Corporate event planning can be extremely stressful logistically, especially when it comes to meal planning for the event. Trying to find food that is acceptable to everyone without being overly 'bland' or 'corporate' can feel impossible. And, that's not even taking into account the myriad of dietary restrictions that exist. But, fear not--we have gathered 50+ meal ideas to help you plan meals for your next corporate event or retreat that are not boring.
Before we get started on the actual meal ideas lets cover some of the meal types that you can choose. For years the standard for corporate events was either buffet or plated. But those days are a thing of the past. The current corporate event planner has a plethora of choices on how to bring food to their guests.
- Food Trucks: One great option that has seen a recent rise in popularity is food trucks. Bringing in one, or more, food trucks to provide food can add a fun element to dining, and give more options to diners than a classic plated meal might provide.
- Boxed Meals: Another great option is boxed meals from a local restaurant. These boxed meals could come from a national chain or even from a local restaurant to add a little local flair.
- Stationed Meals: What's better than options? Bringing in a catering company that will set up food stations for appetizers, meats, sides and more can help your attendees pick and choose what's within their diet.
- Snack bar: Worried about mid-session, or mid-day hunger? Set-up a snack-bar with trail mixes, popcorns, or other snacks that is accessible all day to curb the hunger.
Regardless of how you choose to serve the meal, the food itself should be a central focus. Good food can elevate your corporate event, and keep attendees in awe of the planning that went into it. Lets look at some exciting meal ideas for your guests. We have broken them down into a few smaller lists: breakfast, lunch, dinner, and then alternative options.
While breakfast is considered by many to be the most important meal of the day, it can be sometimes be left as an afterthought with just some bland muffins and tired looking fruit. Don't let this happen at your event by incorporating some of the following meal ideas.
- Yogurt and granola cups - Don't opt for cheap store granola and yogurt, instead use a freshly made granola and high-quality yogurt. Add fresh berries if in season.
- Breakfast bagels - Fresh bagels with eggs and another protein make for a great breakfast. They can also be done up so many ways! Lox, cream cheese, avocado, jams?
- Croissants - Can be served either as premade sandwiches or split with options to add eggs, protein, cheese and more.
- Breakfast wraps or burritos - The possibilities are almost endless here, elevate this by allowing attendees to build-their-own from select ingredients.
- Fruit Skewers - Fresh fruit on skewers is a healthy breakfast that is easy to eat and looks great.
- Breakfast tarts - Miniature scrambled egg tarts or quiches make an easy-to-handle, great tasting breakfast.
- Breakfast sandwiches - An English muffin makes a great palette for all sorts of easy to consume sandwiches.
- Breakfast tacos - Instead of wraps use soft corn tortillas for breakfast tacos and an exciting change of pace.
- Muffins - Muffins don't have to be bland and boring, find a local bakery and get freshly made muffins of all types.
- Donuts - While donuts aren't the healthiest starter in the morning, people still love them, just look for some gourmet donut shops that have interesting topping options.
- Cereal bar- Cereals make a great breakfast that can appeal to many different people. Just get a good mix of healthy and fun, extra points if you create an aesthetically pleasing cereal DIY bar.
- Pancakes - A pancake bar can be a real crowd pleaser, especially with unique mix-ins such as sweetened ricotta cheese and interesting toppings like a fresh blueberry compote.
- Waffles - Same as pancakes, just offer more than syrup, whipped cream and strawberries are always great options.
- Crepes - Freshly made crepes with lots of filling options can make for an elegant breakfast that breaks away from norm.
- Omelets - Omelets are a very versatile option for breakfast with tons of mix-in, and topping choices.
- Chilaquiles - This Mexican dish makes a great, and unique, spicy breakfast.
- Danishes and Pastries - Get them from a local bakery, your guests will thank you.
- Scones - Fresh scones with fresh jams are out of this world, opt for a local option for these as well.
A good lunch can make or break a long day at an event or retreat.
- Asian Rolls or Bao Buns - Asian rolls can be filled with a mix of proteins, grains, and veggies. You can choose unique options like pulled pork and cole slaw, or go simple with grilled chicken.
