4 key concepts to consider when catering your conference

Conference catering used to mean curling egg & cress sandwiches, a choice of weak tea or instant coffee and some custard creams, but thankfully a lot has changed since the twentieth century. Delegates and organisers now expect their conference catering to complement and enhance their whole conference experience, to add something than simply fuel.

As the focus on the delegate experience has tightened, so venues have realised that people remember the catering - it stimulates the senses that conference content rarely reaches. When your catering is exceptional (or exceptionally bad), you can rely on it being one of the most talked about features of your conference, and will strongly influence the positive (or negative) perception of the whole event.

So how do you cater your conference? There are a few key concepts to consider when planning you conference catering, whoever is delivering it.

  • Match the catering style to the event. Some events need a sit down, three course, gala dinner. Others will need a cold finger buffet or perhaps even a cafeteria style arrangement. Finger food is good if you want to ensure some mingling, whilst serving food at tables can keep specific teams together.

  • Make sure your catering partners are asking the right questions. A quality caterer will want to know the delegate demographics, the venue facilities on offer, and the timing of meals and breaks.

  • Take advantage of your caterer's expertise. Your caterers probably embody a wealth of knowledge, so don't hesitate to ask for their advice and opinions on your catering decisions and preferences. They may have thought of interesting and creative, ways to make your event really stand out from a food and drink perspective, so make sure they get the opportunity to flex their creative muscles!

  • Think carefully about the value proposition at work. If the conference requires delegates to pay to attend, their catering expectations will be very different to delegates invited FOC. Connecting the catering with the value proposition does mean tying the price per cover to the event budget, but it is imagination and innovation that will allow you and your caterers to extract the greatest benefit.

The importance of food and drink doesn't end with simply nutrition and sustenance, it brings people together, gives them chance to share and relax, gets them talking and makes your delegates feel welcome and looked after.