usually involve a lot of finger foods, as the dining and social mingling tend to blend. So as you’re reviewing the usual veggie tray and hot wings suggestions that typically show up at graduation parties, here are some eye-catching and mouthwatering options that can set you above the rest.

Catering Buffet Options for a Graduation Party


Gourmet sliders catering dishGourmet Sliders

If you’re looking for a guaranteed hit out the gate, gourmet hamburger sliders are a great place to start. These are easy to prepare, easy to serve and can be displayed with an artistic flair. Not a fan of pickles on your sliders? Try thinly sliced onion, diced tomatoes, sliced jalapenos, or bacon bits. Pioneer Woman has a fantastic recipe to get you started. No need to flip individual patties on a grill—this recipe makes your job as a caterer easy.

Looking for something more adventurous? These tandoori masala chicken sandwiches can be full sized or reduced to a gourmet slider. Elegant and surprising, they will evoke a hint of Indian cuisine and can even bring a touch of heat by adding serrano pepper to the slaw.


Seven layered favorite catering dipThe Seven Layered Favorite

The beautiful thing about this long-standing dip is how customizable it is. This one can easily be vegan friendly and gluten free, while still taking the spotlight. Traditionally this dish layers beans, sour cream, cream cheese, salsa, tomatoes, pepper, and green onions—when done thoughtfully, it’s gorgeous. We recommend you use a glass bowl to showcase the layers and make this a display piece to admire. The Washington Post has a take we think you’ll like on this dish, as well as a brief bit about its history.

Catering Finger Food Ideas

Here are some finger food ideas from famous chefs that are sure to impress and make you a hero and keep you top of mind the next time an event rolls around.


Spinach artichoke catering dipSpinach Artichoke Dip

In the same dip category is the spinach artichoke dish. Easy to put in your catering menu, this one can also be a gluten-free, vegan option that everyone loves. Served hot or cold, with chips or bread, this versatile dish can match your buffet design—you could even add a bit of fresh spinach to make this a classy inclusion, or sprinkle mouth-watering bacon crumbles on top. We recommend you take a look at this recipe from the NYT.


Bang bang ship are a catering favorite for partiesBang Bang Shrimp

Remember shrimp? It’s one of the most popular items on a caterers menu, and a graduation party is no exception. Our recommendation is to introduce your guests to Bang Bang Shrimp—bite-sized treats that have hints of sweet and spicy and a big crunch. Coated in batter and deep-fried golden brown, these delicious shrimp are great on their own, but the dip is what will have your guests asking you where you’ll be catering next. Made with mayonnaise (or Greek yogurt for a healthier alternative), Sriracha, and sweet chili sauce, this one delivers the two punches it promises.  Kim Benson has a great take on this recipe at Insanely Good Recipes.

Schenck Foods carries premium shrimp in a variety of sizes and styles, including shells on/off, tails on/off, and raw/precooked. We also have breaded shrimp in different styles for a more diverse menu. Open our catalog and search “shrimp.”


Iced raspberry tea is a crowd-favorite catering beverage drinkIced Raspberry Tea

Having something special for your guests to drink can set you apart while still being an easy add to your graduation menu. This one is simple to make ahead of time—just stick it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve it. Frozen or fresh raspberries or thin lemon slices add lovely color and a tangy flavor. It’s also good throughout the year, and appropriate for either indoor or outdoor parties. Here’s a simple recipe from Taste of Home.

Need more catering ideas?

Let us know! We’d love to work up a graduation catering menu with you.

We get that you’re not just cooking—you’re planning the layout of the chafing dishes to the placement of food and utensils. We’ve got you covered! Check out the Schenck Foods’ wholesale catalog to save on your ingredients, serving supplies, and paper goods for all your catering gigs.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to ask a question, request special ingredients, or take advantage of our $5 delivery for all orders over $250.