- Burritos - Like Asian rolls, burritos can be filled with anything, not just latin inspired foods.
- Pasta - Both cold and warm pasta make a great lunch option.
- Salad - Salads are a classic lunch. Try to have a few different options, and elevate your salads with quality ingredients and toppings.
- Burgers - A gourmet burger bar can be a fun experience offer unique toppings, like over easy eggs, avocado, or a mix of interesting cheeses. Offer chicken, turkey and veggie options to satisfy all attendees tastebuds.
- Pies - Pies filled with savory meats and veggies make for a hearty lunch.
- Sandwiches - Try unique options like a Cuban or croque monsieur.
- Wraps - Wraps can make for a healthy way to serve classics like chicken salad, egg salad, or ceasar.
- Pizza - Who doesn't love pizza? Point made.
- Fried Rice - A chef's station with fried rice can be a lot of fun for attendees to build-their-own lunch.
- Noodles - Noodle bowls are a hot commodity right now. Be it pho, ramen or other authetic dishes.
- Tacos - Much like burritos, anything can go in a taco, from fried fish to Korean BBQ.
- Soup - Make sure to have more than one option, and try to go local for your selection. Pairs great with wraps or sandwiches!
- Bowls - A bowl with a grain (or veggie), protein, and sauce can make a great health-conscious lunch.
- BBQ - BBQ isn't just for dinner, it can make for a hearty lunch for a long day of content sessions
- Quesadillas - Quesadillas can be filled with anything from veggies to foie gras.
This meal should be your show stopper.
- Steak - Steak is always a classic. Try to think of different ways to serve; maybe Argentinian with Chimichurri.
- Fish & Seafood - Fish can be a great light option, just make sure it's fresh and not dry.
- Chicken - Think outside the 'sad grilled chicken breast' to something interesting like gourmet fried chicken and waffles or 'beer-can' chicken.
- BBQ - Brisket, ribs, sausages, how can you go wrong?
- Italian - Italian has a wealth to offer from pasta like gnocchi to Osso Bucco, serve classic favorites for a crowd-pleasing dinner option.
- Mediterranean - Mediterranean menus can be a great healthy option with lots of veggies and lean proteins.
- Chinese - Family-style Chinese can make for a much more social dining experience.
- Japanese - Teppan can be fun and interactive for everyone involved.
- Korean - Korean food has a unique flair that is delicious and unique.
- Mexican - You can go from fish tacos to carne asada, to ceviche and anywhere in between. Your attendees will love it.
- French - Classic French cuisine has a lot to offer, especially if you're planning a more elegant event experience.
- Sliders - A mix of sliders, BBQ Pork, Korean BBQ, Fried Chicken, Burgers, and more along with fries can make for a delicious yet casual dinner.
- Pizza - Pizza isn't just for lunch, it's a dinner classic that can be elevated with unique topping combinations, such as BBQ Pork and Mandarin Oranges.
For a large event, there will always be those with dietary restrictions. Here are some ideas for different restrictions.
- Vegetarian - Salads always seem like the choice here but vegetarians will be happy if you supply protein options like veggie burgers or tofu.
- Vegan - Make sure there are options that are not only vegetarian but vegan also (no animal products at all), this means dairy and egg free.
- Gluten - Many people are sensitive to, or allergic to, gluten. It's important to offer options for them that aren't just a hamburger in a lettuce wrap. Gluten-free buns or tortillas are a must.
- Food allergies - There is a myriad of food allergies out there such as dairy, soy, tree nuts, peanuts, shellfish, citrus and more. While it's almost impossible to avoid every allergen you should have meals that avoid the main allergens, and a staff that is knowledgeable about the ingredients in each item.
- Low carb - Many people are on low carb diets for health reasons. Again make sure that there are options beyond just removing the carbs from a meal and replacing them with veggies.
- General notes - The secret here is to always have options. Try to come up with a menu for each meal that has options for a variety of people. That way everyone will be happy.
There you have it! More than 50 ideas and tips to help you plan the meals for your next corporate event or retreat. Hopefully, this will help relieve some of the stress from your next event. Cheers!