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It’s Not What You Serve but How You Serve It

Posted on June 08, 2007

By Michael Green

Seven Simple and Low-Cost Ways to Turn Your Dinner into an Experience

Let’s face it – sometimes there is not much you can do about the quality of food and drink at a hotel banquet hall or conference center – or even at a restaurant. Sometimes your hands are tied – maybe there are budget issues, perhaps the host does not want to go off-site or maybe there is a lack of quality restaurants in your conference region.

Fret not! Here are seven things you can do to transform the “rubber chicken” dinner into something special:

1) Opening Numbers. Greet guests with a specialty cocktail to begin. Rather than having guests cue up at an open bar, create and brand a drink with your company name or corporate culture and have servers offer it to your guests by its name. For example, “The Competitive Edge” or “World Domination.” If the drink is especially yummy, you can give guests the recipe as a takeaway.

2) The Power of Words. Make sure the menu card takes full advantage of the evening. Even if it is a rubber chicken dinner, where did the chicken come from? What type of goat cheese was used? Are the carrots organic? “Otter Farm Raised Braised Chicken Breast” and “A Selection of Artisan Cheeses from Pleasant Ridge” sounds better than chicken and cheese. List wines with vintages and places. Be specific. Brand the menu with your corporate logo and tag line. Proof and proof again.

3) Get A Room! Eating certain foods can be daunting and are best enjoyed with friends and family in the comfort of your home. Don’t turn the very act of eating into a culinary comedy. Your guests want to come off as polished and professional and they want to make a favorable impression. Do you really want guests to run up a dry cleaning bill after the meal? Avoid soups, long pasta, excessive spice and anything with bones or shells (quail and lobster).

4) Cold Shoulder. Select a first course that can be served cold or room temperature. If your opening remarks go on too long, or if your guest are slow in sitting down, servers will not need to make a mad dash to get hot food out to your guests.

5) Flower Power (or Not!). Money spent on flowers can be out of control and often not necessary. You can create other low-cost options. What about a potted-herb centerpiece of the herb used in one of the dishes? Beautiful bunches of grapes? Perhaps an elegant bowl containing a selection of seasonal fresh fruit. Keep the centerpieces low and avoid anything that is aromatically intrusive. A selection of wine glasses, votive candles and a creative solution can go a long way.

6) The Right Mix. Music can set the tone and brand the night. Don’t leave it to chance. Make your own mix. What songs are appropriate to your meeting goals and corporate culture? Make copies for a low-cost, high-impact gift.

7) The Seventh Inning Stretch: Pass mini desserts or set up an elegant, easy-to-navigate dessert buffet. Towards the end of the evening guests will want to stretch and mingle. Keep desserts small and easy to eat – one-bite delights.

Have an idea? Email me at [email protected] with your easy and low-cost entertaining tips; the three most creative submissions sent before June 15 will win a free subscription to Gourmet magazine.


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