Decide on what type of catering you need. Most conferences will provide tea, coffee, water and biscuits during refreshment breaks. Depending on the length of your conference (i.e., half day vs. full day), you might also want to consider serving lunch. If you do, decide if packed meals or a buffet-style catering would be more suitable for your conference. Take into account the budget you have available to spend on catering (Chapter 4).
Get quotes. Once you have decided on the type of catering you need, contact caterers (eg, Taste Catering, Fresha, Fresh Ideas) for quotes based on an estimated attendee number. Don’t worry about the exact number of attendees at this point. You can always adjust the quantity based on the number of registrations you receive closer to the date of the conference. But check with your caterer what the latest date is to make these adjustments. Don’t forget to include catering for the speakers, any judges or sponsors and your team. For tea and coffee, you will need coffee percolators and water boilers. You might be able to hire them from your caterer or alternatively, you can approach an event hire company (eg, Total Event Hire, South West Event Hire) for a quote. You may need to buy certain items like milk, tea, coffee, etc. yourself. Before placing any orders, check back with your finance team that you are still within budget.
Dietary requirements & allergies. Make sure to cater for all dietary requirements and allergies. You can include a section about dietary requirements/allergies in the registration form to easily get this information (Chapter 6). Don’t forget to ask your speakers, any judges or sponsors and your team for their dietary requirements if they are not registered.
Don’t forget about the small things. Do you have an allocated space to serve the food and seating for your attendees to enjoy their food? Have you bought coffee and tea bags? Are milk, milk alternatives and sugar available? Do you have cups to serve tea and coffee in? Do you need cutlery and napkins for lunch? Your caterer or event hire can supply you with crockery and cutlery. Alternatively, you can buy them yourself and store them after the conference for next time. You could also ask attendees to bring a cup/mug for sustainability reasons, but make sure to have them also available on the day for people who don’t bring their own.