Making Working Lunches Healthy, Interactive and Fun

SlidersPacked 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

  • Gourmet picnic lunchFamily-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

MocktailsBeverages

  • Mocktails.
  • Soda Fountain.
  • Lemonade Stand.
  • Mobile cappuccino and espresso bar.

Starters

  • 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.)

fajitabarMain Course

  • Fajitas
  • Tacos
  • Roti
  • Chili
  • Fondue
  • Sloppy Joes
  • Steamboat lunch
  • Danish open face sandwiches
  • Interactive savory crepe stations
  • Pizza tossPizza.
    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.

Ice cream fondueDesserts

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.

Photo Credits: Executive Oasis International, 2ndpennypolished, Squid!, farlane, annamatic3000

For more food and beverage tips, check out Food for Thought by fellow Cvent blogger, Patti Shock.

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