How to Choose the Perfect Menu for Your Event
When you get right down to it, figuring out how to choose the perfect menu for your event is just like any other task associated with planning a great meeting: Knowledge, ideation, execution. And incisive attention to detail, of course!
Our 25-plus years of experience in the specialized meeting space has taught us that every detail is important. Essential, in fact. From the accommodations to the program to the speakers, all items need attention.
One large item that sometimes falls by the wayside when companies are planning events is the cuisine. Whether putting on a meeting for sales reps, a group of doctors or a small collection of C-suite executives, everyone needs to eat. And they need to eat well, with plenty of energizing foods.
Foods that put a pep in your step are important so that attendees feel satisfied and happy. And healthy options are essential for hard-working professionals that need the stamina to push through sessions filled with presentations, spreadsheets and charts. The menu needs to include plenty of foods that help you stay awake.
It helps to break your menu down into categories, so the decision making is manageable. We will go into breakfast, lunch and dinner choices further down in the article. However, there are some general tips that lay the foundation for any successful meeting menu.
As with restaurants, what’s in-season matters. Fresh, local ingredients go a long way towards creating a cornucopia of energizing foods. It also gives visitors who have traveled from other regions a taste of the surrounding area.
Know your audience. Do they have religious or philosophical needs that have to be met? Some may require a Kosher spread while others could be vying for a vegan feast of epic proportions.
Always have enough choices for even the pickiest of eaters. You want every base covered. With a meeting of just 20 attendees, you will have someone that hates beef, someone that loves beef, four vegetarians, 10 omnivores and a mix of “flee-gans” (flexible vegans), salad eaters and gluten-free dieters. You need to know how to choose the perfect menu for all of them. Often, a buffet with multiple options will be the best way to go, from a flexibility and cost standpoint.
With the most important meal of the day, it is vital that you give everyone plenty of choices. And strong coffee. Not everyone will be satisfied with fruit and oatmeal, so hearty trays of eggs, bacon and sausage are welcome. Just be sure to balance out the hearty with the healthy. Energizing foods like fresh fruit, healthy cereal and Greek yogurt should be available as well. Even the right portion of eggs, provided it is not too loaded down with a side of bacon, can provide energy all day.
When it comes to fruit, the classic fruit salad with melon, pineapple, grapes and strawberries will be popular, but so will a selection of apples and bananas, which give meeting participants a wholesome snack that they can take to the conference room. Try to avoid A.M. attendee carb crash by picking items packed with protein.
The midday meal needs to be substantial enough to fuel attendees through their afternoon sessions, but not so filling that they are snoozing by the time the first Powerpoint slides go up on the screen. Again, the buffet is an optimal way to satisfy every individual’s taste. A choice of chicken, beef or fish as an entree, with copious amounts of salad and a few tasty sides should cover all the bases. Choose wraps over sandwiches; salads over pastas or fried foods. The key is to feature foods that help you stay awake.
If you are in an exotic location, lunchtime could be the perfect opportunity to showcase more flavors, setting you up for the main event.
By dinnertime, attendees should be able to let their hair down a little bit. Now, you can move away from the buffet template and offer three courses that will showcase the local cuisine. Again, you will want a few choices on the entree side to make sure everyone is happy. And now you can let the open bar flow. A good dinner is always better with the perfect cocktail, glass of wine or pint of beer. The most important networking and deal-making arguably takes places once the sun has set.
In between sessions, it might be a nice idea to offer coffee, tea and assorted treats to break up the day. While fun foods like popcorn, hot pretzels and ice cream will be crowd-pleasing and conversation-generating, be sure to stick to the healthy theme: energizing foods are important. Nuts, granola and fresh fruit to name a few, as well as yogurt and baby carrots, which make for great break time food.
What should be paramount when deciding on the menu is budget. While keeping everyone full and satisfied is important, it is vital that you watch every dollar to make sure it is in compliance with any industry regulations, which can be strict in the medical device and pharmaceutical worlds.
Creating the perfect menu for your event requires effort and attention to detail, but the results will be worth it. Even after all the networking convos and Excel charts fade from memory, that great steak or locally-produced trail mix will linger in the mind. Food is a great way to have employees, vendors and clients remember your event.