F&B Can Make or Break A Meeting

What we know: if the food at meetings and events is good, meeting participants are happy; if it's not to their liking, even if all other aspects of a meeting or event are great (for them and others), bad or unattractive food will be the only thing discussed and remembered!

In the 'early days' of meetings, or at least in my career which stretches back 40 years, there were few who looked closely at the what-why-how-when-risk of menus. I remember when my friend and colleague, Elizabeth Zielinski, was awarded the "Planner of the Year" from MPI, she read from an old meeting planning manual about what considerations were in the past. For meals, it was often "meat and potatoes" for the all-male audiences.

We know that's not the case any more: our audiences are not homogeneous. We are or should be aware of the risk factors faced in menu planning and service.

Menu planning is still my least favorite thing to do.  What I may want to and can eat is often very different from those who attend the meetings I help clients plan. Like going to the grocery store, if meeting menus are planned when we are hungry, we may not think through all we need to.

Planning food and beverage today involves consideration of, among many issues:
- budget,
- time and timing of the events,
- allergies, food-sensitivities and other health-related factors,
- religions and customs,
- holidays over which meetings are held,
- risk factors (such as food inspection, preparation, cross-contamination, alcohol consumption),
- accommodation (for buffets for those with disabilities),
- service,
- organizational/audience preferences and needs, and
- local or not, waste and reuse.

This article about whether wheat gluten was bad for everyone made me wonder what everyone else is doing to accommodate F&B needs for meetings and events and what issues others were taking into consideration. I wondered how facilities and chefs are working to change menus to be more accommodating.

The wonderful Andrea Sullivan teaches and writes about the science of food and the importance on our performance of what we eat and when we eat it. (A great white paper on this subject can be found here.) Brain foods and super foods are what we talk about, even informally among friends.

We know and have access to so much more information. Is it impacting what and how we serve F&B? What are we really changing when it comes to F&B? In what ways are your audiences eating differently? How are budgets being adjusted to accommodate the needs and wants of those who attend your meetings?

I think there are more questions than answers. Maybe, collectively, we can come up with better questions to ask when sites and destinations are being considered, when budgets are planned, and to help guide what we serve.

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