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Food is fundamental to an event’s success. Figuring out a menu that’ll fare well with your guests can make or break an event. At the same time, catering to a crowd can be tricky. There are varying tastes, dietary restrictions, and circumstances outside of your control. But luckily, if you stick to a few menu planning must-do’s, you can ensure your event menu keeps even the most challenging crowd happy.
Chances are, your guests’ needs and preferences will run the gamut. Having options is key to a crowd-pleasing menu. To the extent possible, make a point to understand your audience so you can tailor your menu options accordingly. For example, if you have a health and wellness event, you could assume attendees would appreciate a more health-forward menu. And if the event planner is able to poll the crowd beforehand, you could gather intel on whether there are dietary restrictions, such as gluten or dairy intolerances. But, since you won’t always have the luxury of understanding your guest preferences prior to the event, play it safe with a range of choices — and keep common restrictions in mind.
Events aren’t one-size-fits-all; obviously you won’t serve the same thing for an evening gala as you would for a corporate lunch. Before you plan your menu, get a rundown of the event details so you can customize your menu to match the event style. Understanding the occasion will help you determine an appropriate menu, but not only that, it will help you figure out how much time you have for the meal. Oftentimes, the event schedule will be the biggest factor in determining the type of meal and menu options. For example, buffets can usually be completed within an hour, whereas plated meals require more time. If you have a working lunch, it’s best to include menu items that can hold up for longer periods of time, allowing attendees to graze.
In some cases, you may be in a position to recommend a serving style based on the number of attendees and the type of occasion. For example, if you have hundreds coming, a buffet may be your best bet. But, if you have a corporate lunch with 30 attendees, boxed lunches may be the way to go. However, you might not always be in the driver’s seat when it comes to deciding the serving style. For example, you may be working with a bride who’s dead set on serving a plated meal. If the serving style is already set in stone, use it as a guide to create menu options that will work well with it.
Farm-to-fork food is a trend that’s here to stay. Now more than ever, people have higher standards for ingredients, and they expect the same from their event fare. No matter the occasion type, people are in search of fresh, locally sourced options. So as you figure out your event details, know which produce is in season and plan a menu that pairs well with it. The foodies will thank you for it.
How can you be sure your event menu goes off without a hitch? When you’re cooking for the masses, equipment with precision cooking and automation features can help you and your team keep food looking and tasting great plate after plate, guest after guest. Consistency matters, and so does your equipment. For more on consistency, check out our handy food consistency checklist.
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