Planning a Conference or Seminar
Food and Beverages
Meeting the dietary needs of conference attendees is by no means an easy task. The attendee and the planner must be in direct contact with each other to make sure that all dietary needs are met.
To do this the planner should include a copy of the all menus in the agenda to be sure the attendees have ample time to respond.
The reason for this communication is to ensure that the attendees are as comfortable as possible during the conference, which in most cases are quite lengthy.
Different religious groups and cultures may require specific items at this time. Notifying the planner will enable this person to acquire specific food stuffs for the preparation of that particular dish.
No matter how big or small the conference this should always be done as a courtesy to the guests. There may be more than one or two individuals that need this special attention.
These special meals can cater specifically to individuals with dietary or medical restrictions, guests who are on kosher diets, vegetarian, diabetic, lactose intolerant, allergic to particular food items, on a strict diet or who dislike a certain food item.
It is important that the attendees are given the opportunity to advise the conference planner and therefore, the establishment- that they are in need of a special meal.
A registration form in advance will do perfectly. Preparing ahead of time is of major importance, as an establishment cannot always accommodate special requests at a moment’s notice.
When choosing foods for the special guests it is important to remember that these guests are as equally important as all other attendees.
Due to their food restrictions they should not be served a less significant meal than the other guests.
For example; when serving a vegetarian dish and the menu is chicken parmesan, you do not want to serve that person a salad as the main entrée.
This would be unacceptable. You may serve eggplant parmesan in its place or vegetable lasagna. All courses of the meal should be in equal parts; from the appetizers to the desserts.
Menu planning consists of arranging a meal that all guests can enjoy. The starting point will be to determine an approximate number of guests to be served.
For larger groups a sit down meal is always recommended and preferred. The larger groups require wait staff either formal or informal.
A formal meal would involve a program, speaker, awards and entertainment. Usually a head table is requested and guests are seated and served.
For this type of arrangement meals are served in a timely manner whereas an informal meal is more leisurely.
Another way to make the event run more smoothly is to determine who will be eating the food; Men, women or both.
When planning a meal remembering most women would prefer a lighter healthier entrée. Chicken and pasta are good choices. Male dominant groups tend to love beef as an entrée. Seafood isn’t usually a favorite but salmon is a good choice universally.
Timing is of most importance. It is extremely important to find out if a group is on time with the agenda. A good meal must be served in sequence to ensure the best possible quality when leaving the kitchen.
If the planner knows in advance the meeting is running late the banquet manager must be notified in order to make adjustments. Some entrée may not hold up as well as others. Sitting in the warmer for too long will possibly ruin the dish.
Poorly served and prepared food will reflect the establishment. The attendees may not realize the meeting has gone over the allotted time, but will easily blame the establishment for the oversight.
When planning a menu with a tight budget it is better to serve the more expensive foods later in the meal, eating less as their appetites are dulled the guests will still appreciate the items chosen.
It’s better to prepare a wonderful dessert than a wonderful appetizer which may be forgotten at the end of the meal. A heavier meal should have a lighter dessert and a lighter meal a heavier dessert not sacrificing quality for cost. The attendees look forward to a good meal at a conference. Sometimes the choices are such as a smorgasbord versus a steak.
The key to a successful event is planning ahead. Ask the right questions in advance and satisfaction will be yours at the end of the conference. When the needs are met everybody is happy.