A great local caterer once said, “If your guests remember nothing else about your event, they will always remember the food.”

And it’s true. There’s nothing quite like the phrase “free food” to draw a crowd. But it’s the type and quality of the food that is key to having full, happy guests that make the entire experience positive. So, how can things go wrong? 

From the get-go, there are several crucial factors to consider before planning food for an event, any of which can cause unexpected issues if you haven’t planned ahead:

  • Budget – this may seem obvious, but the key to the budget is being realistic and building in potential cost overage.
  • Timing of orders and the actual event – waiting too long to locate a caterer can mean resorting to an alternate plan that could go poorly.
  • Allergies and food sensitivities – in this day and age, if you’re planning an event, you should automatically assume that you will have guests that are vegetarian, vegan and/or gluten-free, among other health needs.
  • Religions and customs – consider the time of year of your event and the audience. For example, if it’s Lent, you’ll need different options on your menu.
  • Risk factors – such as food inspection, preparation, cross-contamination, alcohol consumption. Be sure the proper licenses are held by vendors involved and the venue.
  • Accommodations for those with disabilities – if you have a buffet, you’ll need to be sure someone can assist those who need help.
  • Service staff – be sure you have enough staff to handle the event properly. 

And now for the food itself! It’s all about variety – something for everybody. Here are some tips for meals and snacks for each time of day.

Breakfast Do’s and Dont’s

  • Do offer coffee with plenty of sweetener options – this is something people are pretty picky about!
  • Do offer fresh fruit that can last throughout the day – whole bananas, apples and oranges vs. cut fruit. 
  • Do offer a protein item – eggs, bacon or sausage, even turkey items will be appreciated.
  • Don’t rely on all pastries. They can be too heavy in the morning and those who are gluten-free or watching their carbs will not be pleased.
  • Don’t skip out on the water – hydration is key to lasting through a long meeting or event.

Lunchtime Do’s and Dont’s

  • Do offer a variety of items like sandwiches, soups and salads. You should have everyone covered with this plan. If you’re going for something different, just remember to have a low or non-carb option.
  • Do offer water, soda and tea.
  • Do offer small grab and go snack items for the afternoon, like granola or protein bars, or more fresh fruit. And of course, some guests will be searching for something sweet like a cookie. 
  • Don’t offer just chips as a side option. Offering a variety of options, including something healthy, will keep your guests happy.

Hors d’oeuvres Do’s and Dont’s

  • Do keep in mind that hors d’oeuvres are meant to be small bites, not to fill people up. 
  • Do serve finger foods – this will cut down on service ware and allow guests to easily mingle.
  • Don’t serve items that are messy.
  • Don’t just serve cheese and crackers. Again, variety is key!

Dinnertime Do’s and Dont’s 

  • Do allow guests to contact you if they have a special dinner request.
  • Do offer a variety of proteins for your guests. A good rule of thumb is to have 50% beef, 40-45% chicken or fish and 5-10% vegetarian options.
  • Do offer various sides, including both starch-based items and vegetables.
  • Don’t wait too long to serve dessert. 
  • Don’t leave dirty plates lingering on tables.

Now that you’re ready to start planning the food for your big event or meeting, take a look at our blog on Three Key Steps for Running an Effective Meeting. Still searching for the perfect event venue? Contact us today!