Food Glorious Food
Buffets | Banquets | Bags | Bowls
Did you know that the subject most frequently commented upon in event feedback is food. Our research shows that this is also a trend on the rise, five years ago food consisted of 40% of event feedback, it’s now 45%. So, for a (relatively) pain free event experience, it’s worth spending some time on it. That’s what we’ll do here, but today, we’re going back to basics.
So much of the dialogue around food has been about sustainability, providence, and waste, and these are all important subjects. But let’s not forget that this is about feeding our delegates in a way that fits into the rhythms, timings, and yes, budget of the event. So, while we’ll touch on the ‘green’ elements, here, we’re going to talk about food, just food, glorious food.
We’ll do this by looking at the main food formats that make up the event, consider them, pros and cons, and hopefully leave you with a nice, cut out and keep, guide to event food for your meeting. It’s in our nature to group these formats in a fun and memorable way, so welcome to our four B’s; Buffets, Banquets, Bags, and Bowls.
We’ll start with the humble buffet, one of the most used ways of fuelling up a delegation. Banquets went out of fashion a few years back, too many connotations to old school dinners, uncomfortable mixing of ingredients, and long queues. Now they are exemplary things, consisting of stylish displays, features within the event, a place where guests can wonder through to choose from food of all sorts, global, fast, healthy, indulgent.
They are also no longer ‘stations’ of waste, where huge vats of grub are prepared and then thrown away at the end. More and more we’re pushing chefs out onto the buffet floor, cooking live and actively ‘pushing’ underused elements. By having them out there they are not only keeping control of stock and encouraging guests to try new things, they’re part of the theatre of the event, after all, who isn’t impressed by a chef doing their thing, its authentic eating at its best.
We next turn to the banquet, the grand opening, or the celebratory closing of the event where we look to create a real impact on our guests. This format is all about the theatre and drama of the event, and food has so much to say. Again, like the buffet, let’s try and look beyond straight tables of food unenthusiastically dumped in front of guests. Let’s think about wait staff, branded or styled in line with the message of the event, serving food with purpose, that again reflects on what the event is really about. Think beyond logos in jus, think menus with a conscious, sourcing and menu design that gets inside the communication of the event, be it medical, educational, or just celebratory.
Also, think about indulgence vs health. With us, sustainability is already packed in so reward the guest by telling them that when they eat, they are doing something good, and that it matters to them and their hosts. Banquets need to be indulgent; they should be one of the best meals that delegate will have in the year, but they should also be regarding and have depth. That’s the essence of great banqueting design.
We now switch to the other end of the market and talk Bags. Bags are great, they are quick, easy to control, monitor and prepare. They reduce waste, are massively cost effective, and they get food into the hands of the delegate who is on the move. They are also a little taste of our past, packed lunches, prepared with care, just for us, cognisant of our tastes, dietary requirements, and allergens. If you like, put in a treat, some information, a warm hug from the event.
But that doesn’t mean they get away without being tasty and sustainable either. Bags should always be recycled and developed using reusable materials, and packaged food can be really scrummy. Think salad boxes, lovingly prepared sandwiches, protein pots and energy drinks. Also, think of nice ways to serve them, we need to split the vegetarian from the meat eaters, plant based and gluten free. This can be done through welcoming signage and presentation areas. Bags are fun, they should be fun. Fast and fun!
Lastly, we turn to Bowls and bowl food. The ultimate way to combine networking, fine dining, and ease. Bowls can be hot, cold, delicate, indulgent, and we can flood the event space with them, and keep them coming as the audience likes. The sophistication of bowl food has grown massively over the years, the quality is incredibly high, meals can be delicate, sophisticated, and incredibly tasty. They can also be warming, hearty and nutritious.
Bowl food was the savoir of many event organisers, who wanted to break up the traditional sit-down dining format, but still show care in food. They still do that today.
There are so many different ways of serving food, we’ve not looked at pods, food activations and don’t let us get started on drink! But for now, we’ll stick to our four B’s and use this as a reason to reassess what you’re doing with food and why. We said at the beginning that 45% of event feedback concerns food, it’s important to underline that this is both positive and negative!
At Lime Venue Portfolio, we value exceptional event food. Every Lime Venue Portfolio venue is catered for by some of global Compass Group’s incredible sub-sectors, including Levy UK, Restaurant Associates, Jockey Club Catering, The Venues Collection, Payne & Gunter and Chartwells.