What's for Dinner?

BMC 100% Club, Big Island Final DinnerA dinner is usually much more than a meal. As this photo from Cvent's Great Event Photo Contest demonstrates, many dinners are part of a theme, a fund-raiser, or other type of major production where food service is only one part of the event. Rarely are dinners scheduled merely for refueling purposes. Dinner attendees are not usually on a tight time schedule. They normally do not have to be at a business meeting or any other sort of activity later on in the evening.  

Dinner is the most typically catered meal. While it shares many similarities with breakfast and lunch, usually it is a longer, more elaborate affair. It is the largest meal of the day. It is the most expensive meal of the day.

Unlike breakfast or luncheon, meeting planners are usually more adventurous when booking a dinner function because they usually have more money and time to work with. For example, Russian and French service styles are more likely at dinner than at other meals. Even the buffet, preset and pre-plated service styles are enhanced. Also, award ceremonies, entertainment and dancing are more common at dinner.  

Now, for the basics:

Dinners normally consist of multiple courses – anywhere from three to nine. Possible courses include:

  • Appetizer
  • Soup
  • Salad
  • Intermezzo
  • Fish Course
  • Main Course–meat, vegetable, starch, bread
  • Dessert
  • Cheese Course
  • Beverage

A light evening meal is called a supper, and is usually served later in the evening.

Food must do more than taste good, it must look good and be presented beautifully. (We do truly eat first with our eyes.) You need to work with a caterer who is able to juggle many attractions/distractions when helping clients plan these major events.

About 15 minutes before you want meal service to begin, begin alerting attendees. Start the music, dim the lights in the pre-function area, ring chimes, or make announcements to signal attendees that it is time to enter the dining room and start moving to their tables. Servers should be standing ready at their stations when attendees walk into the room, not leaning against the wall talking with each other.

From serving to removing of plates, the salad course should take 20 to 30 minutes; the main course about 30 to 50 minutes, and the dessert should take 20 to 30 minutes. The entire banquet service will be about two hours for the typical dinner event.

Pre-dinner receptions, themed events and awards ceremonies will be covered in future posts.

To learn more about food service, read F&B Negotiation Redux and Event Smarts: 5 Painless Ways to Trim F&B Costs.

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