Don’t ‘FALL’ For These Food & Beverage Service Faux Pas
By Kurt Mungal
It may sound a little dramatic, but a poorly executed menu can make or break your next event. You can have the most engaging speakers, the most fabulous swag bags, and be in the most exclusive venue, but if the food is bad, you’ll be hearing about it.
Part of what makes planning for food and beverage so tricky is that it’s always changing. Diets, fads, budgets, the environment—oh I don’t know—a global pandemic? All these things can influence not only what you serve, but how you serve it.
That’s why we’ve put together a list of some of the most common F&B faux pas you need to avoid, so your next meal service is a scrumptious success.
Forgetting to put health and safety at the forefront…
While we’re thrilled to be able to gather in-person again to create live experiences, food safety and handling measures should still be considered, as your guests may be arriving from locales with different restrictions and varying comfort levels. Depending on the size, location, and format of your event, this could look different each time. There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to safety. That said, some ideas include serving meals in well-ventilated rooms, ensuring tables and seating areas are adequately spread out, providing easy (and visible) access to hand sanitizer stations, and requesting that kitchen staff and other food handlers wear masks and gloves.
Most venues will already have COVID-safety regulations in place that you can implement, but this is your event. If there are additional measures you’d like to see included, talk to your venue or caterer and work together to find a solution that best fits your destination and your group. After all, the health and safety of your guests is (and should be) your number one priority.
Keeping attendees trapped inside for too long…
Now that summer is officially behind us (cue the tears), those of us who do not live in tropical climates are mentally preparing to spend more time inside…but maybe we don’t have to? Food trucks and street vendors are not only a fun way to surprise and delight guests during an event, but they also give your audience a chance to get some fresh air, get on their feet, and move around.
Think about it—how many times have you been to a multi-day event at hotel or convention centre and thought to yourself, “Have I even been outside today?” We’ve all been there, and it doesn’t feel good when we the realization strikes. In a time when air flow and ventilation are critical to ensuring the safety of large crowds, why not find new and exciting ways to lure your crowd outdoors? Even if it’s cold! After all, that’s what a hot chocolate or mulled wine truck is for.
Plus, most major cities have signature cuisines and caterers that are favoured by the locals, so it’s a great way to supplement the menu being served at your venue.
Catering only for the majority…
The list of dietary restrictions seems to be growing every year. Fortunately, most chefs and caterers are familiar with even the most niche diets out there. Whether your guests are vegan, keto, kosher, vegetarian, pescatarian, gluten-intolerant, lactose-intolerant, or heck maybe they’re only eating foods harvested when mercury is in retrograde—= they deserve a delicious and satisfying meal. This might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised by how often even vegetarians are left to cobble a meal together with only “sides.”
To ensure you’ve planned accordingly for all your guests, always ask for dietary restrictions at registration, and allow guests space to share their specific needs. For example, someone may not be a vegetarian, but they also do not eat pork specifically. Once you know all the diets you need to plan for, keep the following in mind when selecting a menu:
- Have a protein option available for all diets. Vegetarians and vegans do not only want to eat a plate of pasta or portobello mushroom shaped like a steak.
- Clearly label allergens or alerts for all foods that are self-serve (such as on a buffet table) so that no one mistakenly eats something that could make them sick.
- Identify guests who have a unique or rare dietary request at registration so that they feel reassured their needs will be met and have clear instructions on where to go to find their meals, if they are to be served separately (e.g., kosher diets, nut allergies, etc.).
Ignoring what has been working for the last two years…
Single-serving and pre-packaged meals/snacks are certainly not new, but they saw a resurgence in the last two years, and with good reason. Food and beverages served in this method can be sealed for safety and be labelled to communicate freshness. Also, with so many events taking place online the last two years, many caterers became creative and found ways to package their meals for shipping so guests could enjoy them at home. At this point, single-serving and pre-packaged meals can be as elevated or as simple as you want them to be.
In addition to being a COVID-friendly method of meal service, there are a wide variety of benefits to serving pre-packaged meals:
- It can help to cut down on food waste as your guests can save what they don’t finish to enjoy later.
- Wait times and line-ups are shorter as attendees can simply grab and go.
- Caterers can clearly label ingredients so that everyone is aware of what they’re eating.
- Leftovers are easier to disperse to staff and guests after the event.
Of course, not every event is suitable for pre-packaged meals, and that’s okay. If you’re seeking to provide a more traditional experience for your audience and opt to serve a plated meal, consider serving dessert pre-packaged as a “takeaway.” It’s a great opportunity to leave each person with a note of thanks, incorporate some memorable branding, and speed up meal service if needed.
Eating “junk” and creating waste…
Finally, and arguably most importantly, is the importance of promoting healthy bodies and a healthy planet. Given all the health challenges so many of us have faced over the last two years, healthy eating is more important than ever, and it has nothing to do body size.
More and more people want food that will fuel and energize them, especially at events and functions where they’re expected to network, engage, or perform over the course of a day, or maybe a few days. This might explain why plant-based diets are growing in popularity. Not only are they notably good for our bodies, but they’re also good for the planet by reducing our carbon footprint. But don’t just stop at the food—think about all the ways you can be sustainable in your food service at an event. For example, can you serve food in materials that are recyclable or compostable? And how will you and your caterer handle waste? Is there a local shelter or organization you can partner with to ensure food does not simply get thrown out?
Plan with your venue or caterer well in advance of your event so that you can feel good about the mark you leave after everyone’s gone home.
Do you have a food and beverage no-no that you want to share? Tag us @loma_agency or say hello and let us know how we can help take the guess work out of F&B at your next event.