Held on the first Tuesday in November, the Melbourne Cup seems to sneak up faster and faster each year. Although it may not be a public holiday for all (we’re looking at you Victoria), who says catching all the Melbourne Cup day action from the trackside is the best way to celebrate? A fun Melbourne Cup party in the office can be just as exciting. It’s the corporate event of all corporate events! The perfect chance to share some good fun and delicious food with your colleagues.

From initial planning to cheering on your horse across the finish line, here is the ultimate guide, tips, tricks information and ideas on how to throw the best Melbourne Cup party at work or at your Melbourne Cup function.

3 ways to celebrate Melbourne Cup at home this year

Whilst the 2021 Melbourne Cup is still going ahead, many will probably be wondering: how are we meant to celebrate the big race day while everyone is working from home?

There's no reason anyone needs to miss out of the food and fashion, just because we are dealing with a new normal. The race that stops the nation is still forging ahead, so here is how you can make it fun from home.

Order gourmet catering

One of the best parts of Melbourne Cup Day every year is hands down the food. From grazing platters, hot finger food favourites, delectable sweets or even a roast lunch, there's so much to love! And there's no reason you can't still enjoy these delicious treats as a team!

EatFirst can make sure you get something delicious delivered, not only to your office but also right to your team's front doors. From picnic boxes, individual grazing spreads or even hot meals, we have options for everyone!

To get your Melbourne Cup Catering sorted, we recommend ordering the best gourmet finger food for the big race day to fill up on tasty morsels while catching all the action on the big screens.

If you're watching from Sydney, The Blonde Butler are bringing their fancy Melbourne Cup package menus to your doorstep featuring seafood banquets, cold cuts and much more.

That said, we do recommend ordering Melbourne Cup catering for more than just one diet, your staff may have gluten free or vegetarian dietary requirements which is easy organise with our brand new EatFirst Marketplace!

To avoid disappointment on the big day, we also strongly suggest ordering weeks ahead to ensure that your guests can watch the race on the big screens and enjoy Melbourne cup catering on time.

Get in contact to discover more.

The Catering Department

Fashion on the front lawn

Whilst there won't be a chance for your office fashionista's to strut their stuff at work, there's no reason they can't while working from home. Hold your annual best-dressed affair online this year, with a virtual event!

Want to take it to the next level? Why not invite your team to a virtual cocktail making class? Check out the ones from SixthSense Agency.  

Virtual racing!

If the horse race isn't your cup of tea, there's no reason you and your team can't partake in some good old fashioned team bonding anyway! From Minute to Win it and even a Virtual Amazing Race, Hidden Door Experiences have some excellent and memorable virtual events your whole team will love.

1. Plan ahead for Melbourne Cup Day

When planning an office party, it always pays to be organised and prepared from the get-go. You’ve got to think about Melbourne Cup office catering, games and activities, what kind of budget you have to play with, all while making sure there’s enough time in the day for everyone to have fun.

Not sure where to even start? Let us break it down for you.

The basics

Before sending an invitation out to the entire office, it’s crucial to get buy-in from your management team. A few questions to clear with them before you begin making plans:

  • What hours can your colleagues take off during the Melbourne Cup?
  • Will people be expected to go back to work after the race?
  • What is the allocated budget for the event?

Once all those details are confirmed, you can then send out your save-the-date notice to the office. Try and give them at least two to three weeks of lead-time (the more time the better, really) so they have plenty of space to make preparations and you have the numbers you need for catering.

Set a dress code

You wouldn’t wear jeans and a t-shirt for the horse race, so why not invite the office to get dressed up for the day? Make it easy for everyone to participate by introducing a theme. Here are a few of our favourite ideas to help you get started:

  • All white or all florals
  • Classic cocktail attire
  • Melbourne Cup race stripes
  • Famous winners of the Melbourne Cup
  • A fun equestrian theme
  • Your best fascinator/tie
  • Fun socks!

Remember, not everyone will want to dress up, so if you’re going to specify a dress code on your invitation, make it optional.

Prepare games and activities

Having party games and activities prepared on the day of the great race is a great way to entertain everyone. Below are a few Melbourne Cup office party favourites:

  • Desk decorating competition
  • In the lead up to the event, encourage teams to decorate their work area in a Melbourne Cup theme. Select a panel of judges to decide upon a winner and hand out prizes on the day of the big race.
  • Fashions on the field
  • Host your very own version of Fashions on the Field and give out prizes for the best dressed or best hat categories. Encourage people to get creative and crafty with their designs.
  • Melbourne Cup trivia
  • Get your colleagues buzzing with a classic pub-style trivia game. Break colleagues into teams and offer prizes for the first, second and third place.
  • Sweeps
  • Host your own office sweep to really emulate the spirit of the racetrack and give away some prize money of your own.

2. Food and drinks

There’s nothing more important than the food and drink at your Melbourne Cup day party. It’s the biggest motivator to get your colleagues to leave their desks and socialise, so ensure you get it right.

Melbourne Cup catering

A potluck doesn’t do justice to an event as prestigious as the Melbourne Cup. Catered food is the ideal way to celebrate the race that stops the nation and there are many Melbourne Cup catering menu options that will suit your budget and needs.

