The Right Food to Serve at a Networking Event
By Christy Lamagna CMP, CMM, CTSM
I was recently at a networking event that was chock full of people I wanted to meet. The day was packed with back to back meetings prior, so I arrived hungry for both the upcoming interaction and to be honest, the food. The people I was fortunate enough to meet exceeded my expectations. The food looked AMAZING but, sadly, I had little more than a nibble and stopped for food on the way home.
The reason? Whomever planned the menu forgot the goal of the food, and instead created a delicious (looking) hearty arrangement that was meant to be eaten sitting down or at the very least without trying to speak in between bites. In this instance, the goal of the menu was to facilitate both interacting and eating. It’s an art form to do both gracefully and requires cooperation from the food itself to be successfully accomplished.
Networking events need food that can be eaten in a single, or at most, two bites. It should be hearty enough to give the prerequisite wallflowers who invariably stand at the buffet, something to stare at and eat to look busy, while being sustenance that can be politely consumed by the rest of us. This means nothing that drips, oozes, or is so hot it can’t be politely chewed and swallowed. As far as how much to serve, the rule of thumb is 4-6 bites per hour when these one bite delicacies are the meal.
Keeping in mind that food sensitivity and allergies are abound, servers MUST know not just what they are serving but all the ingredients use to make it. Knowing that what is on the tray is a vegetable dumpling is only half the task. Being able to confirm if there are mushrooms in it is what gets you over the finish line. Servers who are ill prepared to speak to the foods’ particulars will discourage consumption at best, threaten the health or life an attendee at worst.
Jennifer Kanikula, RDN, CD. Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Dietitian and author of ‘The SoFull Traveler’ weighs in on her best bites to serve:
Create an Antipasti Spread and feature -Olives (pitless), cheese cubes, sugar snap peas, fruit skewer, and deviled eggs. Consider a sushi station. It has great visual appeal and offers a diverse selection of items. Nuts, especially almonds and granola bars, are always welcome and easy to eat. One new trend is to offer a meatball bar, but be careful on the sauces as they can get messy.
So, when you plan menus for your next networking event, make sure you keep these handy tips in mind as your goal is for your guests to be talking about each other, not wondering what’s on their plates.