If you are holding your retreat at a hotel or resort, your sales director will put you in contact with their catering manager to plan the meals. Usually, these facilities will have established menus that have been tried and tested with hundreds of groups before yours. Caterers also prepare standard menus from which you can choose. Their advice can save you a lot of time and energy.
Depending on the size of your group, it may not be possible to share the menus and allow people to choose their favorites. If you must make these decisions without input, follow these guidelines.
Stick with the old standards
There are some “families” of cuisine that are sure to please most attendees. Mexican food, Italian food, and good old meat and potatoes appeal to most people. It’s also easy to make these choices more upscale with simple modifications in the preparation .
Keep it simple
Most people prefer the basics like steak, chicken, rice, potatoes and steamed vegetables to nut-crusted fish, heavy sauces or intricately plated masterpieces that look like hats. Designer sandwiches and wraps are relatively inexpensive, healthy and satisfying.
Remember that the environment is just as important as the food. If you’ve ever had a PBJ in the park, you know that half the gastronomical experience is in your eyes and ears. The food should taste good, but you also need to ensure a great setting—in fact sometimes a great setting can compensate for average tasting meals.
With 60% of Americans overweight or obese, it only makes sense to model healthier eating habits when possible. Offering salads instead of creamy soups, fruit instead of “death by chocolate” cake and steamed vegetables are good choices. If your group is involved in training or meetings during the corporate retreat, you can keep them alert and lively (rather than tired and sluggish) through healthier menu choices. Keep this in mind when you’re planning snacks too—chocolate cookies are nice, but apples are better at keeping energy levels up.
Finally, check with the guests that are coming so see if there are any diet restrictions (kosher, vegans or food allergies for example) or special requests you need to know about before the event.
Menu planning on a budget isn’t impossible. Many popular chain restaurants will cater meals and they have the benefit of being cost effective and pleasing to the masses.