I’ve organised a lot of events. The one piece of advice I can give you is this – no matter how fantastic the event is, if your catering is bad… you will get complaints from your delegates. Trust me! There are many factors when it comes to organising events, feeding your guests is a crucial one. Here are my top ten tips for event catering:

1. Dare to be different

In some circumstances it is okay to play it safe with your event catering but where you can try to be a little different. You want delegates to remember your food so don’t always serve the same old thing. If you are unsure where to start, try an unusual desert. Most people like sweet things, whatever it is.

2. If you are going to serve chicken it has to be exceptional

It really does! People really do think chicken is a cop out, especially for dinners and conferences. If you are going to order chicken, make sure it is the best chicken you have ever tasted!

3. Always think of your vegetarians and vegans

I once organised a staff away day and left it in the hands of the venue to order catering for the event. This was a big mistake. Firstly, the meal for those of us who did not have dietary requirements was just okay. The vegetarians were given a salad with lots of creamy dressing and the vegan basically ate a dry bread roll… disaster! When creating your event menus make sure the meal for those with dietary requirements is a bit different too!

4. Think about your time constraints

If you event is on a strict schedule make sure you don’t order food that will take too long to eat. A BBQ for example is not a great idea for a 30 minute lunch break. Soup and sandwiches work really well for short lunch breaks – filling, hot and tasty!  Also, do let the catering staff know if you are going to be very strict with time during the course of the event. Although most caters will work to your timings, it is worth giving them a heads up.

5. Offer seating and tables to rest glasses / plates etc

When I first started working in events it wasn’t very popular to have tables or chairs set out for lunch. Delegates were asked to eat standing up, and drinks were precariously clipped to the side of plates. The things we do to get people to network with each other! Nowadays it seems like the chair and table are having a come back and I for one am very pleased to see it. Even if you only have a small space for catering at least add some stools and poseur tables.

6.  Offer guests refreshments throughout the entire event

Ideally delegates want to be treated like adults and want to make their own decisions about when they have refreshments . Try to have tea and coffee urns set out over the entire course of the event and just ask the catering team to replenish the urns a few times per day.

7. Use local produce and local dishes

It is always good to incorporate your location into the overall event theme, especially with the catering. I attended an event in Leeds a few weeks ago and it was great to see giant pork pies and other classic British food on the menu. It was really tasty too!

8.  Brain food

There are loads of great articles which detail why including brain food in your event catering will help your delegate’s learning. In short, try to have some fish, lots of fruit, nuts and other healthy food.

9. Wine

It can be a little intimidating selecting wine for a dinner, especially if your guests are used to drinking good wine. I’ve always found that people who know wine tend to really know wine! If you are unsure ask a colleague to come along to the tasting with you. I doubt very much that they would say no! Another tip for wine is this – always chose a red and a white wine. If you are working to a budget spend more money on the red wine. This leads me on to my last point…

10. Taste the menu before confirming the order

You should always sample the menu before confirming your catering order. On paper the options may sound fantastic but you won’t really know for sure without tasting the produce first. Lastly, don’t be too scared to make suggestions or  change the menu slightly – you know your delegates better than any one.

Working with a catering company

One of the key areas your event will be judged on is the food so it is really worth while working with experts in this area. It is even better if you can work with a catering company that also works closely with the venue and who also understand event management. Life’s Kitchen Ltd work with a number of historic buildings throughout London and can help assistants organise the catering and many other aspects of the event. They offer the complete package…serving beautiful food, sensitively sourced and wonderfully presented in unique surroundings and all delivered by a highly trained, very experienced and dedicated team of staff. 

Life’s Kitchen work with a number of venues which are centrally located, unique and beautiful. The venues are incredibly flexible and can hold corporate meeting, roadshows, annual general meetings and of course conferences. The venues are also perfect for Christmas parties and dinners. 

How to pick great food for your next event

This post is sponsored by Life’s Kitchen. Follow the link for more information about Practically Perfect PA’s sponsored posts.

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One comment

  • Vanessa Melchers August 11, 2014   Reply →

    Hi Nicky,
    I am planning my first corporate dinners, 2 in the same week, woohoo! I’m taking note of all the great tips on the blog but would need additional guidance regarding choice of beverage: à la carte vs arrangements. The arrangement proposal is 9 Eur/person/hour and includes, soft drinks, beer and wine. I calculated a 2.5-3 hour dinner. In Germany, 27 Eur on beverage seems like a lot in one sitting. I’m looking at ‘drinks calculator’ tools online to anticipate the cost of going à la carte, but would appreciate any personal tips or experiences on that matter. As a general rule, does going À la carte somehow always turn up more expensive than the arrangement?
    Thank you in advance for your guidance!
    Vanessa M.

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