Packed meeting agendas leave meeting planners searching for ways to make-up time. In North America, this often translates into working lunches for group dining. I have previously discussed the reasons that companies in other parts of the world reject this option and provided alternatives to the working lunch that I have seen in Asia, the Caribbean and the Middle East.
However, when working lunches are the only option, it's always good to:
- Have a separate dining area (e.g. an adjoining lounge, on a patio or separated from the meeting space by an airwall so that set-up doesn't disturb the meeting).
- Reflect the theme of the meeting through decor, service option and menu selections.
- Select menu and service options to make sure the experience is not mundane.
- Budget for an extra set of clean tablecloths to ensure sanitary dining during lunch.
- Thoroughly clean and sanitize the tables if the area for breakout exercises is doubling for dining.
- Schedule an exercise in pairs or trios in the main meeting area.
- Serve lunchtime presenters a bit earlier than the group. They need a break too.
- Never go straight from the meeting to dining. Select a meeting venue close to washrooms. Break for 10 minute break, specifically for hand washing before lunch service begins.
- Provide hand sanitizer.
- Resume presentations when everyone has started main course.
- Break for dessert.
Creative Service Options
- Family-style service.
- Bento boxes.
- Food trucks.
- Catered tailgate parties.
- Ice bars (real or simulated).
- Beach umbrella tables.
- Campfire with wiener roast.
- Banquet facilities with fireplace
Gourmet picnic lunch baskets served on blankets (see image to the right)
or at picnic tables inside or outside meeting room.
Interactive Menu Suggestions
- Soda Fountain.
- Lemonade Stand.
- Mobile cappuccino and espresso bar.
- Salad bar.
- Sausage Rolls
- Jamaican cocktail patties.
- Chicken, Beef, and Shrimp Skewers.
- Satay. (Put peanut sauce on the side and label it to protect participants with allergies.)
- Sloppy Joes
- Steamboat lunch
- Danish open face sandwiches
- Interactive savory crepe stations
Taking a break. Have pizza makers entertain the crowd by flipping pizzas and preparing customized pizzas. Go back into your meeting and, when the pizzas are ready, have a short lunch break.
Gourmet Burger and slider bar.
With the option to "have it your way", people love burgers . Kick it up a notch. Have chefs prepare burgers and sliders at barbecues. Serve veggie, chicken and ostrich burgers. Set up an interactive station for condiments and salad.
Make your own Sandwich bar.
Sandwiches are a staple of the working lunch but turn them from boring to an interactive experience by using a set-up similar to a salad bar and providing a variety of wraps and breads and interesting toppings.
To save time, skip dessert at lunch and make the afternoon break a truly interactive experience.
- Ice Cream fondue (Pictured to the right)
- Fruit Skewers
- Fresh Fruit Stand
- Strawberry Shortcake
- Truffle rolling station
- Make Your Own Sundae bar
- Baked Alaska
- Crepe Suzette
- Cherries Jubilee
- Chocolate Fondue
- Chocolate Fountain
- Interactive fruit and dessert crepe stations
- Chocolate bar featuring everything chocolate including pastry, cake, pudding, chocolate mouse, truffles, ice cream.
For more food and beverage tips, check out Food for Thought by fellow Cvent blogger, Patti Shock.