Small Venue Catering — Enough Pizza!

No matter how short your conference is, where it is or the type of attendees expected, people will always expect some kind of food and they will always expect some kind of refreshment that isn’t water. While small venue catering tends to be a bit simpler than providing for a large expo, sometimes too many choices paralyzes planners.

For years, most event organizers have had two options. The first, pizza, is fairly cheap, ubiquitous, doesn’t require utensils and is easily customizable. The bad part? It’s not great for you, can cause carb comas in the afternoon and we can’t count how many grease stains we’ve seen from errant bites. (Note: provide enough napkins)

The second top choice, sub sandwiches, is a healthier option, but it too has its drawbacks. They’re tough to customize, don’t keep all that well, and, most of the time, taste like they were prepared last week and left under the refrigerator exhaust. So what is a small venue to do about its catering issue?

Full Meal
If your event requires a full meal be served, buffets work very well for smaller groups and venues. They’re easy to set up, simple to manage, and allow for a wide variety of foods at a fraction of a typical plated-meal cost.

Snacks
We like snacks that are pre-packaged, fairly resistant to the elements (think granola bars) and simple to replace. Fresh fruit (apples, bananas and oranges) also make for great pick-me-ups late in the day. While many attendees would probably prefer sugary items, we know candy and such can cause energy crashes toward the end of the conference and/or on the way home, so anything that can be served that’s non-processed would work best.

Refreshments
Bring water. Lots of it. Here in Arizona, most people have come to expect bottled water to be available at all times. While we typically frown on purchasing a bunch of plastic bottles that will usually be thrown away before they’re even drained, refillable solutions are often a pain to set up. Unless the building has an existing water cooler, bottles are likely the way to go. Be sure to offer recycling!

What have you served that attendees have liked? Anything we all should avoid?