FEEDING THE MASSES: HOW TO CREATE MENUS THAT APPEAL TO EVERYONE
By Krista Chapman
It can sometimes seem daunting to create a menu to feed a large group of people, particularly with all the tricky food allergies, dietary restrictions and dislikes of the general public. Often times clients choose to play it safe, hoping to create a menu that appeals to everyone. And guests suffer through endless dinners and meetings with the same banquet chicken, New York style cheesecake and afternoon breaks of cookies, cookies and well… more cookies. Here are just a few ways to stretch your culinary boundaries and really “Wow” your guests.
Take a Risk. Everyone is a foodie. Food Network is one of the most popular cable networks and thousands follow gourmet food blogs and publications in the hope of recreating unique and tasty recipes. Hosts are often so fearful of creating a menu that a few people may dislike that they end up choosing a menu that no one likes. It’s better to be go out on a limb and trust the your gut, literally. Most guests will commend your culinary daring and applaud a memorable menu over the same tired tastes.
It’s all in the Presentation. Creativity and innovation are the pillars to the food and beverage industries. We are constantly searching out ways to rework, reinvigorate, or revitalize the same old. Think about how you can create a menu that does this while offering a level of familiarity and comfort to your guests. These ideas do not always increase cost but instead find ways to present the classics with a new twist. Can’t afford an ice sculpture with jumbo shrimp cascading down the sides? Why not freeze port-wine glasses and serve smaller bay shrimp tossed in a zesty cocktail sauce. Everyone loves grilled cheese… shrink it in size, add imported gouda and served it as the topper to a tomatoe basil bisque shooter. This presentation gets you the “wows” while still serving approachable, tasty food The way you describe food and showcase it to your guests will also help to sell your menu to your guests. Using appealing descriptions that help guests to visual the food makes it all the more enticing to try.
Think outside the Box. Color, Texture, Flavor and Variety… these are the elements that influence us most when we are eating and determine if we like or dislike something. Mixing up classic items (Cheese Display and Shrimp Cocktail) with a variety that pushes your culinary boundaries (Seared Duck Potstickers with Mango Marmalade – descriptive presentation again!) will lessen your chance of too few options. Using colors pleasing to the eye and interesting flavors or textures will set you up for success. Variety is the spice of life and menus that are dynamic and well rounded will please more people, ensuring they find something that they like.
Use your Theme. Create a menu that fits your overall vision and guests will notice. Carefully thought-out details, that fit the overall feeling and theme of the event will be impressive and not give guests the chance to dislike the food. Think about the last wedding you went to… During the cocktail hour the bride and groom choose to pass ethnic bites from their romantic trip to Russia. Scary at first, but as they say, when in Rome… Your guests will do the same and commend your attention to detail.
Trust your Caterer. A good Caterer will have lots of innovative ideas and ways for you twist classic presentations or introduce new options for your guests. Their reputation depends on feeding the masses and doing it well. If a caterer is worth his or her weight in salt, all their food will be amazing, created with the freshest of ingredients and balance of favors. A guest’s reaction to their food at an event can make or break companies, creating signature favorites, loyal followers and catering empires. Chefs know this and will do everything they can to guide you down a path that will allow your guests new and different options as well show off their best talents. The good ones have staying power and those “chefs” serving rubber chicken will put themselves out of business. Trust me when I tell you to trust them.
Why put in all the extra effort? Food is another dimension in which to engage your guests, creating an experience that they will remember and share with others. Your events will be better attended, guests will have more fun and get more out of the event and people will be talking about you and your organization. And isn’t that what we all want? Trust me… Yes!
Next in our ongoing Expert Event Series… Raising Funds: Creative tips that will make your next fundraiser a smashing success!