When it comes to choosing the right menu options for a catered event, there are many things to consider. Some of which are not always thought through like what time the event is happening in relationship to the type of food being served. This is an opportunity to really blend different options for food selection. To help you plan out what makes the most sense for your event, consider the following types of menu’s.
Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner Menus
The menu should include several pre-packaged meal options and à la carte selections developed by the executive chef or caterer. The approach to the different meals of the day – breakfast, lunch, and dinner – are generally unique. Consider the following:
When it comes to breakfast, packaged menus are usually more cost-effective and easier to select, including continental options, hot buffets, and breakfast stations. If you’re offering breakfast prior to the start of the official program, be sure to choose the option that best suits your event’s schedule.
Most caterers offer several lunch buffet options, “working lunch” choices (such as à la carte sandwiches and appropriate sides), and even boxed lunches. Again, the best choice of meal type will be entirely depending on your program’s schedule so consider how much time guests will have to eat.
You always have a choice of packaged dinner buffets or plated dinners, and both can offer a choice of three to five courses. This is where you will find items that reflect the executive chef’s personal preferences and is also generally a time to let the food shine.
Break Foods and Reception Menus
When it comes to planning the food at an event, the planning is not always limited to three square meals. In fact, many multi-day conferences require catering planning beyond breakfast, lunch, and dinner perhaps during scheduled breaks or breakfast and cocktail receptions.
The executive chef or caterer may present you with several more pre-packaged meal options as well as à la carte selections:
Break Items: If your budget can afford it, theme breaks are always more interesting than standard beverages and snacks.
Receptions: Most caterers offer à la carte options for passed chilled and hot hors-d’oeuvres and hosted bar reception packages (charged hourly per person or on consumption). They also may offer cold and hot platter stations as well as dessert stations.
The Big Dinner Question: Buffet or Plated?
Regardless of the meal in consideration, I’ve encountered numerous situations when the management team hosting an event has requested the wrong format for serving a meal. The following time considerations should serve as a good guide to determine how best to serve the meal:
Plated meals require at least 1.5 hours, if not 2 hours, of agenda time to properly serve and clean the room. Plated meal service is most commonly used for dinner and relaxed senior executive meetings.
Try to allow up to 1 hour of agenda time for any buffet meal. Buffets are a great format for breakfast and lunch.
While a great option for hors-d’oeuvres, passing serving is typically only used during receptions.
Special Needs Considerations
Last, but not least of the menu planning considerations is taking into account special dietary needs. It is critical to incorporate and notify your catering manager about any special requests and needs that your guests may have, including, but not limited to:
Other dietary restrictions
The only way to know about such special needs is to ask, and the only way to plan for them is to discuss them with your catering professional as soon as possible.