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February 20, 2023 | catering, corporate

Menu Planning for Successful Corporate Events

Corporate events differ from private events in that they are generally based around an objective and not a celebration. The meal should be tailored to the practical needs of the meeting type. Building a relationship with a reputable caterer will prove invaluable and simplify matters. The caterer you choose should be well-reviewed and have a proven track record serving corporate clients. They will walk you through the process to design an event that compliments your meeting's style. There are several factors you'll want to consider when creating your menu. The corporate event planners at Caroline's Fine Food share the benefit of their expertise with the following helpful guidelines:

Head Count & Budget

Before you contact your caterer, block out your basics. How many people will attend your meeting and what is your general budget? Once you've gathered this information, your event planner will be able to formulate a price structure and menu suggestions for you.

Demographics and Purpose

Ask yourself who will be attending the event and what is the reason for the meeting. The answers will be helpful in selecting a menu and service style that dovetails with your meeting.

For instance, if your event is a seminar, you'll probably want to explore sandwiches, wraps and boxed lunches. These options work well in a situation without tables where there will be a single speaker. If you are planning a more formal seated affair like an awards dinner, your caterer will likely present options which include full service seated or a served buffet. If your meeting is a team-building exercise, your planner will likely suggest something informal like a buffet of comfort food, sandwich platters, hors d'oeuvres or fix-it-yourself bars.

Your caterer should be able to discuss portion size and cost per head for each suggested menu item. You will also want to consider the group of people attending. Are they health conscious or would comfort foods be more appropriate? Are there any dietary restrictions to consider? Are there any guests with food allergies? Will you have to provide for any vegetarians or vegans? It's a good idea to find out the answers to these questions in advance and to let your caterer know so that everyone can have a positive experience. If you are unable to get this information, it's best to provide a certain number of alternative options just in case.

Time of Day

Another big determinant in what you will be serving has to do with the time of your meeting. Will it fall within the breakfast, lunch or dinner hour or does it lie outside of a regular meal time? If your meeting is from 3:00-4:00 pm, people will not be expecting a full meal. Lighter fare for these off-times might include: charcuterie boards, petite sandwich platters, petite sweet platters or appetizers. Make sure to let your event planner know your meeting time so that you can explore the most suitable options.

Other Considerations

You'll want to determine the optimal service and delivery option for your event. A good caterer will offer some or all of the following choices in descending order of cost:

  1. Plated/seated full service
  2. Full service buffet
  3. Delivery and set up (buffet)
  4. Delivery (hot)
  5. Delivery (cold with reheat instructions)
  6. Pick-up (with reheat instructions)

Your caterer should also be able to provide beverages, condiments, napkins and cutlery for you. Most corporate clients seek convenient, disposable and time-saving options. In the case of more formal business events, a good caterer should be able to provide you with the names of trusted partners to provide: lighting, bar service, flowers, rentals and dj solutions.

A Word About Bars

Most business events do not call for formal meals. Food bars are an innovative, creative approach to informal meetings. They are proven crowd pleasers for team-building, retirements, staff appreciations and lunch and learns. They can also be cost-effective. For instance, Caroline's Fine Foods offers: Salad Bars, Pasta Bars, Mac and Cheese Bars, Taco Bars, Mezze Platters, Vegetarian Taco Bars, Moo Shu Bars (Asian), Slider Bars, Larb Bars and Pot Pie Bars. You could also design a mixed bar with your caterer.

If you'd like expert guidance for your next corporate event, reach out to our team. You can find a sampling of Caroline's Fix-It-Yourself Bar options here.