How to plan your next meeting menu

Power bars are a great snack item for a meeting menu

True or false? The food is just as important as the content of a meeting.

A resounding “yes” is what you’ll get if you ask MTCC Catering Manager Bruce Kellogg, who says this statement very much rings true.

“The food and beverage items on a meeting menu are what keep attendees fuelled, liven up the conversation, and, in many cases, could even help set the tone of the event.”

If the culinary component to your meeting contributes so greatly to its overall success, then how do you know if what you’re planning will satisfy the appetite of the guests?

  1. Establish the objective of your meeting.
  • “The purpose of your meeting will dictate the type of menu and style of service that would be most appropriate for your function,” Kellogg says.
  1. Got the objective? Now it’s time to plan your budget.
  • One of the most frustrating challenges is finding out late in the game that not enough of the overall budget was put aside for food and beverage. Kellogg’s solution? “Refer to your venue’s menu when in the initial stages of planning your budget so you have an understanding of what your costs may be.”
  1. A good breakfast helps to begin the day on a positive note.
  • Does your meeting begin with an early morning meal? Kellogg says there are three things to keep in mind:
    • Ensure there is plenty of coffee, tea, and juice for attendees.
    • Buffet style works really well prior to a plenary as guests trickle in at different times.
    • Providing breakfast to attendees on multiple days? Change up the menu each time.
  1. See breaks as an opportunity to recharge attendees.
  • “The morning break is when guests can meet one another,” says Kellogg. “Present a fresh snack item that is different from breakfast. A great homemade power bar is appreciated by many of our clients’ guests.”
  • Regarding your meeting’s afternoon break, see this as an opportunity to refuel attendees’ energy levels so they stay focused for the remainder of the day. “This is a great time to be creative and offer exciting options. A mix of hot and cold beverages is also ideal for this time frame.”
  1. Lunch: Plated or buffet?
  • If you plan on having a program during lunch, a plated meal can encourage attendees to be seated faster, allowing the program to remain on schedule.
  • Alternatively, a buffet can provide additional flexibility when it comes to menu offerings. “More items on a buffet table means you can accommodate an array of dietary restrictions.”
  1. What to keep in mind when planning your reception.
  • A reception at the end of day one or at the conclusion of your event provides an opportunity for attendees to network and discuss their learning.
  • Serving alcoholic beverages? “Always provide food items with more substantial offerings – especially if the reception is lengthy and runs into the dinner hour.” Also, remind attendees to drink responsibly, and provide alternate modes of transport.
  • Pass food to guests so as not to break up networking groups.

Have something else to keep in mind when planning a meeting menu? Share your suggestion with us in the comments below.

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