When you invite guests to an event, how do you approach the meal selections? Whether it's business or pleasure, the main determining factors for menu selection are the group size and timing. The group size will dictate what options are available within the time frame you wish to maintain. Can 600 guests be served a plated 3-course lunch? Certainly the caterer can prepare the three course lunch for your 600 diners, but they likely cannot guarantee moving your guests in and out between a 12 to 1 p.m. timeframe. Guests with special dietary needs are on the rise; from gluten-free to vegan , their needs also need to be met in your menu selections.
Guests coming to an event always look forward to the food selections. As a welcome break to a day-long business meeting or a relaxing cocktail hour, the theme typically dictates the menu. The trend today is to make the meal selections regional and seasonal. Regional, meaning the menu features items that are unique to that area or made locally. In Northeast Ohio, food selections might include Lake Erie yellow perch and hand-made pierogies or locally-crafted Lake Erie Creamery cheeses (www.lakeeriecreamery.com) and Ohio City Pasta (www.ohiocitypasta.com). For beverages, Great Lakes Brewery beers (www.greatlakesbrewery.com) or local wines from Geauga county, Ferrante’s award-winning Vidal Ice Blanc (www.ferrantewinery.com) with your dessert course, Debonne Vineyards, Jazz White (www.debonne.com) for your cocktail hour. Ask your caterer for advice on the menu – what are their signature dishes, what are the most requested items they serve, what are their favorites? If you have an opportunity to talk with the chef, he or she can also provide some creative ideas for your menu.
Five factors to help you select your menu:
Timing for the meal service – what will your agenda allow for meal time during your event-- a relaxed plated, multi-course dinner served to each guest or a more time-efficient self-serve buffet?
Size of group – seating, serving and moving the group in and out of the dining area will take time and will need to be considered when making your menu selections.
Keep it regional – take advantage of local favorites or signature dishes from the locale for your meal – the meal will be well-prepared and your guests will enjoy an authentic flavor of the location.
Take advantage of the season – chefs prefer cooking with the freshest ingredients. Seek out the flavors of the season to help select your menu choices.
- Ask for advice from your caterer or chef – their professional opinions will provide some great ideas.
We'd like to hear from you - What dishes are unique to your region? What do you look for when making meal selections? Share your thoughts by commenting below.
Kris Hawk is the business development leader for corporate hospitality at Westfield Insurance.