A sit-down three-course lunch, buffet, a grazing table with food platters, an elegant cocktail party with gourmet finger food, or a classic high tea – the choices are endless. Just make sure you provide enough yummy bites for everyone, (and you've accounted for special diets) so no one goes hungry and there are no messy RSA issues by mid-afternoon.

Check out our ideas below for a great Melbourne Cup day lunch:

  • Finger food - sliders, smoked salmon blinis with cream cheese, fresh rice paper rolls, skewers, roast duck pancakes and tartlets
  • Easy Melbourne Cup lunches including BBQ chicken, salads, fresh bread rolls or gourmet sandwiches
  • Sharing food platters that are perfect for mingling - including roast chicken, charcuterie, dips and crackers, cold meat platters, Middle Eastern mezze, sushi, tapas, cheese plates and more
  • Tasty BBQ catering - get a chef to man the BBQ so your guests are free to mingle and watch the race
  • Don't forget the sweet finish with a Melbourne Cup themed cupcake, chocolate dipped strawberries, sweet slices or a whole corporate cake to celebrate


Melbourne Cup day is all about the bubbly. But don’t forget to offer alternatives, such as beer, wine, soft drinks and water. We recommend getting alcohol delivered to the office a few days before Melbourne Cup. And don't forget glasses, ice and tubs to keep the drinks chilled. For Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth or Canberra alcohol delivery orders, speak to our customer service superstars or order online from our website.

3. Build buzz

In the lead up to the Melbourne Cup day, create excitement in the office. It’s going to work out to be a better day if people are excited in the lead up to the big day.

Send reminders

Set up a series of reminders to send to your colleagues in the lead up to the race. Send them fun emails and aim to deliver them:

  • One week before
  • The day before
  • The morning of

Don’t forget to let staff know they should put their out-of-office alert on and divert any calls for the duration of the party.

Decorate the office

As well as the desk decoration game, if budget allows, decorate the common areas or boardrooms with festive Melbourne Cup designs. Take inspiration from:

  • Fake turf
  • Flowers
  • Horse shoes
  • Jockey and horse stripes
  • Champagne bottles

Transform your office into that classic Melbourne Cup carnival atmosphere to get everyone into the spirit.

4. On Cup day

Prepare the food and drink

Just like any other catered office event or party, make sure you leave yourself plenty of time to receive the food and get it all set up.

Here are a few more handy food and drink tips to consider:

  • Give your staff plenty of time to eat and drink before the big race. Reward them for their hard work and let them relax and have some fun with a fabulous catered lunch and party games
  • Don’t forget about special dietary requirements. Include a selection of alternative food menu options so no one goes hungry
  • Make sure you have enough crockery, cutlery, napkins and glasses for the event. Nothing kills the mood like having to drink champagne from a coffee mug. Speak to Order-In about our equipment hire service
  • Need waiters or bar staff for your Melbourne Cup party? Speak to our events team at Order-In. We can assist with staff hire for your event too

Choose an MC

On the day of the event, there will be lots of moving parts, so it’s best to choose your very own Master of Ceremonies to help move things along. They’ll help organise games, award prizes and give notice to staff when the race starts.

Set up a place to watch

Just because you’re in the office doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the races as if you were by the trackside. All you need is a television set and enough seating to support your staff. If you don’t have a common area or employee lounge area with a television, convert your boardroom or conference room into a mini theatre by projecting the live event directly on a blank wall or white screen.

And of course, watch the race together!

There’s nothing quite like gathering around the tv in the boardroom, watching your picks race one another, cheering as they each cross the finish line and patting the winners (and losers) on the back. After your staff luncheon, or before your afternoon nibbles, watching the race is surely one of the day’s highlights.

Not down with the lingo? We’ve got you covered.

Here’s all the essential terminology you might hear on the day of the big race.

Barriers: The starting gates in which each horse is separated into before the race begins

Cricket score odds: When the odds of a horse are very long, generally 100 or more

Derby: A race for horses 3 years old and over

Each way: A bet that’s placed to both win and place

Favourite: The shortest odds to win the event

Fixed odds: Fixed odds betting means you know the exact odds that you will receive when you place a bet

Front runner: A horse who is leading the field

Knocked up: A horse that gets tired during the race and is no longer competitive

Knuckled: When a horse stumbles or falls

The odds: The odds tell you how likely it is that each horse will win or place

Short odds and long odds: If you’re betting on a horse with short odds, it has a higher chance of winning, but if you bet on a horse with long odds, there is a lowered chance of a win, yet higher reward.

On the nose: To back a horse for the win only

Protest: An objection lodged against the winner after the completion of the race. This can be lodged by the jockey, trainer, connections or the stewards

Pulling: When a horse is over-racing

Stayer: A horse that performs best over long distance races

Stewards: Racing officials responsible for enforcing the rules of racing. Also called the ‘stipes’

Stone motherless: To finish in last position

Swooper: A horse who is positioned near the back before a fast finishing burst towards the end of the race

Ready, set, go!

There you have it! Follow this complete guide and you’re guaranteed to host a great Melbourne Cup day lunch that your colleagues will never forget. For even more information about Melbourne Cup food and drink catering, check out our special packages to suit all budgets and themes.

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