There is no single item more likely to influence a
delegate's opinion of the success or otherwise of a
meeting than the quality and service of food and beverage.
The truism that "what you eat today walks and talks
tomorrow" is especially applicable to conferences where
delegates might be battling the disorientation of jetlag
and well out of their comfort zones in an unfamiliar
The expectation that delegates will be content with
"rubber chicken" served en masse is quite misplaced
and the design and management of the meals, cocktail
parties, formal congress dinners and casual parties
require the same level of scrutiny and expertise in
planning as the business program itself.
There is a definite trend away from liquor being served
at lunch, with many organisations opting for picnic
boxes containing light and tasty wraps, fresh fruit
and fresh local breads. The picnic boxes also allow
delegates to move around freely and are frequently provided
in the exhibition area only, ensuring maximum delegate
traffic past the exhibition stands.
The demand for vegetarian food continues to climb
and non meat canapés at welcome receptions comprise
around 30 per cent of the food on offer. One has to
take care that the food is no bigger than one or two
bites and is sufficiently robust to being handled by
people who are standing up and often juggling a wine
glass. Shot glasses and miniature cups containing tasty
and aromatic soups are a popular recent addition to
welcome reception menus.
The practice of serving alternate dishes at more formal
dinners should be discouraged. It always has the result
of guests wanting to swap dishes and others being disappointed
that their dining companion on either side has a dish
they desire. Having a mezee platter to be passed around
the table can be an icebreaker for delegates who might
not know one another.
It is also a good idea to have a dessert buffet as
by that time of the night people often appreciate an
opportunity to network. They might be dancing and uneaten
plates of melting desserts detract from the look of
the room. It's easy to cater for all tastes including
providing fresh fruit and cheese platters for the non-sweet
eaters. It also reduces wastage significantly as well
as the cost of individually plating the dessert dishes.
In the next Planner's Checklist we will examine the
planning and management of the all-important conference
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