Have you ever been to a large event that had no food or beverage options? It’s unlikely! Food and beverage is often one of the largest (if not the largest) expenses for events. Guests remember the fare at events, especially if the event is centered around a meal.
So why are we still treating food like an afterthought?
As budgets continue to shrink and the cost of food continues to rise, it’s easy to look at food service at events as a “have to do.” You might be tempted to scrape something together for the lowest dollar amount.
But that rarely pays off. And that’s because food and beverage at events isn’t just about keeping people full — it’s a part of the experience.
If serving food at events was really just about feeding people, it would probably be more cost effective to give guests cash or vouchers to the nearest fast food restaurant.
It all goes back to the basics of hospitality
There’s a reason events fall into the greater hospitality industry. The event organizer — whether it’s a corporation, an association, or an individual — is the host of an event. The attendees are the host’s guests.
The idea of hospitality goes back to biblical times, when people would open their homes to guests — even strangers — and break bread. The idea of sharing a meal led to shared conversations, shared ideas, shared fellowship. Sounds a lot like our modern event planning objectives or networking, right?
Once you make the connection between event planning and hospitality, it’s easy to realize that any food service is part of the hospitality package. Any by food service, we mean anything — from continental breakfast all the way through formal plated dinners.
A meal isn’t just a meal. It’s an opportunity to make connections, to bring people together to break bread. All of a sudden, that budget line item is actually doing double duty!
Put real thought into your food and beverage choices
If you put a little effort into the menu selection, you can help make that meal do more for your meeting. Instead of blindly choosing the affordable buffet or the safe duet-plated entree, be creative and take some risks! Your guest will remember and appreciat eit.
What about the budget?
Yes, you have to plan food and beverage around your budget. But who says an inventive menu has to be expensive? You don’t have to offer lobster tail and caviar to be creative.
There are plenty of ways to mix things up without busting your budget. Here are some of my favorite ideas:
- Go for food stations: Get rid of the plated dinner and offer specialty food stations instead. It gets people moving around and talking — and it’s usually lower cost. Each station can have a different theme (like regions of the world) for a conversation starter among guests.
- DIY it: Instead of a simple sandwich display, offer a make-your-own salad line with creative toppings. Most guests will appreciate the healthier options.
- Get interactive: Let guests get in on the action either through cooking demonstrations or “make your own” bars.
- Go retro: Nothing gets guests talking quite like nostalgia. Think: Sloppy joes, tater tots, or any kind of casserole.
- Serve meals family style: By literally sharing a meal from a common platter, guests will be sure to start conversations with one another.
Those are just a few ideas — there are so many more! Work with your caterer to develop a menu that truly meets the need of your event. Just don’t take the easy way out on menu selections. We event planners can do better than that for our guests!
More creative catering ideas
5 Ways to Keep Catering Costs Down at Your Next Event
6 Innovative Hotel Food & Beverage Ideas That Grow Group Revenue
10 Event Catering Ideas to Feed Group Revenue
Why the Event Space Layout Affects Your Catering Plan