Think back to a memorable event you attended and your memories will most likely involve food - good or bad.
From lack of food, to quality to appropriateness, the catering, whether you like it or not, plays a major role in your guest’s experience.
Too often, food is an item that has minimal time spent on it, when you consider its impact. The format for an event such as banquet, cocktail or working lunch is selected early on but the actual items are usually a quick tick and flick and no further thought given to it.
Yet the catering is one of the most personalised elements of your event. This is where you can make a subtle, yet significant difference.
It never ceases to amaze me when I receive a working lunch menu from a venue and it is laden with heavy, rich, carbohydrate filled foods. It doesn’t take Einstein to realise that after eating that style lunch, your delegates are going to be lethargic as their body works overtime to break down the food and the energy boost drops. And your unfortunate post lunch speaker is going to work overtime to keep their attention.
Menu selections can be key. It might sound sexist but I know if I am selecting a meal for a mostly male audience in winter, Lamb Shanks is always a hit. If I am selecting desserts for an audience with digestive issues, I steer away from anything topped with crushed nuts or desiccated coconut that can cause choking or coughing. If it is a summer event, I select treats like ice-cream or sorbet for afternoon tea. In fact afternoon tea should always be a lighter and refreshing snack as the energy levels drop.
And of course I make sure no menu items are doubled up. If a conference morning tea is a chocolate brownie, then I make sure that the dinner’s dessert isn’t a rich chocolate item. If the conference lunch is sandwiches with chicken, salmon and pork fillings, then I make sure the dinner’s menu items are alternative proteins.
This is the attention that should be paid to your catering selections.
But ingredients aren’t the only element you should consider when choosing your menu items. There is nothing more frustrating than attending a cocktail function and being served food on skewers, spoons or in shot glasses. With a drink in one hand and trying to manage the utensil in the other, the situation gets more frustrating when there is no where to put said skewer, spoon or shot glass once you have finished. While the food might be amazing, the functionality of it isn’t.
And while we’re talking about functionality, how many times have you been to a conference with no furniture available during the stand up working lunch, yet the menu includes items that require a knife and fork? Once again it doesn’t take Einstein to work out that needing to cut your food with a knife and fork but no available table is a little tricky.....and incredibly frustrating. The result, delegates sitting all over the floor just to try and eat their lunch.
Next time you are choosing your menu, don’t just rely on the taste but think about the suitability and functionality of the food.
Here are some do’s and don’ts when planning your next menu:
Georgie Stayches is Founder and Managing Director of Fetching Events & Communications, a boutique agency specialising in event management, communications and volunteer management.