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April 6, 2008

Catering: Feeding minds and more

There was a sea of bland, brown – pallid tuna sandwiches, egg mayo on curled up, drying bread, chicken wings and mini pork pies – the only variation in colour came from the ketchup – a brash, gloopy red. Familiar fare, I’m sure.

Last week, I attended a fantastically inspirational marketing seminar. We were all fired up and motivated to look at things differently, to make change and to drive our businesses in new and exciting directions. And then this enthusiasm was smothered with bland, brown, boring food. It left me with a negative image of an otherwise great event and I’ve remembered more about the food than the content. I am also unlikely to use the venue for events that I host in the future.

For a lot of people, time out of the office for an event, conference or exhibition is a bit of a jolly – but as our lives become more pressurised and time, more valuable, attendees have more focus and direction and know what they want to come away with. We need to enhance that experience. Participants want to come away with a new way of thinking – your event needs to be a dynamic place of change in more ways than one. And food is part of the mix that creates the environment and the experience that encourages that change and makes a lasting impression.

Healthy eating is a hot topic at the moment, but there seems to be a lot of talk and little action. The evidence of improved energy, clarity of thought for decision making and productivity is over-whelming. Yet in an environment where all of these states are vital, organisers continue to source and provide uninspiring, energy sapping and institutional style food.

Cheap and easy to prepare food might ease organisational demands but it cheapens the experience which can be so enriched by quality food. The initial impact on your bottom line may be your first consideration as quality may cost a fraction more but the ROI needs to be seen as something broader and more dynamic, positive and long term.

Food should fire the senses and feed the body and brain. Colourful food is attractive and inviting and most colour comes naturally from fruit and vegetables – outstanding sources of energy, vitamins and minerals. Over-processed breads are hard to digest, give only short-term energy and detract the body’s resources from thinking and memory. Caffeine and sugar – seen as standard fodder at all functions – also give spiky energy.

I have no desire to take all the perceived fun out of life, my passion is for the provision of vibrant, life-enhancing, real food. We should be inspiring people to come away from presenting or attending their next event with more than just a new sales technique, a clever piece of techno-wizardry and the memory of same old, same old, brown catering!


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