Consider every detail for special event menus

Published 1:20 pm Tuesday, April 5, 2011

In the last article we discussed the food for your special events. In this article we will continue talking about the food served for your special event.

In the last article we ended with brainstorming ideas for the committee in what type of food to serve at your event. Continuing with ideas, some things to consider when serving food are listed as follows.

First, with buffets, consider the amount of time you have.

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Buffets can take longer than the typical sit down meal and can cost more. The reason for cost increase is most caterers will charge 1.5 times per person due to the fact guests can go back for more and usually will.

Another idea depending on the event is a moveable feast. These are a great way for guests to see the landscape of the community you serve. These events can also be called dine-arounds or progressive dinners. These are gaining popularity because they are usually held in private beautiful homes, hotels, upscale restaurants or a combination of all three.

Also gaining popularity are the light menus. We all know we are facing a crisis in America today due to the growing obesity epidemic. Many nonprofits in the health care industry are looking at this option to show their constituents that healthy eating can also taste great.

A final option to consider is hotel food.

With hotels the price usually includes everything.

If working with a hotel for your event there are several things that you need to be aware of in planning. First step is to schedule a meeting with their event planner. Once you have chosen the menu, make sure and ask the following questions: how will the food be served and portion sizes, request the hotel does not serve your menu two weeks prior to your event, make sure the price quoted includes staff, also ask how the staff will be dressed, also request to see the standard tableware (dishes, glasses and silverware) – this is also to make sure it will match your event theme.

Other points to consider with hotels: the price of the food usually does not include the gratuity, they will require a guaranteed number of guests, typically submitted in writing at least 48 hours in advance. Regardless of the turn out this will be the number for which you pay. With the guaranteed number hotels will prepare 10-15 percent over this amount, they will also request a non-refundable deposit and require an insurance certificate of liability at least one month before the event is to take place.

If considering working with caterers there are three different approaches to consider.

Caterers can be hired to provide three different service levels. The first being full service, this will be the caterer doing everything – set up, tear down, decorating, providing the food, serving the food and clean up. The second is partial service; this will be where the caterer will provide the food and serve the food.

The committee members or volunteers will be responsible for the set up, tear down, decorating and clean up. The last is no service, this is where the caterer prepares the food, drops it off and the committee members or volunteers are responsible for everything else. I would not suggest using the last approach. If you do, make sure the volunteers completely understand all the responsibility involved for the event.

Caterers, as with hotels, will also require a deposit and guarantee a number of guests. However, when working with caterers the number of guests must be provided one week in advance and the deposit will normally be refunded if the event is cancelled. Make sure you know their cancellation policy. The cushion caterers will build into the guarantee will be 10 percent above the guaranteed number.

Caterers will also charge for staff on an hourly basis, with a three-hour minimum for their services.

The next several articles will focus on special events and how to successfully host one for your organization.

Nonprofit Leadership, written by Melissa Le Roy, a nonprofit consultant, is aimed at providing guidance from Melissa’s perspective as a leader in both the nonprofit and for profit business world and does not reflect the views or opinions of any organization she has been affiliated with. For questions or comments related to this series, please feel free to contact me at