Food for thought – Why catering is key

When you’re in the midst of planning a conference, with so many boxes to tick and strict budgets to work to, catering can sometimes be put on the back burner. But food and drink shouldn’t be an after-thought. After all, the food you feed your delegates can seriously affect how people view your event, and more importantly, your business.

At MCS, we never underestimate the power of food! The menu you choose is often what people remember most about your event and is limited only by your budget and imagination. Remember your delegates are taking time out of their busy schedules to attend, so when an event is catered for, your business’ hospitality will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression with them.

By making sure the food you serve not only looks good, but is satisfying and tasty, the attention to detail that you pay to catering will shine through.

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First, you need to look at the serving style you’d like; this needs to be in-keeping with the theme and desired atmosphere of the day. The food needs to be adapted to the event’s set-up so decide early on if you’d like your guests to be seated or if you expect them to carry food around with them whilst networking – this will influence your menu. Whether it’s a formal sit-down meal, a food station, informal buffet or waiter-served canapés, the importance of presentation is key.

When it comes to creating your menu, the sky’s the limit. Tight budgets can sometimes put a dampener on what foods you can and can’t offer, but don’t feel constrained. A good caterer can work to any budget and provide you with a satisfying bespoke menu.

Whether a caterer offers set menus or not, don’t be afraid to think outside the box and create something different. Steer away from the usual selection of sandwiches and baguettes by incorporating some more stimulating options.

Colour is key when it comes to arranging your menu. So many times, organisers fall into the trap of deep fried, beige food that is dull and uninspiring. Instead, your food and drink options should be viewed as an entertainment element that can enhance your event.

Adding variations on easy-to-eat finger food, like mini tartlets, chicken skewers, terrine or bruschetta, will provide a welcome change for your guests. With today’s emphasis on a healthier lifestyle, you should also be paying attention to more health conscious food, like fruit kebabs and smoothies, which will keep energy levels up and your audience engaged.

We also recommend that you always relate your food choices back to the time of year by considering what’s happening at that time and what food is in season. Have you got a summer event planned? Why not ditch the buffet and add a twist by hosting a barbecue for an outdoor event or arrange for an ice cream van to pull up on the day? You can also link in to any seasonal milestone even if it’s not directly related, including major sporting events like Wimbledon. Hosting an event at the end of June? Then pots of summery strawberries and cream are a must-have crowd pleaser!

People want to have fun at your event so providing them with food that is memorable should be a priority. With social media playing a massive part in people’s day-to-day lives, you want photogenic food that will look at home on any Instagram page and might even be shared with an online audience. If the food is good, not only will your event be an all-round success, but your event feedback will be firmly focussed on the day’s content instead of any lacklustre food and drink.

To help you plan the perfect menu, here’s MCS’ top five tips for selecting the ideal spread for your conference:

  1. Start thinking of menu options early. People take time out of their working day to attend conferences, so you want to make sure they are well-fed and not disappointed by what’s on offer.
  2. Keep lunch on the light side. You want to keep people’s energy levels up, not leaving them feeling sluggish after a heavy, carb-filled meal. Be sure to include healthy salad and fruit options.
  3. Consider the time of day that you will be hosting your conference. If it lasts all day, you’ll be expected to offer more than one meal option. Think of quick snack options that guests can easily pick at throughout the day.
  4. Make it branded! Everyone loves a giveaway, so instead of branded pens or notepads, be more creative and offer individual boxes of branded cupcakes or fruit smoothies for people to take home instead.
  5. Most importantly, make it fun! Don’t be afraid to play around with your menu options and offer something out of the norm – it’ll ensure your event is memorable and help bring your messages from the day or evening to life.

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