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Conference Catering | How to Plan Your Event Catering

Attention to detail.
"Rubber chicken circuit" is a phrase commonly used to describe events such as the one you are aiming to host. This is because most business delegates and politicians attend several events during a year. To avoid falling into this category, assess the guest profile. To plan the catering of your event, you will need to assess the following:
  • Guest Profile
  • Guest Preferences
  • Provide Menu Choices
  • Seasonal and Fresh Items
  • Menu that Fits the Event Schedule
  • Comfortable Room Setup
  • Anticipate Special Needs
  • Ethnic or Regional Menus
  • Final Presentation

The Guest Profile

  • professional level of your guest
  • frequency your guest attends similar events
  • location where guests reside
  • ethnic background of your guests

Guest Eating Preferences

By understanding your guest profile you can consider what menu options to offer. For example:
  • Attendees concerned about health may prefer more seafood and vegetables options
  • Older groups of attendees may prefer a milder menu
  • Younger or middle-aged attendees may prefer spicier, more adventurous meals
With this in mind, you can consider...

Providing Menu Choices

By offering several choices, you can be assured that all guests will be pleased with what's available.
General guidelines are:
  • at least two probably three choices of entrees
  • three or more salad dressing options
  • serve all condiments on the side
  • two dessert options: healthy and very indulgent

The Menu must fit the Event Schedule

The pace of the event will determine the complexity and cost of the menu.
Be guided by the following:
  • Served, plated meals generally take up to 1.5 hours
  • Buffets can be finished in just under an hour
  • Cocktail receptions need at least an hour before sitting down to dinner
  • Working breakfasts and lunch menu items that need to hold up for longer periods of time than others

Incorporate Seasonal and Fresh Items

When selecting the menu, the time of year should play a large factor in determining food and beverage. Take into consideration which items are in season for spring or winter menus.

Another important factor is to consider the region or location of the event and popular food items from the area. Incorporate fresh seafood or regionally grown produce.

Special Dietary Requirements

As an event planner you need to find out from your guests what special needs they have to be taken into account by the catering manager:
  • Food allergies
  • Religious requirements
  • Dietary restrictions

Room Setup

Choose the appropriate room layout that supports your event objectives.
Tables will be filled with used dishes and glassware, in addition to binders, notepads and pens.
Hence importance of choosing the best room setup to allow space for people to move about.
  • Boardroom setup should be for a maximum of 15 guests.
  • U-shape and open rectangle table layout to promote discussion
  • Classroom style is great for a presentation
  • Banquet style for presentations and product launches promotes small group discussions
  • Allow for 8 in a 10 seatings at a banquet table

Design Regional or Ethnic Menus

Region-specific or national dishes should complement the theme of your event.
Common ethnic menus are:
New Afro-Cuisine
Indian
Mexican
Italian
Middle Eastern
Chinese
Japanese
French
German
Greek

Final Food and Beverage Presentation

Visually colorful and fragrant. Sell the sizzle - not the steak. This means linens and decorations that represent the theme of the meal. Fruit as decoration and ethnic serving utensils appropriate to the food being served.

Planning will also help with how to determine your budget.
See also: Budgeting for the Event
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