Meal Ideas for Your Next Networking Conference

Last Updated on October 7, 2021

Let’s talk about food!

One of the more fun parts to plan of any event is the food. An event planner must find the perfect caterer for each unique event to keep your guests happy with food and drinks.

Networking conferences are great for attendees to meet potential clients, customers, and business partners. Networking conferences are often all about moving around and meeting new people, and mini-events like meals, round table discussions and cocktail hours often help create an environment conducive for meeting others.

We’re going to skip over the itinerary phase and assume you have a schedule that includes meals and snack breaks. These are all moments when your environment should encourage your guests to mingle.  The food you serve should be easy to grab, eat, and shouldn’t be terribly messy or spicy or cause bad breath  – as a general rule.

Here’s a short list of foods to consider serving at your next networking event.

For The Morning

  • Coffee. No 8 AM conference can be without coffee and don’t skimp! Include decaf coffee. Also have caffeinated and decaffeinated teas. (Sugar, sugar-substitutes, honey, milk, cream)
  • Easy to grab bottles: assorted juices and water. Don’t run out of water.
  • Pastries, muffins, bagels with butter and cream cheese on the side – you can’t go wrong. They’re a bit messier and more crumbly, but they go fast.
  • A yogurts bar is surprisingly simple and clean. Include plain and fruit yogurt, honey, granola, and a few ready-cut fruit options. Paper coffee cups make a simple serving dish and are easy to clean up.
  • A large fruit tray is always a big hit.

Lunch Is Served

  • Simple Sandwiches are a great choice, and something you generally can’t go wrong with.  Make sure you offer several different choices, including a vegetarian alternative. Offer condiments.
  • Pizza or small burritos are great hot options, and again you can offer a variety.  Wrap them in tin foil and put a sticker on the outside saying what they are.
  • Kebabs are another great choice, easy to eat with one hand and you can serve a variety of meat and veggies. I might take everything off the stick and offer a few dipping sauces on the side.
  • Salads: pasta, potato, egg, etc… easy to serve, easy to eat.

Hint: A traditionally messy item can often become more manageable if made smaller.

Snacks Are Key

Grab and go packaged foods like granola bars, nuts, gummies bears and chocolate are easiest. These could easily be included in a package your guests receive at registration. You can put out trays of cookies and bowls of fruit. We also recommend serving coffee and tea again mid afternoon. A caffeine boost can liven the after-lunch lull.

The Dinner Menu

  • As with lunch-time, you really can’t go wrong with kebabs. Sandwiches are a good choice too.
  • Sushi is super simple! Trays of classic, generally enjoyed by the masses maki, a few veggie options and some side salads and you’re good to go.
  • A Burgers and Hot Dogs Bar is often a big hit. Keep the topping classic and simple for the least amount of mess. This may be best in the summer with access to outdoor grills.
  • A BBQ is certainly messy – but it’s a fun, outdoor way to close out a conference.
  • Hors d’ouvres are another excellent choice – food items like cold cuts, bruschetta, and deviled eggs are incredibly easy to eat, and tend to pair well with a closing cocktail hour.

An experienced caterer should have great ideas and be able to steer you away from potential pit fall foods. If your planning the menu on yourself, we recommend researching what restaurants other event planners are using. Or consider what restaurant is getting written up, or where do you love to get take-out from… You may be pleasantly surprised by which local establishments have experience catering events.