Catering Your Next Conference

Planning a conference isn’t easy. There’s a lot to think about between choosing the venue, mapping out each day’s schedule, and ensuring everything runs smoothly. Conferences usually aren’t short ordeals, either. This means it’s essential to provide food that’s not only delicious, but that will also keep attendees full, happy, and focused—all while seamlessly integrating with the logistics of your event. Many event planners will turn toward traditional catering services, but it isn’t the only option for event catering.

Here at FTALA, we know a thing or two about how to pull off events big and small, and we’re here to help you plan the food for your next conference. This article will cover everything from budget, to menu ideas, to the various catering options available.

Read on to learn everything you need to know about catering a conference:

Things to Consider When Catering a Conference

As with any event, there are a lot of moving parts involved in planning a conference. However, compared to a dinner party or birthday celebration, the practical aspects of feeding conference attendees are much more critical to consider. You want to strike a balance between finding food that’s tasty and fun, but that also promotes productivity and of course, attendance!

Generally speaking, it’s best to nail down the venue before moving on to planning the food since the layout, policies, and size of event space will play a major role in determining your options. Once you’ve selected your venue, it’s helpful to ask yourself the following questions:

  • How many people are expected to attend the conference?
  • How long will the conference last?
  • How formal is the event?
  • Will a meal be integrated into the agenda (for example, will there be a presentation during breakfast, or will you host a ‘lunch-and-learn’ style seminar)?

If you’re hosting an all-day conference where multiple meals are needed, you’ll need to decide if you’re going to provide them all, or if you’d rather break for lunch and have attendees handle their own midday meal. You should keep in mind that while having people leave the premises for lunch is less expensive, it also means that some people inevitably won’t return to the conference site. Planning the pricing of your catering should take all of the logistical aspects of your event into consideration. From appetizers served in between events to prevent hunger fatigue to bartenders that might encourage people to stick around for just a little longer, there are a multitude of catering experiences that can shape your conference for the better.

Food Truck Catering vs. Traditional Catering

Traditional catering options for conferences include things like boxed lunches, buffets, and even sit-down meals. Traditional catering works well in some cases, but there are pros and cons to going with the standard route. The same rings true for hiring a food truck in LA. Take a look at the benefits and drawbacks of food truck catering vs. traditional catering.

Food Truck Catering Pros

  • No set up required
  • Less staff are needed
  • Equipment is self-contained
  • More unique catering menu options
  • Fresh, made-to-order food
  • Creates a fun, modern atmosphere
  • Less expensive

 Food Truck Catering Cons

  • Not all conference centers can accommodate food trucks
  • Often limited to outdoor locations
  • Less formal

Traditional Catering Pros

  • Traditional options are sometimes provided at conference venues
  • Sit down meals create a more formal atmosphere when appropriate

Traditional Catering Cons 

  • More logistical hurdles regarding set up, equipment, and clean up
  • Less creative
  • More expensive
  • Typically not made to order

How Much Does Catering a Conference Cost?

Since conferences can have hundreds of attendees, it’s crucial to think about how much you’re willing and able to spend on catering. Food truck catering costs are almost always cheaper than traditional options, and you’ll usually get more bang for your buck in terms of creating a good atmosphere and providing people with creative options.

Food truck catering ranges from about $15-$35 per person, depending on the type of cuisine, location, time, and substantial nature of the meal you’re providing. On the other hand, traditional catering options can sometimes cost as much as $100 per person.

Want to get an estimate on your food truck catering costs? Check out our simple catering calculator!

Conference Catering Ideas

One of the best things about hiring a food truck to cater your conference is that you won’t be limited to boring fare. No one’s going to remember a run-of-the-mill, pre-made sandwich, but they will remember ordering a delicious, freshly made creation from an LA food truck.

As you plan your menu, it’s important to keep people’s energy levels in mind, which is why offering breakfast or brunch can be a great way to start the day with a bang. Similarly, if you’re worried about attendees hitting a slump, you can consider hiring a food truck that serves coffee to provide people with their caffeine fix.

If you want to go above and beyond just serving square meals, consider offering other fun pick-me-up treats like ice cream, donuts, or other sweets. Just because conferences are for adults, doesn’t mean they won’t appreciate a fun dessert!

Food Trucks Can Make Your Conference a Success

The food you choose for your conference matters more than you think. Providing delicious, high-quality options will make people genuinely glad they attended the event, encourage them to come to similar events in the future, facilitate productivity, and enhance the audience’s overall attention span.

 Since food trucks help foster a social environment, they’ll help your guests network, too. No matter what type of conference you’re planning, you want your guests to get the most out of the big day. Hiring one of FTALA’s trusted partners will make your life easier and your guests’ experience more memorable—talk about a win-win!

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