Despite the belt-tightening and cautious eyes on the numbers, events don't have to lose their "wow" factor. You can pull of great events with a tight budget; all it takes is the willingness to step outside the box and put some twists on the familiar that make for memorable events, especially when it comes to food.
Now is the time for the budget-conscious to think of value without sacrificing quality. Rethinking the culinary landscape of events is something we often discuss with our clients-the perfect menu doesn't have to mean a three-course meal. For example, many clients are opting for heavier, heartier hors d'oeuvres and cutting out courses from their seated dinners.
Typically these heartier options are also familiar flavors, which allows the guests to be comfortable with the food. At Blue Plate, our chefs are playing off this idea for spring with items such as a chicken roulade skewer with fava beans, wild mushrooms and herbs; or petit corned beef on rye toast with fried quail egg and potato.
With entrees, impressiveness doesn't have to be eliminated either. Rethink the food's creative focus from elaborate, inventive presentations to bold, intense flavors. Clients still want food to be innovative and exciting, however intricate presentations can take much more time and effort to prepare.
By concentrating on unique flavors and offering guests simple, yet refined presentations, money can be saved and expectations exceeded. Instead of using exotic fish such as Hawaiian opah, our chefs are concentrating on spring dishes such as Indianaraised baby lamb chops with Michigan morels and asparagus, which utilize local protein and vegetables served at their peak time.
Dessert is the place to really have fun and showcase the feel-good mood of your event. Everything we are currently seeing is about comfort and involvement. Try milkshake stations or warm brownie sundaes prepared in front of your guests. The key is to allow your attendees to have a social interaction while providing them with comfortable, savory options.
Events on a budget are not only about saving money, but also about allowing guests to feel comfortable and at ease. While the suggestions above serve as ideas for food, décor can definitely add to the familiar feel of an event. One of Blue Plate's décor partners, Kehoe Designs, suggests using collections as party centerpieces.
For one particular event, Kehoe used a client's collection of antique lighters in colorful vases as table centerpieces. Not only was it an unexpected focal point on the table, it was also a great conversation starter. For larger events, a collection may be a bit more challenging, so try using produce as your décor. Kehoe suggests oranges and greens for a fresh look that is inexpensive and a great complement to any food.
While we all wish the slowed-down economy wouldn't be the topic in the news and in conversations, planning a budget-conscious event doesn't have to be that daunting a task. Thinking outside of the box can turn your next event into the most memorable-just remember, it's about creating comfort for your guests that really matters.
MEAGHAN MADGES manages the day-to-day marketing operations at Blue Plate in addition to overseeing the marketing and public relations initiatives at Blue Plate's restaurants.
BLUE PLATE CATERING // 312.421.6666
KEHOE DESIGNS // 312.421.0030