Here’s a fact of life: People need to eat. Whether you are hosting a conference, retreat, meeting, or any kind of event, you are likely to be providing food items to your guests. One of the biggest mistakes you can make as you wade through budget management is ignoring the importance of food and beverage. Attendees rarely notice a cut in decor, or an entertainment scale back, but they will notice (and talk about) food shortages and food quality.
For better or worse, food impacts people and their feelings. When planning event centered meals, find ways to make happy feelings and good impressions when it comes to food and beverage. Playing with creative ways to serve and present the available drinking and dining options can bring character and fun to even the most simple or mundane gathering. In other cases, food and beverage can take your over the top brand launch to an entirely new level. Read on to check out some of our favorite ways to Play with Your Food.
Energize your long day by considering ways to entertain your guests when they least expect it: during breakfast, lunch and break time. Create a meal with it’s own theme or build off the existing overall theme. Have a live band over breakfast, a wellness talk during lunch, a chef demo during snack break. Food is built in to you schedule, so don’t miss an opportunity to add a little something extra. Sometimes the smallest touches make the most memorable impact.
Let it Glow
Did you know that certain foods glow under black light all on their own? In other instances, frostings and sauces can be made with coloring that will add an extra POP when presented. Glow themed parties might not be new, but have you seen glowing food? There are always creative ways to take an existing theme and make it new again. Glow parties are also a great idea when due to budgets, logistics, or contracts, you are stuck planning a dinner or reception in a very basic (or unattractive) room. Pull in the glow bars, the glowing lounge furniture, and glowing ice cubes. Pass drinks and apps on glowing trays. Light all of your food displays with black lights for all of the extra glow. When it’s time to go to doors, turn the lights down and watch tons of glowing smiles enter the room.
Local vs Local
A great way to play with food (and let off attendee steam between sessions) is to make a meal or snack break interactive. Here’s an example: First things first, where are you hosting your event and what food are they known for? In Philly you might think cheese steak, St Louis could be toasted ravioli, in Chicago, maybe deep dish pizza. Every location seems to have at least one specialty item, all you have to do is zero in on it. Next, find two local restaurants that claim to make the “best in town” of your chosen item. Now you’ve got all the makings of a cook off. Work with the restaurants and your venue to set up this experience so your guests can try each offering and vote for their favorite. If your event is annual, create an ongoing “City Best” award that takes place every year. Make a friendly wager among attendees, speakers, or chefs with a fun end result. Make meals and snacks something guests look forward to, not something they skip to answer emails.
The Power to Choose
Make lunch or dinner a destination, even if you are staying in the same place. Take the usual large serving area with limited food options and break it into three different destinations. When guests register or check in they can choose if they want to eat lunch in the style of the Japanese, have a veggie filled farm friendly experience, or saddle up to a red gingham covered table for some barbeque. Each option would have it’s own themed dining area, it’s own menu, and it’s own feel. Your event app can feature a coordinating QR code that would serve as the ticket to the meal experience. You are taking your meals up a notch and giving guests the power to choose. Win win.
The Power to Choose 2.0
Most people enjoy choices when it comes to food. Proof: the popularity of the modern food hall. Spaces once occupied by a single restaurant are now home to multiple modern food stalls with shared seating, shared restrooms, and other amenities between them. So take your group on a field trip. Most food hall vendors are local chefs or restaurants, making this a great way to give attendees a taste of the city. As a bonus, people can try more than one genre or item. Open seating leaves plenty of room for mingling, as does the food hall environment, where guests walk to each stall to read menus and make their orders.
Think Outside the (Picnic) Box
In even the most basic spaces, you can introduce an idea that breaks the normal dining patterns and gives guests more ways to enjoy their meal experiences. At your next seated dinner, place a basket at each seat and serve your food in small containers that guests can place into their basket. This is also a great way to get people moving into different areas of a venue or space as they survey the various food options for their basket.
Outside or in, a basic buffet gets less stuffy when it is served with everything attendees need to ditch the round table in the ballroom and plop down on a blanket with other like minded diners. Picnic blankets can be offered to the side of the buffet or preplaced in specific areas of your venue. Depending on the reason for your event, making your food experience a little more casual can create authenticity in the connections you facilitate.
When you are presenting important content, educating managers, or gathering top tier medical researchers, you can easily lose sight of the ways that food can facilitate the results you are after. Everyone is already eating, it is a big part of your budget. Why not look for ways to make your breakfasts, lunches, dinners, off site parties and snack breaks times that get you closer to achieving your strategic goals?
Wondering how you can mix up your existing food and beverage offerings to make a positive impact on the ground? Reach out to Coterie Spark for a complimentary 30 minute consultation. Or just reach out to say “Hi!” We’d love to get to know you. We’ll be waiting at firstname.lastname@example.org.