In North America, when the timeframe for a meeting is tight, groups often opt for continental breakfasts* and working lunches to make it possible to cover more meeting content.
A typical North American style working lunch is served buffet style in the meeting room. Once everyone has helped themselves, the presentations continue as attendees eat lunch. Sandwiches are another popular option for working lunches.
By contrast in other parts of the world, the working lunch is virtually non-existent and when it is suggested as an option, the response is predictably "underwhelming." Here are some breakfast and lunch suggestions for meetings in other parts of the world.
Hot items are expected for breakfast even if it is self-service before the meeting begins. During 18 tours of Asia, I've never seen a working lunch. Instead, hot buffets or service from 3 or 4 course menus are typical. In Japan, miso soup, tofu, seaweed, steamed rice, and yogurt are often served for breakfast. Teppanyaki and bento boxes are group dining options when time is tight.
In China, Singapore, Malaysia and other parts of southeast Asia, steamboat lunches are popular for group dining when time is tight.
The Middle East
Hotel breakfasts are usually substantial and served buffet style, not in the meeting room.
For lunch, buffets are expected even during desert safaris, my Middle Eastern clients have opted for lamb dishes, shish kebab, meat sambousek.
It is extremely important for meeting planners be aware of the fact that a quick lunch is not an option for making up time when a meeting agenda is packed. Lunch breaks are longer than in North America to incorporate mid-day prayers.
On Fridays, when Muslim men have longer prayers at the mosque, packed lunches are often provided. Falafel in pita bread or Kebab Koobideh (ground beef or lamb on a skewer) are excellent picks for packed lunches.
In the Caribbean, it's easy to find North American style dishes at hotels. If you are planning events for local attendees, it's best to incorporate some local fare.
Fish will generally be appreciated. In Jamaica, for example, ackee and salt fish with green bananas and dumplings will be preferred over a continental breakfast. Fresh fruit and fruit juices will be welcome and so will chocolate tea (hot chocolate).
Sandwiches are not generally appreciated and are typically referred to disparagingly as "dry up ole sandwich".
Instead, opt for jerk chicken or curry goat if you are in Jamaica and curry chicken or vegetable roti throughout the Caribbean. Roti and curry originated in India so clients in southeast Asia will enjoy it too.
* = Continental Breakfast: For our readers in other parts of the world, continental breakfasts typically consist of breakfast pastries (like muffins, Danish pastry, toast), coffee, tea and juice. Sometimes fresh fruit and cheese are also served. In Canada, croissants, English muffins and bagels are often included.
The Cvent Event Blog has previously provided sample menus and recipes in Not Your Standard Chicken Dish and 20 Box Lunches Ideas That Beat Boredom, and suggested 7 alternatives to working lunches around the world.