Many ingredients combine to produce an effective, worthwhile meeting—the right keynote speaker, the right AV gear, the right venue. Another important component of business meetings is the right food and beverage, so important that it is one of the largest expenses for each event.
Yet too often the wrong kind of food can negatively impact the success of the meeting itself. Of course, you hope that attendees will remember the objectives of the meeting, that they were able to make useful contacts, and that they were impressed with your business offering. That overall, intangible impression can be greatly enhanced by the menu.
Amanda Luppino-Esposito, writing for event planners Social Tables, explains why food is so tied to events. Food is the basis of hospitality. The event organiser, whether a corporation, an association, or an individual, is the host, and the attendees are his guests. Sharing a meal leads to conversation, shared ideas, fellowship and connections. Putting a little bit more effort into the menu selection can turn a positive social interaction into a business opportunity.
What food and beverage works? What doesn’t?
Today in the general community there is a far greater awareness of the importance of healthy eating. Corner cafes and multinational supermarkets alike have had to cater for that trend. Doing the same for your events, however, is not just to be on the cutting edge of what’s fashionable. Healthy food and beverage offerings will improve your meeting’s success.
Andrea Sullivan, president and founder of BrainStrength Systems, says that in way too many meetings, the breakfast table includes white-flour and sugary items. “Blood sugar goes up really high, and within an hour it dips really low. I feel like, OK, I better get this done quickly because in another 45 minutes these people will be toast.”
The message? Avoid serving items that will have your audience struggling to keep their eyes open. Doughnuts and sugary drinks at any time of the day will make it difficult to concentrate, making it more difficult to benefit from the presentations your team worked so hard on.
Many foods are known to help the brain remain alert. It’s easy to substitute meeting-sabotaging foods with healthier items that will boost productivity. Radisson Blu have introduced a Brain Food program especially designed to help maintain delegates’ concentration levels during meetings and events. The concept is based on serving food that keeps blood sugar levels stable and supplies optimal nutrition for the brain.
Meeting organisers have come to acknowledge an almost inevitable “sugar crash” after lunch, and this is often temporarily addressed with a bowl of sweets on the table. Radisson Blu avoid this by helping delegates achieve more stable blood sugar levels and by providing a delicious culinary experience throughout the day. Their chefs work with these six brain food principles:
- Lots of fish, wholegrain products, fruit and vegetables
- Primarily fresh, locally sourced ingredients
- Pure ingredients with minimal industrial processing
- Less meat and always a maximum 10% fat content
- Natural sweeteners and never more than 10% added sugar
- Focus on good taste and satisfying the senses
How to deal with special food requests
For many people, the switch to veganism, low-fat, or gluten-free is not just about an allergy or an intolerance, but a deliberate lifestyle choice. Alternatives to mainstream choices are now routinely offered at many events.
If your events don’t offer any such alternatives, it can test the self-control of individuals who could have genuine problems if they eat the standard items. Making an attendee ill won’t leave anyone with a good impression. At the very least, it can be awkward for an attendee to have to knock back every item on the menu.
Depending on the size and scale of the event, it can be helpful in the early stages to know if there will be specific dietary requirements. The simplest way to find out is to ask. After all, airlines have done this for years—at the time tickets are booked. For your event, it may be best done as a part of the registration process.
In one event, you cannot overhaul an attendee’s personal dietary choices. But maybe for that one event, you at least can provide choices that may keep him or her alert, energised and happy.
Don’t skimp on the menu. That will send an unfavourable message about your business. Be hospitable, which means be generous. Provide a good selection of healthy interesting items, keeping in mind alternatives to allow for individual sensitivities to certain ingredients. Most importantly, be aware that certain foods will boost the success of the meeting itself by assisting attendees’ alertness.
Are you planning a meeting soon? Contact Karstens to discuss our gourmet inhouse catering options.