Nancy did not consider herself to be fussy. She was just trying to eat a healthy diet which included herbal teas. The trouble was; when she attended seminars and workshops, a frequent part of her job, she was always offered coffee in the breaks and rarely, if ever, her chosen beverage. Even when she brought along her own herbal tea bags, the venue could never seem to be trusted to supply boiling hot drinkable water to complete the infusion.
The dietary requirements of your delegates can be very complex. You may have to deal with vegans, vegetarians, fruitarians, those on a raw food diet, those with nut allergies, wheat intolerance, dairy intolerance and, who knows, maybe the occasional carnivore. Of course, it is unlikely that you will be producing the food yourselves; however it is important that you have a method of keeping an accurate record of this information to pass on to your caterers.
If your chosen venue does not provide catering directly, they will most probably be able to recommend a few companies with a good reputation.
Selecting a catering company to assist you can be a pleasant job as those who are proud of their track record will insist that you sample the product before you make your order.
For longer workshops and events, you may need to provide at least one meal. Although the food should be nutritious and interesting, try to make sure that it is not too heavy on the calories otherwise you may lose half of your audience to siesta time. Take advice from your caterer, they should be able to suggest a range of menus that will be appropriate. When you pass on the information regarding special dietary needs, make sure that those dishes are carefully labeled as they tend to be tasty and interesting unlike traditional buffet food and might disappear into the wrong stomachs.
Of course if you are running a smaller event, none of this need bother you. Wrong! There is just as much potential for drama with coffee and biscuits. Those with allergies and intolerances will still have hunger pangs, so fruit, nut-free, wheat free snacks and a good range of beverages should be available. Clean, boiling hot water for those who bring their own special brews, coffee, decaf, black tea, herbal teas and fruit teas are the minimum requirements if you want to impress. Fortunately most well equipped venues will have a beverage dispenser serving just about every requirement.
You may get no extra stars for getting the catering right, but get it wrong and your event will be a scar on people’s memories.
Ask Nancy and she will regale you with countless tales of poor catering experiences, of tepid, dirty water served in a coffee stained pot, of serving staff who fail to understand her requirements and, worst of all, of being totally ignored because she will not accept the standard cup of coffee. Ask her about the seminars and she is, at best, vague.