If you’re like me, the food being served at an event is extremely important. Doesn’t the food you serve, how you serve it and the purpose of it send a message to those attending? Reinventing Events takes a new approach to conference catering with some creative options!
Every event is unique and so should the food that’s presented to attendees. It is so interesting to see the different opportunities we, as event planners, have to get to reinvent the conference lunch menu to feed anywhere from 100 to 1,000 people during an event.
The Reinventing Events team has put a new spin on meals at multiple events, WHILE working with a limited budget–what else could you ask for? This blog highlights some common goals events face in terms of food service and provides a hack for achieving that goal.
Goal: Getting attendees to actually network at the ‘Networking Lunch’
Hack: Don’t just TELL attendees to network at lunch, MAKE them. At Engine Yard’s Distill conference, the client wanted to focus on a community feel so lunch was a great way to convey that. We filled picnic baskets with lunch for six people and asked attendees to buddy up with five others for lunch. Even if someone wanted to eat with a couple coworkers, it still left room for others to join and everyone to meet someone new. Adding lawn games like cornhole and bocce ball set the perfect community vibe for new friends to play together.
This could also be done by using communal tables with food at each table to encourage networking. The food can also become your centerpiece and conversation piece. The concept of (gently) forcing more attendees to interact is what can spark conversations amongst new friends over lunch.
Goal: Changing up the traditional box lunch.
Hack: Find a new BOX! For New Relic’s FutureStack13, in needing a quick way to disperse lunch to over 800 people, we knew a box lunch was the way to go, but why not find a new box? Using a reusable bento box made it fun for attendees to pick up and use. There were three colors of boxes representing each type of lunch, chicken, pork and vegan. The best part? Attendees were able to keep their box as a souvenir.
Goal: Efficiently feed attendees at an offsite location.
Hack: Use a location nearby, like a park or parking lot, and have food trucks or booths ready to serve guests. Having volunteers positioned along the way will make it easy for attendees to find their way and easily get to their lunch.
With multiple truck or booths serving food, it also helps give people options of what they can eat. Just make sure to check with the local city on required permits for serving food!
Goal: Host a ‘family’ dinner for more than intimate number of people.
Hack: For the UP Summit event held in Las Vegas last year, Reinventing Events helped produce a family dinner for 500 people! When a group of people only get to see one another once a year, a family dinner is the perfect setting. For this particular event a tent was constructed to serve as the event venue, but if you have the space at an existing venue, that would work too. It’s a nice to touch to have linen napkins, china and silverware, versus the common disposable serveware used at large events. While it may increase expenses on furniture and decor, the experience will be unforgettable for those attendees.
These are just a few ways our team has reinvented conference catering and have been able to ‘cater’ to events in need of a conference meal makeover and add a little creativity.