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Imagine a situation. You have over 1,200 people at a banquet, gala dinner or awards ceremony. The guests have paid top dollar, they are here for the entertainment, but they’re really paying for the food and drink. Expectations are rightly high - they are in a unique and unusual venue after all - its splendid, it looks magnificent, aspirations are soaring. Then the kitchen runs out of food.

 

Anyone in events will tell you that there are many things a guest will forgive; AV failing, the speaker not quite hitting the mark, but running out of food is not one of them. With 42% of event feedback being about food, it is important an event organiser gets this aspect of their event right.

 

This is why #FORO exists, the event industry’s justified fear of running out.

 

However, #FORO makes us do some very strange things, which if we take a second look at, seem absolutely astounding. It’s not an uncommon statistic that the kitchen will prepare an extra 10% of meals to make sure the event is able to cater for additional or last-minute guests. With the growing amount of vegan, vegetarian, and free-from options, it’s often that this will be replicated in so called ‘specialist’ meals, as guests change their mind or have failed to tell the organisers their food preferences ahead of time. Sounds extreme, but when set under the context of having guests going home disappointed is it a risk worth taking?

 

Until now, possibly. However, if all goes swimmingly well, based on an over production of 10% of meals at a banquet for 1,200 people, you’re looking at the very real potential of 120 meals going to waste; that’s a lot.

 

However, let’s interrogate this wastage a little more. This isn’t a light meal we’re preparing here. At a banquet we are looking at a high value, high-quality meal. The very best meat and fish, indulgent deserts, expertly sourced and prepared.

 

Meat is an especially sensitive subject; one of the reasons why so many people are turning to plant-based diets is the massive environmental cost of rearing it.

 

Such is this extreme that our own Managing Director Jon Davies, is encouraging the industry to ‘treat beef like champagne’, something that should only be consumed on special occasions. Wasting such a high premium ingredient should not be done lightly.

 

The last 12 months have been full of event organisers really taking the lead in sustainable events, especially food. This is led by a massive shift in consumer behaviour towards food, but we still need to get the balance right between our need to produce ethical and responsible events, and our #FORO.

 

Well, the good news is that we can have our cake (or beef) and eat it. Let’s face it, no one wants to water down a banquet, and there is little credit for an event organiser who looks cheap with their menu choices! So, here are a few thoughts from LVP as we look towards the future of event food, especially at a banquet …

 

Get chefs out into the event. This isn’t just about theatre, although it does add an extra layer of authenticity and interest for the guest, it’s about chefs pushing different food options and being able to regulate waste in real time. Imagine chef cooking stations, where food is finished, carved and presented to tables, more options are given to the guests from these stations, perhaps something that they would not have chosen before. It adds to the event experience, but moreover it goes to the heart of regulating waste.

 

Bring guests into the conversation, from the outset. If guests only knew how much some events waste, they’d be 100% on the side of the organiser looking to reduce it. So, speak to delegates from the outset; it’s a virtue and says a lot about the event’s values, it makes the delegates think about the cost of them not sharing dietary requirements or changing their minds. Make them a part of the conversation, it will be really rewarding for them.

 

Create new menu formats, plants then meat. There are stories of events (OK, not banquets … yet) that have gone completely vegan without making a major issue of it. In the end the food spoke for itself and the guests were pleasantly surprised, many of them didn’t even notice. The sign on the wall doesn’t have to say; ‘meat free’ it can just say ‘great food’. A less dramatic option is to use meat as a side or garnish, so it’s not the main aspect of the plate. Finally, with so many vegans, veggies and healthy eating guests out there, maybe it’s time to create a menu that doesn’t marginalise them, again, not veggie, not vegan, just great food.

 

These aren’t really bold ideas. Anyone who has seen the myriad of different options that are now presented to banqueting guests will attest that things have gotten very complicated recently. It’s no longer a 90/10 split between ‘the menu’ and the ‘specialist food’, maybe it’s time to give a selection, and maybe with the chefs out there on the floor, they can help each guest get a bespoke meal they choose.

 

It’s a nice way of innovating on the traditional event model, one that hasn’t changed for some time, and it could be really exciting. So, LVP are asking event organisers to think differently about food, let’s stem #FORO and all play a small part in helping our planet, while having a banquet which is definitely worth the price of the ticket!

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