Meet, what you eat?

Emily King picks a few delegate menus and some event catering ideas

When it comes to organising any event, food and catering options are high on the priority list of event aspects to think about.

It can surely make or break an event and therefore there can be a considerable amount of time spent thinking about and planning menus and event catering ideas/innovations.

Joanna Byrane, head of sales for event caterer Searcys comments on the importance of menu selection: “Menu selection can have a big impact on delegates, it is particularly important for a full day conference or event where a poor quality or unhealthy lunch can substantially affect the attitude of attendees during afternoon sessions.”

“We strongly believe that food is an enabler for successful events in more ways than one. It not only provides a focus for people to meet and interact but, with the right balance of ingredients and menus, it can have an extremely positive impact on a delegate’s ability to concentrate, enhancing their motivation during the day,” adds James Rees, executive director for Excel London.

Andy Wardle, director of culinary, arena, Levy Restaurants UK, advises organisers to always remember the delegate: “Food accounts for 42% of all event feedback, so mess around with their meal at your peril. Regardless of the experience you are creating, when you serve up lunch, the guest needs a great meal first, and a brand statement second.”

Opinions on trends for 2016 seem to steer towards keeping delegates healthy, and avoiding fatigue at all costs.

Sodexo Prestige Venues and Events recently unveiled a new healthy conference menu that aims to help delegates get the most out of events and avoid the ‘afternoon slump’.

Their menu design is based around concentration boosting super-foods with each meal packed with protein, carbohydrates, fibre and good fats as well as vitamins C, A, K and B.

Head chef at Sodexo Prestige Venues and Events, Tom Beauchamp, says: “Through creative menu development, we have addressed the challenge of delegate fatigue by designing an energy-boosting and nutritious menu.”

Byrane also mentions healthy options, saying: “Detox and healthy options are almost a given now for any conference planner especially at this time of the year.”

Excel London’s meetings menu agrees with this too: “All clients will be able to select from a wide variety of healthy options designed to fuel the brain, complemented with energy,” says Rees.

Live cooking demonstrations have increased in popularity as a fun way to engage delegates or clients and are without a doubt a food trend for the meetings industry that will continue throughout 2016.

Jockey Club Catering showcased their innovations for the 2016 season at the beginning of February. At their showcase live cooking challenges involved students from South Thames College taking part in a ‘cook and serve’ competition where they designed, created and delivered a full dining experience for the judges.

A number of these students will be working in the kitchens at the Jockey Club Racecourse throughout the 2016 season.

Jockey Club catering managing director, Nick Campbell, says: “Bringing together our highly talented catering teams in one room not only gave us the opportunity to bring to life the flavours, accents and artisans behind each racecourse, it also provided fantastic learning for everyone involved.”

Other live cooking venues perfect for smaller meetings include The Cookhouse, Borough Market, and Aveqia, London. Both are available for private hire, have professional chefs teaching the interactive cooking tutorials, and have unique, and healthy menus to choose from. The Cookhouse can accommodate meetings of up to 10 people, Aveqia can cater for up to 75 people in its meeting spaces.

Sustainability is regaining major attraction again in 2016 and Sodexo Prestige Venues and Events’ new menu option, which is being rolled our across venues in Scotland, also gives organisers the option of serving lunch in biodegradable lunch boxes.

Head chef Beauchamp says these lunchboxes are “perfect for avoiding queues at large events, and introduces the concept of ‘silent snacking’ – ridding events of rustling crisp packets in exchange for low-sugar pat, nut and cacao bars.”

The new meeting menu trends for 2016 produce a lot for meetings and events organisers to think about in terms of what will keep delegates sustained and happy.It seems that trends are following the green, and engaging path, whereby delegates want to be more involved in the cooking process but they want to be kind to their bodies, as well as the environment.

Searcys’ Byrane warns that organisers must remember that catering can be very divisive “with good quality, taste and presentation adding significantly to the overall event experience. However, delegates are just as likely to be vocal in their disappointment if it doesn’t meet their expectations”.

Emily King

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Emily King

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