Food and Beverage Options For Event Catering
Food and beverage options for event catering can sometimes seem overwhelming. How do you decide what to serve? Will your guests appreciate creative choices, or should you keep things traditional? Does your budget seem too tight for your available options? These questions and more swim through the heads of event planners every time they open a catering menu.
Simply put: food and beverages bring people together.
The phrase “breaking bread” goes way back to biblical times and is still relevant today. Back in the day, people opened their homes to guests and strangers alike to break bread. For them, it wasn’t all about the food; it was about the hospitality. If the company was good and welcoming, the food probably tasted better. So, today we host events where exceptional hospitality and customer service are our main goals, but the food and beverages are what bring our guests together and leave lasting impressions. Sharing meals encourages fellowship, shared conversations, and, ultimately, networking connections. Keep this in mind when reviewing food and beverage options for event catering.
Know your Audience
Do you want your meals to blend into the background, or do you want them to be a part of your event? If your goal is the latter, be sure you know your demographics when selecting a menu. For example, older crowds may prefer more traditional options while younger folks are more adventurous. Male-dominated groups prefer heartier menus while females prefer lighter fares with customizable options.
Boozing, Juicing, and Snacking
When planning evening events, consider whether the majority of your audience prefers an open bar or are they simply wine lovers? You might be able to save on your bar tab if you offered local craft beer and wine instead of a full bar.
For morning events, consider serving a variety of juices along with coffee and hot tea for those who prefer something sweet and cold to drink.
For conference events, setting up snack/beverage stations between breakout sessions is a great way to encourage networking throughout your event. Just as people chat around the watercooler at work, they will naturally be attracted to a snack/beverage station where socializing will occur.
Buffets vs. Plated Meals
Just as snack stations will encourage people to make connections, so will the buffet line. Buffets are not only more affordable, but they can also serve the dual purpose of being another networking opportunity for your guests. However, keep in mind that buffets are better suited for smaller audiences (less than 200) in order to avoid long lines. Larger crowds should be served a plated meal in order to keep your meal program on schedule. Consider setting the bread or salad prior to your guests arriving so that they’ll have something to munch on while they wait for their main course.
A popular option in lieu of buffets (or in addition to) is food stations. For example, consider a “create your own pasta bowl,” “salad bar,” “carving station,” “sushi station,” etc. to spread food options around a room and to encourage people to interact with each other before sitting down to eat. Your food and beverage options for event catering are limitless if you learn to think outside of the box!
And if a plated dinner sounds too stuffy for guests, consider going old-school will family-style meals! Throw down a pan of lasagna, a house salad, a loaf of french bread, a few different bowls of steamed veggies, and a couple of bottles of wine at each table. Your guests will feel right at home!
Remember, your meals aren’t just food: your meals are about making connections!