How to Avoid a Meal Selection Nightmare in Event Planning

by | Aug 20, 2015 | Corporate Events, Event Planner, Incentive Travel, Incentive Trip, Meeting Planning

As a meeting planner, you are trying to make everything perfect for your events, and food is the scariest thing to pick out! In today’s world, there are so many restrictions: allergies, lifestyle choices, cultural and religious dietary restrictions. It’s a nightmare! If there is one thing an event planner wants to make memorable at corporate events and incentive travel excursions, it’s the cuisine, especially when traveling internationally!

Breakfast and lunch are usually the easiest meals to pick. Stay with American breakfasts and keep them buffet-style, if possible. This allows everyone to pick out something they are comfortable with and know they will enjoy. The last thing you want is someone coming to you first thing in the morning, before you had a chance to finish your coffee, complaining that there is nothing for them to eat. It won’t be easy to recover from unless you can whip something up real quick.

For lunch, I always go for something café-style. Light, but just enough to hold you over until our feast at dinner. It’s hard to go wrong with making your own sandwiches with sides like fruit bowls and local dishes. This will give people the opportunity to taste the local gastronomy without being forced to do so. I personally am more apt to try a bit of something in this setting over ordering it off a menu and being disappointed that it was the worst decision of my life.

You’ve survived all of your meals now, as you’ve been having the group go off and do dinner on their own…so it won’t be your fault if they didn’t like the chocolate liqueur soufflé they ordered. But what about the final-night dinner? Don’t fret! First, find out about any and all dietary restrictions on the front end. Take those to the chef/hotel as soon as everything is confirmed and make sure they can meet those needs based on their banquet menu’s they offer. We have vegans in our company, so when I order food for the whole office, I always make sure the restaurant doesn’t mind adding on a few meals that meet their needs. If you have questions about someone’s dietary restrictions, ASK! I guarantee they will be much happier you are trying to accommodate them rather than serve them a pile of mush while everyone eats a gourmet meal.

Here is the big thing: make sure you meet and know the faces of those who have certain needs and be able to tell the wait staff where they are sitting. Imagine the awful feeling in the pit of your stomach when you see a server placing a plate of juicy steak in front of the CEO of the company who is super vegan. Not good. But, luckily, working directly with the wait staff will ensure those special plates get to where they belong, making those people feel special. They will definitely remember that one incentive trip in which their event planner did this awesome thing for dinner.

As far as those who didn’t list any certain dietary needs, it’s always a good idea to offer a duet plate of some sort when serving a plated menu. I also advocate posting the menu for any plated meal, if possible. That way, in the event that someone is disgusted by what you are serving, you have the chance to pull some strings and switch up their plate. The go-to meal is surf and turf. If I can, I will include at least one side of local food that meshes well with the dinner. Trust your chef! It’s his job to feed the people and it’s your job to make sure the people are happy.

If all of this ends up going downhill fast, just remember to be calm, cool, and collected. Smile, and order pizza.



Justin Rieling
Associate Account Manager for The ISI Group of companies, consisting of:
Incentive Solutions, Inc.
Travel Solutions
[email protected]
Direct Contact: 678-514-0213
Sales Hotline: (800)-844-5000


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<strong>About </strong>Luke Kreitner

About Luke Kreitner

Luke Kreitner is the VP of Sales at Incentive Solutions, an Atlanta-based incentive company that specializes in helping B2B businesses accelerate growth, increase sales, motivate channel partners and retain B2B customers.

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