Well Met’s development chef, Melissa Hudson, explores catering for conference food trends
Catering trends come and go, but many trends from 2015 appear to be here to stay. Historically conference catering has been hearty and heavy, which has discouraged delegates from moving from their place at the table to network, and has left them immobilised for the afternoon’s activities.
This year, however, we’ve seen the focus shift to lighter, healthier dishes, which encourage interaction, socialising and offers more choice and variety.
The International Association of Conference Centres (IACC) declared that this year ‘small is the new big’, that it was ‘in with flavour, out with fats’ and that delegates should be able to ‘network their hearts out’. Mark Cooper, the IACC CEO, suggested that “food has become much more than just fuel… there has been an enormous shift towards health and the impact that food can have on our concentration and productivity”.
Well Met is an academic institution that is part of Leeds Beckett University, and this resonates closely with our aims; we want our delegates to be on the ball and invigorated following their breaks. This has, therefore, been one of the key focuses of our redeveloped menu, which launched in September 2015.
We are now offering breakfasts where delegates can enjoy a traditional Dr Bircher-style muesli, to carb-reduced lunch menus with sushi as well as the ‘Bites’ section which encourages bookers to choose seven bitesize dishes accompanied by seasonal salads. We have created our range to maximise customer choice and offers healthy, tasty options at a good price.
I’ve been working in catering industry for nine years, and before that I was involved in food PR, so have seen the catering landscape change greatly.
A bespoke service has always been required, but a larger number of delegates now have more specific dietary requirements; one in every 100 in the UK, for example, is now affected by Coeliac disease, and caterers have needed to adapt and evolve – with special attention paid to suppliers and ingredients.
Over the summer we catered two entirely vegan events, with the cakes sourced from specialist suppliers Artisan Bakes, which were fantastically received.
Trends are there to be implemented, embraced and sometimes even ignored, but I feel that 2015’s conversational catering is here to stay. Hopefully, 2016 will bring something equally as worthwhile. The United Nations has, after all, branded it the year of pulses, so it’s sure to be exciting.