Breakfast: The Bottom Line

eggSpeed and efficiency are important for the breakfast meal. This is especially true if the attendees will be going to business meetings, seminars or other events immediately after the meal. The last thing a meeting planner wants is to start the day's activities late and throw off the whole day's schedule.  Everything must be ready at the appointed time in order to avoid this problem.

Many attendees will skip the breakfast meal. Some of them traditionally do not eat breakfast. A few may prefer early-morning exercise workouts. Some may have been out late the night before and would rather sleep than eat. Check your meeting history so you know how many people usually show up and you can have an accurate guarantee.

Breakfast is a functional meal. Attendees need to energize the brain cells. If they skip breakfast, chances are their attention spans will decrease and they will become irritable by 10:00 AM.

The breakfast menu should contain energizer foods, such as fresh fruits, whole grain cereals, whole grain breads and yogurt. In addition to providing a bit of energy, they are much easier to digest than fatty foods. This will keep attendees awake and ready to tackle the morning's business.

There is a trend away from sweet rolls toward whole-grain, blueberry and oat-bran muffins and fruit breads, such as banana or date breads. Sugary and fatty sweets, such as danish pastries, doughnuts and pecan rolls, give only a temporary lift.

There must be some variety, though, at breakfast. While many persons will not eat sugary, fatty foods, they may want to have at least a little taste of one. As much as possible, the menu should accommodate all preferences. For instance, you can offer bite-sized portions of several types of foods on a breakfast buffet table.

A buffet is the best type of service to have for breakfast functions because it can accommodate the early riser and the late-comer. In some cases it may cost less than sit-down service. And it can be just the thing for guests who are in a hurry because, if there are enough food and beverage stations, a breakfast buffet can be over in less than one hour.

The traditional breakfast buffet includes two or three types of breakfast meats, three to six varieties of pastries, two styles of eggs, one potato dish, and several selections of cereals, fresh fruits, cold beverages, hot beverages, and condiments.

An English-style breakfast buffet usually includes the traditional offerings along with one or more action stations. For instance, an action station, where chefs are preparing omelets, Belgian waffles, or crepes, is very popular with attendees. This type of service, though, can increase significantly the food and labor costs so it can only be offered if you are willing to pay an extra charge.

For the cost-conscious meeting planner, the more economical continental breakfast buffet is appropriate. The traditional continental breakfast includes coffee, tea, fruit juice, and some type of bread. A deluxe version offers more varieties of juices, breads, and pastries, as well as fresh fruits, yogurt, and cereals.

If a breakfast buffet is planned, you should make sure the caterer separates the food and beverage stations so that persons who want their coffee quickly, or do not want a full meal, will not have to stand in line behind those who are deciding which omelet to order. You also should have separate areas for flatware and condiments, such as cream, sugar, and lemons, away from the coffee-urn areas. Since it usually takes a person about twice as long to add cream and sugar as it does to draw a cup of coffee, this type of layout will prevent traffic congestion. If separate beverage stations are not feasible, you should have food servers serve beverages to attendees at the dining tables.

Conventional sit-down breakfast service usually includes a combination of preset and plated services. This is appropriate if the guests have more time and want to savor the meal a little longer. Served breakfasts make greater demands on the catering and kitchen staffs. More servers are needed and more food handlers are required to dish up the food in the kitchen. However, unlike buffet service, food costs are more controllable because you, not the guest, control portion sizes.

Many clients, especially corporate meeting planners, want some added luxury touches at breakfast.  For instance, they often appreciate things such as mimosa cocktails, virgin marys, exotic flavored coffees, puff pastries and fresh fruit in season.  

Eggs Benedict are also a nice touch, sure to please the attendee who is expecting a lavish breakfast meal. Eggs Benedict will hold up well without drying out, so are ideal for banquet service. Consider them for brunch as well as breakfast.

Many people are not very sociable at breakfast. Also, if the attendees trickle in a few at a time, they might spread out in the banquet room so that they can be alone with their thoughts, or with their last-minute work. You should ask the caterer to make available newspapers, such as The Wall Street Journal and/or USA Today, to those who do not wish to fraternize so early in the day.

If a self-serve breakfast lasts one hour, be sure everything is replenished continuously, especially during the last 15 or 20 minutes. Many attendees will show up at this time and expect the full menu to be available.  

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