You have the right venue, the delegate invitations are sent out and your logistics planning is going very well. So, what’s next?
The food you serve and the menu offered to your guests can be as important as the event itself – it can make or break an event. Get it right and delegates will feel looked after, considered and valued. Get it wrong and delegates will feel unimportant, undervalued and thus disengaged.
Your food offering should reflect your company, represent your audience and also showcase creativity. Serving ‘conference chicken in an event manager sauce’ (as we Event Planners call it) offers nothing inspiring, reflects cost saving and shows little consideration. A well-thought-out menu doesn’t need to be expensive, but it does need to inspire and get those taste buds working, especially after a busy day!
If you are working with a venue, then chances are you’re stuck with the venue catering. If you’re hosting an event in a marquee or possibly a venue that only offers the actual bricks and mortar, you’ll look at outside caterers.
Your first step towards getting the menu right is to consider the agenda. If you have only given yourself a 30-minute lunch break, then a sit down meal isn’t going to work. Once the event is over, are delegates rushing off? If so, offering a grab and go menu will be welcomed.
Secondly, where are your delegates coming from? A pan-European or indeed pan-global delegation with have a set of different palates, so your menu needs to cater for many.
Thirdly, what diets do you need to cater for? By using online delegate registration, you can quickly identify your dietary requirements, allowing for menus to be tailored.
Fourthly, and most importantly, once you have the above data, it’s time to work with your chef and catering team. Even where set catering menus are offered, it’s not uncommon to mix and match menu packages, and the chef will always like to go ‘off piste’, creating something tailored to specific needs.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner all need different types of menu and service. We recommend serving a buffet breakfast and lunch. Buffets allow you to offer a variety of dishes, ensuring everyone gets a little of everything they want.
With a pan-European or pan-global delegation, a buffet can offer a selection of meat, vegetarian, spicy and healthy options. It also ensures meals are served quickly, which is great when you have time constraints. With buffets, focus on fresh ingredients, plenty of vegetables and healthy options, and don’t overload with sugar and energy spiking carbs that will dip your delegates’ attention mid-way through the afternoon.
The same goes for break time. Venues often tempt delegates with sugary snacks, energy drinks and armfuls of cakes. All great in moderation but does nothing for your delegates’ attention span! By all means offer a treat or two, but mix it up with fresh fruit, healthy snacks and plenty of fresh ingredients! It may add to the budget ever so slightly, but I also think it better to scale down other elements so as to ensure the food is right.
With our coffee culture, offering grab and go tea and coffee along with snacks that can be eaten on the run are great, especially when the event finishes and everyone is rushing to leave.
For dinner, it all depends on what type of event you are hosting. A formal event will require a plated, served dinner. For a welcome or farewell dinner, or a relaxed evening event, a buffet works well. But, my suggestion would be to create a theme. A themed buffet with fresh ingredients and plenty of options that can be mixed and matched will always go down very well.
Delegate registration can be your best friend when it comes to getting your menus right. Not only can you ensure diet requests are fully catered for, but also it allows you to offer choice. For example, if serving a plated served meal, delegates could select from multiple meal options prior to arrival. This helps to reduce anxiety as often delegates do get stressed on wondering what will be served. Equally it provides a ‘wow’ factor, as guests can control and select what they want! As long as you have a table plan and name cards, this is a great and easy option (as long as you have a good delegate registration system).
So, here is a quick guide to serving the right food for your next event! If in doubt, call in the experts, we Event Planners have plenty of tricks to ensure the menu is just right!