Last Updated on October 7, 2021
Planning out event catering isn’t as simple as hiring a catering company and telling them to “go nuts.” There’s actually a great deal that you as an event planner need to take into consideration before you set a menu – your process involves ask some key questions that will help you determine the type catering company you collaborate with.
In order to ensure that you provide the best menu possible, there are a few things you need to do:
Know Your Guests And Their Preferences
The most important piece of advice is something I’ve repeated a million times before: know your audience. Who’s attending your event? Consider the demographic of your guests and how those demographics may influence their preferences. These can include age, gender, financial or ethnic backgrounds, geographic makeup, etc…
You also need to think about what sort of food they might prefer or even require– attendees of a particular health-focused event may want organizers to provide only healthy options, while older guests might prefer a milder menu.
Keep in mind, demographics may or may not affect your food choices, but it’s ok to allow some stereotyping to inform your menu.
Provide Them With Choices
This may seem obvious, but it is worth mentioning. Don’t just stick with one set meal or food option: offer several choices. That way, even if a guest doesn’t like one of your entrees, they’ve still other options. Generally, you want at least three choices of entrée, three or more salad dressing options, two or three dessert options, and a full selection of condiments.
Consider these classic menu choices: meet, fish or vegetarian entrée; cake, pie and fresh fruit; beer, wine and non-alcoholic drinks, and so on.
Incorporate Seasonal, Fresh Foods
Think about what time of year your event is taking place, and consider providing items that are only available during this time period. For example, who doesn’t love fresh strawberries but they have such a short season! Fresh peaches are a great treat during summer in the Northeast, while yams are better suited for a winter menu. I’d advise against featuring out-of-season food.
Seasonal symbolism matters. A BBQ compliments a summer’s day event, while hearty “comfort-food” better suits a sit-down holiday celebration.
Create Regional Menus
Just as you need to plan for when your event takes place, you also need to account for where. If you’re running an event in China, for example (or you simply have a large volume of Chinese attendees), consider working together with your chef or catering company to create region-specific or international menu options.
Tailor Your Food To The Event Schedule
The clock is the ultimate deciding factor in what sort of meal you’ll be able to offer. If your event only allows for a few minutes of spare time here and there, a box lunch or a few food vendors might be your best choice. If you’re running into the evening and want to serve a buffet or plated meal, leave a few hours in which to do so. Basically, you need to know how long each type of meal takes on average, and have your menu preparation, services and consumption requirements match the time allotted.
Anticipate Special Dietary Requirements
If any of your guests have special needs or dietary requirements – such as religious restrictions, severe food allergies, or dietary needs – you need to be aware of them. It’s critical that you don’t offer food that may offend – or worse, harm – any of your attendees.
Food allergies are real and serious. People who suffer them generally know what to ask and what to avoid. That said, be diligent.
A good first step to addressing food allergies is to ask your attendees and staff in advance if any special considerations must be made.
Always Think About Presentation
Last, but certainly not least, both the food and the space in which it’s served and consumed needs to look and smell amazing. A food truck generally requires that your guests venture outside. A sit-down dinner requires a room large enough for tables and chairs to accommodate your group. Your caterer must know the proposed set-up in order to plan prefect execution of the menu and service and clean up.
Final note – people love snacks! Providing plenty of food options frequently throughout your event is a wining strategy.
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