The catering you serve says a lot about you, about your company and how you feel about your guests. What you serve and how you serve it is setting a mood. So how can you ”food mood” to set the stage for your event’s success, be it breakfast or lunch catering?

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Know your guests. Are they predominantly male, female or mixed? Are they of a certain age, income  bracket, or culture?  Do they work together at a job or share a profession? The more you know about them, the more you can predict what foods they’re going to enjoy. Pinwheel sushi may be lost on oil rig workers and a side of beef won’t go over well at vegetarian convention.

Factor in the time of year. Think ahead to what will be fresh and readily available for the season. Fresh foods, local where possible, will taste better than foods that have spent a long time on the high seas.

Be culturally sensitive. There are times when it’s not appropriate to serve certain foods. During Ramadan, for example, if your group includes Muslims, you want to ensure that when and how the food is served is sensitive to the fact that they must fast during the day. Do any of your Jewish guests require Kosher meals? Showing your guests this level of respect sends a strong signal about the care and attention your company demonstrates in its business dealings.

Do you know if there are any allergies in your group? If you’re not sure, ensure whatever you serve clearly identifies any common allergens like nuts or shellfish.  When serving nuts or shellfish, it’s better to make sure they are clearly visible and not hidden.

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Consider using china for your event instead of disposable paper plates. If you do use disposable plates, ensure you use the biodegradable kind.  Your guests will appreciate the extra respect shown to them and care towards the environment.

What’s the purpose of your event? Your food should support what you are saying and not fight it. Make sure the food reflects the occasion. If you are announcing  a bad fiscal year to shareholders, you would be better serving a budget conscious spread than opting for caviar and the finest Champagne.  If you are selling a luxury product, you probably want something other than chicken wings and domestic beer.

Use food to manage the energy in the room. Forgo heavy carbs in favour of lighter fare if it’s a working meeting and you have a heavy agenda. Conversely, if you’re delivering bad news, a little comfort food — mom-inspired dishes like mac and cheese and shepherd’s pie — can help ease the pain.

Look for unique or personal touches you can add. Does your CEO love a particular food? Perhaps each division can request a dish. Does your charity event involve auctioning off a trip somewhere with great food? If so, include dishes from that location. Look for ways to integrate your food choices into your event.

Be careful of serving your group the same thing over and over. Sandwiches have their place but serving the same selection each time you have a working lunch will make your team grow resentful of giving up any of their downtime for company business.

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Look for a caterer who spends time and works with you to help you achieve your goals. Food is a very cost effective way to achieve many ends, including:

  • reward staff for putting in longer hours
  • encourage donors to give more
  • bond with clients
  • Engage potential customers

Take care in choosing the food you serve them and they will take note.

Food mooding your event is part science and part art.  Start by knowing who you are feeding and what you are trying to accomplish. From there, look for ways to underscore your message and connect with your guests.

If it’s worth the time and money of feeding your guests, it’s worth the little bit extra to ensure that what and how you are serving them leaves the right impression.