CRUNCH TIME: FOOD AND CATERING

Good dining is reason alone to attend and event, and the industry is catering to diverse tastes, as palettes broaden

A spot of lunch?

Liz Young, head of events at Historic Royal Palaces says food is one of most significant factors when it comes to evoking memories, both through the flavour and the experience, so delivering memorable food and drink offerings is key to ensuring an event stands out in the mind of attendees long after it has taken place.

“We’ve seen a rise in the use of interactive dessert stations and lunch concepts and have used them ourselves at showcase events as a unique way to ensure a one-of-a-kind experience, enabling guests the freedom to get creative with their food while choosing to eat healthily or indulge in treats as they wish.”

“This modern style of catering works really well in the palace settings, providing a striking contrast to the traditional architecture and history that they exude and providing the perfect opportunity for delegates to interact and unwind in a relaxed setting, with the food experience at the core.”

Trend spotting

Feast-it, a sort of comparison and booking site for high quality street food was setup to cater for events up to 5,000 people. Its co-founder Digby Vollrath has his tastebuds focused on catering trends after travelling extensively.

“The vegan food trend is maturing, and veering away from being the ‘healthy option’ to being more about fun, with big greasy burgers lathered in sauce, like a double cheeseburger, deep fried, but with pulled jackfruit. It’s perfect for the ‘dirty fast food’ trend. Elsewhere, Japanese soul food, is big, with tempura chicken wings being eaten, veering away from sushi.”

“‘Nu-Thai’ is also taking off, with Smoking Goat in Shoreditch influencing the market But for the classics are still practical when say 250 people + need to be catered for.”

RHH weighs in

The Royal Horticultural Halls re-tendered its list and now includes Bubble, FoodByDish, Create, Food Show, The Recipe, Eden, Sands Catering with Kosher catering supplied by Ben Tenenblat and Food Story.

Rhiân Pressley, senior sales and marketing executive says: “We recently held a showcase where Food Story provided the most exquisite canapes served in miniature glass domes and individual gardens in urchin shells, it was a true gastronomic wonderland and had everyone buzzing. Food is such an important aspect of an event, it can take it to an incredible new level or it can break it. London is just buzzing with new ideas all the time, and you can taste it here.”

Drink time

Mobile Bar Hire’s director Rags Sandhu:

Are festivals and events sticking to single suppliers for beverages, or are drink offerings diversifying and why? The festival suppliers circuit is becoming more readily available for companies of various sizes to now get involved. With specialist Gin and Craft beer bars being more varied, it feels like organisers are keen to have multiple units at the same event. Gone are the days of one festival and one bar!

What requirements are organisers requesting for bars? With festival bar suppliers on the increase, event organisers are asking more for legal documentation and evidence of compliance which I feel they are 100% correct in asking for. Due to LED technology and great designers, the market seems to have gone away from the basic straight wooden brown bars (pub style) and now appear to be more ‘rustic’ or plain black/whites. Rather than the ‘back bars’ being used for display they are now middle bars which are simply used as a pouring station for draught beers and ciders etc.

Any key shifts? More venues are open for events of all sizes. Who would have ever though that a cathedral would be the chosen venue for an corporate function, well we found ourselves in Southwark Cathedral London where we installed one of our circular bars. The plus side for venues is that it could be additional income for very little work and the positives for the customers and company are obvious. 

DIETARY REQUIREMENTS

Mary Shelley-Smith, global operations director of Eat to the Beat: It is now a legal requirement to label to label the 14 main allergens and we’ve seen a real shift in awareness. All our staff are well trained in this area and we use pictures and numbers to denote them, which is vital when there are many nationalities and languages to take into consideration.

We’re well versed in how to prepare food for very specific taste and diets. Working all over the world with athletes and artists who are at the top of their field ensures that we’re ready to deal with literally everything and anything. We’ve cooked food for people who are committed to super strict diets to those who don’t like furry fruits!”

We’ve found in recent years that most events have a wide array of dietary requirements, so we offer vegan, gluten free, halal, nut free, high protein, low carb, low sugar etc. Menus are planned to be inclusive so there is always something that the main restrictions are able to eat rather than people feeling that they’re being singled out as having special requests. Obviously with things

like severe nut allergies we make the whole site nut free and have various strategies and procedures in place that our teams are trained in for dealing with specific requests.

Welfare

Catering requirements are often based on the demands of the task in hand. If you’re onsite with crew who’re working long hours, doing a physically demanding job, then they are going to want more hearty, comfort type food.

Whereas artists, who’re about to perform, will want lighter healthier options. It’s all about knowing and understanding who you’re preparing the food for.

When it comes to catering on tour or onsite, we very much see ourselves as providing a home from home on the road.

Our approach to service is holistic – it’s comforting to see the same warm and friendly smiling faces and know where to find the biscuits next to the coffee machine – rather than having to navigate a whole new set up every day.

We see ourselves as an extension to our clients’ teams rather than an addition.