Get Creative with Food Displays
As many planners probably know, food service is all about the presentation, and creating a visually engaging food display can transform a simple luncheon or reception into an upscale dining experience.
“In the past, you had strict guidelines on what you could present and how you could present it,” said McCarter. “Now those things have largely disappeared and you have more creative license to have fun with it.”
Sometimes being creative is just matter of combining two concepts into one. The Owensboro Convention Center catering team often creates portable or bite-sized versions of larger dishes, such as miniature Kentucky Hot Browns as an appetizer or Reuben Lollypops, which is a Reuben sandwich ground up and placed on a stick. For a fun twist on the traditional vegetable tray, the chefs once arranged chopped vegetables in shot glasses so that guests could walk around the event with them. They also sometimes fill ice-cream cones with berries and other fruits as a colorful and healthy dessert option.
Cheese and fruit present many possibilities when it comes to creating colorful arrangements. Planners can impress guests with a diverse selection of interesting cheeses like smoked gouda, Munster, port wine cheese and more, while encouraging people to try something new.
“It’s easy to go over the top with cheese displays when you have 500 people’s worth of cheese product,” said McCarter. “Sometimes we spread out the cheese slices with fruit in between them. It’s sounds simple, but you can really do something just by playing off the colors and shapes and sizes.”
Planners can also incorporate themes into the displays, which could entail anything from the seasons to holidays and regional culture. McCarter described how they once set up a cheese and fruit display around an open coffin and skeleton during a corporate event that took place close to Halloween.
Incorporate Healthy Options
Meeting attendees have become more health conscious than ever, so it is crucial for caterers to keep up with the latest dietary trends, whether it is gluten-free, vegetarian or vegan. Even menu choices such as lentil-based versus pasta-based dishes can make an impact on the success of a meal function.
“The clients themselves are usually very informed with food these days,” said McCarter. “We might come up with a few ideas, but clients will come in with a list of 10 things they saw on Pinterest or the Food Network.”
Although it has become standard to accommodate different dietary preferences, many event programs fail to offer much variety beyond the typical salad bar or vegetable tray. Even attendees without dietary restrictions often appreciate having more nutritious options, because everyone wants to feel good about what they eat. Moreover, providing healthy alternatives gives people the chance to try something new while boosting energy levels and mental focus.
One easy solution for satisfying a range of preferences would be offering build-your-own meals. For example, a luncheon could feature a build-your-own sandwich table with an array of ingredients, such as different breads, meats, vegetables, cheeses and sauces, so that attendees with certain dietary needs can find what they want without having to request a special dish or choose from limited options. Likewise, planners could set out a base pasta or rice dish with optional toppings.