From the knife-throwing antics of Gordon Ramsay to Anthony Bourdain’s global culinary treks of unknown lands, food and everything around it is (and has been for a few years), the star of the show. Whether a “Top” chef, “Master” chef or wannabe chef, the notion of the next rock star dinner plate is on everyone’s to do list. But is it any wonder that while we strive to make that perfect soufflé at home, we event professionals still ply our trade deciding on whether a blueberry or chocolate chip muffin would be better for our attendees?
So where do you sit? Is your food program curated with enough gusto as the rest of the event? Are you still cheapening out on fueling your attendees? Still living off American Breakfast Buffets, Working Sandwich Lunches and Cookie Monster breaks? If you’ve answered yes to one or more of these questions, then you better start heating up your pan.
In most meeting and event programs, the overall spend on Food & Beverage is comfortably in the top three expense lines; and with food at its height on the ‘sexy’ metre, why haven’t you given it the attention it deserves? What’s stopping you from making your program the most delectable one on the market? Check these quick hits that you should consider for your next event:
1. Get On Trend
It wouldn’t kill you to take a break from the ‘cut and paste’ method of choosing the food for your next program. Take a combination of your favourite food reality show trends combined with the open creativity from your designated chef and sprinkle a little bit of “Google” search dust and presto…you should be able to come up with some creative, on point food ideas. People dig good, creative food and they’ll talk about it, snap pics about it and share it all also. Yes, that means scrap that cookie and soda pop break for cold pressed juices and a yoga stretch.
2. Cooking Up a Great Speaker
It’s been said that chefs today are the rockstars of our time. And so why wouldn’t you consider one as your next keynote or main session speaker. Yes, athletes, entrepreneurs and motivational speakers are great but ever listen to the journey of a chef, master mixologist or restauranteur? Life stories that are just as compelling and at times, even more captivating.
3. Fuel In…Garbage Out
Consider thinking about your event food as the fuel that drives your attendees. Focus on choosing, creative, healthier and small spurt meal options. Lay off the refined sugars, white starches and high sodium content. Programs at events are compact, back-to-back, lightning fast and intense; it’s about time we start feeding our attendees properly. And while you’re at it, let’s not forget our industry’s tendency to over-order and generate piles of food waste…looking for more budget money to super-size your program or upgrade the eats? Well there it is, in the compost bin with all the uneaten food.
4. Budget Properly
It’s amazing what we are willing to pay for ingredients on our dime floating through the grocery aisles or for that half-caff latte at the local, big name coffee shop. As commodities continue to rise at rapid rates (coffee, produce, proteins and wages specifically), have planners done enough to budget for one of their most important line items? And yes, going from salmon salad to salmon sashimi is going to cost more so remember, you gotta give a little to get a little. Still tight?…order less, local and in season too, that’ll save you some extra pennies.
5. Team Build Through Your Tummies
Recently, I’ve attended a couple of interesting events that was interactive with elements of celeb chef cooking, team building and ‘Chopped’-like cook offs. Engage your venue and get their culinary team involved, create teams and black box some secret ingredients. It’s a concept that is full of action and scalable and sure to be more fun than wrapped sandwiches and cheesecake.
6. Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
Looking to humanize your event? Consider the irony of the event’s industry food waste practices and North America’s growing hunger issue. In most cases, a simple, balanced breakfast can cost as little as $1.00 per person. And imagine the alarming rate of hungry (especially children), how your event can make a tremendous difference by integrating a socially responsible program with a local community? There’s school breakfast programs, food banks and community food centres as a starting point. Truly, there’s so much that can be done with so little, have your event give it a try.
Food has always been the ‘last-minute, poor cousin’ who generally gets little attention, being pushed to the bitter end in the planning process. Would you ignore one of your own largest investments in your personal life?…likely not. It deserves an honest, calculated look and can really make your event tick and tock. Remember, “the way to a person’s heart is their stomach.”
Written by: Trevor Lui