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A series of articles about all facets of event planning with helpful hints, planning ideas, sample schedules and budgeting tips from the B&E Team.

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Catering, Food & Beverage Services

Catering, Food & Beverage Services

Food and beverages contribute significantly to the success of an event. In addition to breakfast (full or continental), lunch or dinner, food and beverage functions can include theme events, receptions, cocktail parties, and refreshment breaks. At any event or meeting, the food often has a lasting impression on your attendees. Whether it was too cold, not enough, or absolutely great, you will hear about it.

Menu selection:
Plan a variety of options. Include regional or local specialties as often as possible for a memorable touch. Be health conscious and try to offer a variety of foods that are nutritionally balanced and colorful.  Keep in mind the variety of food restrictions from gluten intolerances, to religious observations, which you may have to accommodate.

Meals per event type:
Take into consideration your audience and event timeline when choosing which type of meals to serve. From buffets to boxed lunches to sit-down service keep these tips in mind: box lunches are great for on-the-go and working lunches; buffets are best for when there is an hour of time to dedicate towards eating in an events program (keep in mind that your room set-up will play a major role in a successful buffet as people will need to move through the buffet area with ease), and sit-down, plated service should be reserved for when there is at least one to two hours of time that can be dedicated towards mealtime.

Weather and food:
Be certain that your menu selections will withstand your event's anticipated weather. Avoid hot or heavy meals on muggy and humid days. High humidity may also wilt potato chips, cut cheeses, and similar foods. On hot days extra care should be taken to protect easily spoiled foods. Be especially careful with mayonnaise-based items, raw shellfish, and the like. Shade tables with umbrellas, and provide lots of water, juices, and fresh fruit. Likewise, on damp, cold days, guests will appreciate something warming like soups

It is important not to run out of food. Some attendees will have one plate at a buffet, and others will go back for thirds. Customize your menu and quantities based on the types of attendees. Ask your caterer's opinion as to whether served portions or banquet style better suits your event.

Meal guarantees:
Facilities usually require a "guarantee" for the number of guests that will need to be served at each meal function. The guarantee is usually required at least 48 hours in advance of the event. After the guarantee has been given, the facility will allow you to increase the numbers but not to decrease them.

Catering costs:
Ask the caterers what their guidelines are and how they figure them. How do they provide for extra people? Get several estimates if you are using an outside caterer--the price, portions, and what is or isn't included may vary for the same menu. Make sure the prices quoted will be valid the day of your event, or have the caterers commit to a percentage cap that can't be increased

What a caterer supplies:
Caterers can generally supply service ware, flatware, dishes, cups, and table linens. They also may provide servers, bartenders, and cleanup crew. Be sure to check what items and services are included. When applicable, check to see if your caterer offers delivery and clean up options.

Saving dollars:
Order bottled beverages served by consumption; at the end of the event count the empty bottles to make certain you are charged the correct amount. Avoid labor-intensive foods. Replace a full breakfast with a continental breakfast; it won't be as heavy, and people can snack throughout the meeting. While bottled water is popular, it can be expensive; be prepared for attendees to drink more water than juice or soda.

Espresso, juice or alcohol bars can really amp up an event. Decide early when budget planning for these and inquire if your catering company can accommodate any of these bars or who is on their preferred vendor list.

Beverage conversion:
One gallon coffee=20-8 oz. cups. One bottle of wine=5-6 oz. glasses. One full-size beer keg=15 gallons, or 200-10 oz. or 160-12 oz. glasses.