Deliciously written by Lori Mason.
We have lots of foodies in our office. It is not uncommon for our staff meetings to start out discussing new recipes or trying new Bundt cakes or pies. On the same token, our office is also full of picky eaters. Some people can’t handle having their entrees stuffed or smothered, and some can’t even fathom having their side items touching on their plate. Transform this into a lunch meeting for 200 people and you have a meeting planners nightmare. How do you satisfy so many dietary needs to ensure all attendees are well fed and can enjoy their meeting experience? These days there are all sorts of preferences – low fat, gluten free, nut free, no shellfish, lactose free, etc. The list goes on and on. So how can you satisfy all of these needs? Here are a few ways to help deal with the ever-changing attendee pallet.
Don’t be afraid to ask
Who can keep up? Meeting planners have 1,001 things to keep track of. Let the professionals do their job – ask the facility chef to create creative meals that can accommodate even the pickiest pallet. Chefs know their product and can provide unique ideas, that likely won’t be found on standard catering menus.
Work with your catering manager to source food that is local. Local food is fresher and usually travels less distance from the farm to your plate. Additionally, local food is seasonal so you may get better bang for your buck by selecting local vegetables that are at their peak in the region. And finally, going local helps support the community and local economy. You can show off the region by sampling their local crops.
A la carte everything
Not sure if anyone likes tomatoes, or if people can eat chicken marsala? Ask for items to be separated on a buffet so people can add what they like and leave what they don’t. Dressings and sauces work best on the side so people can pour their own. For salads, try to arrange for two dressings – one cream based like ranch or blue cheese, and one vinegar based like Italian or oil and vinegar. This way, people can pour their own and put as little, or as much as they’d like.
Be sure to label
In a world where restaurants and grocery stores are being required to list ingredients in their products, meeting facilities should be doing the same thing. It is important to maintain transparency so attendees can be sure what to expect. Was the chicken fried in vegetable oil or peanut oil? You can bet people with peanut allergies will need to know this. It is in the company’s best interest to provide this information to avoid medical concerns which could lead to costly lawsuits.
Overall, people are trying to stay healthier in a fast-food driven world. The clean label movement is the latest in people wanting to lead healthier lives. Whether you are preparing cupcakes for your child’s birthday party at school, or arranging to feed attendees at a three day trade show, it is important to make sure food options cover everyone’s special preferences.