Conference News March 2019 - Page 31

31 Catering Menu matters Event catering is top of the menu, so how is the industry adapting to changing needs? etting the food right at events has always been a key consideration, but in recent years the expectations have increased. Gone are the days of the tiny solid croissants and egg mayo sandwiches. Today, the discerning delegate wants lamb shank in a lemon jus, raspberry compote with their Camembert, and the vegan-friendly option of cucumber and quinoa salad should they so desire. What venues and caterers serve is heavily under the spotlight, so how do they cater for the variety of tastes and dietary requirements to ensure delegates are satisfied? Dean Hoddle Head chef, Silverstone Circuits For years chefs have worked on a 5-10% uptake on alternative dishes and these were always created as a secondary thought, or as a tick boxing exercise. I openly admit that I was one of these chefs who felt that catering for vegetarian or vegan diets was a distraction to the main menu. Today, it couldn’t be further from reality. Plant-based diets are here to stay, and chefs need to adjust menus to become more vegan-friendly and stop regarding these dishes as ‘special menu’ options. At Silverstone, prestigious, large-scale events such as the Formula 1 British Grand Prix mean that the kitchen must produce a menu which is equal in quality, thought, and quantity for all our guests – no matter what diet they may have. It’s simply not good enough to offer a fruit salad for vegans when the ticket price is so high. banqueting menu, which spans our portfolio of country mansion houses and event destinations; and at De Vere Wokefield Estate, we are creating a separate vegan menu for guests. Gabrielle Gant Jon-Paul Reed Group food & beverage director, De Vere We are finding that guests are increasingly expecting healthier working lunches throughout the year, no matter what their dietary requirements. To achieve this, De Vere’s Group Nutritionist, Wendy Martinson OBE, has created nutritionally balanced menus as part of the innovative Smart Space concept, designed for meetings and event bookings. The menus offer hearty, nutritionally balanced dishes, including vegan, vegetarian and free-from options. Just 5 years ago, we didn’t pro-actively cater for vegans, unless we had a specific request. However, now approximately 10% of De Vere food sales are vegan, with the actual percentage differing across the portfolio. We already have plans to expand our vegan offering at De Vere on the back of the increasing popularity of and demand for vegan dishes. We will be including vegan dishes as part of our central Community marketing manager, Linnworks As an event organiser one of the biggest challenges is getting catering right. You can plan a comprehensive, engaging agenda, only to have it undermined by a delegate’s lasting impression of a bad lunch. There are a few areas that set the good caterers apart. The days of the ‘beige-buffet’ are over. Keeping delegates high in energy through the afternoon hours is a challenge without adding a heavy lunch into the mix. Gluten-free, vegan and other dietary options should never be an afterthought. As the statistics continue to rise, high-street chain restaurants continue to build these options into menus as standard. Finally, caterers should be looking to work with organisers as early into the planning process as possible. It’s shocking the number of in-house caterers that don’t want to know what you’re looking for until a month before the event. In-house caterers should be looking to operate in the same creative way that independents do, looking at creative ways to bring catering in as an extension of your event design concept.