Choosing catering for your corporate wine tastings and other events: top 10 tips

So you're considering a corporate event. You've established when you want your event to take place, who you'd like to invite and who will be your supplier. What now, about food? Choosing catering for your corporate wine tastings (or similar activities) can be fundamental to the event's success. It's not a precondition of course that for such events food is provided. An afternoon event at your offices for instance (or an early evening event) may mean that food is not necessary. If food is needed though, below are 10 top tips to ensure you get this element of your event right. 1. Think about the type of food service you would like Good venues will be able to provide you with a host of food service types. Canapés, bowl food, fork buffets, finger buffets and set menus will all often be options. If the event is to be hosted at your offices, good wine tasting/event management companies should be able to provide you with catering quotes ranging from light food to a full catering service. 2. Quality, quality, quality Menus may sound tempting, but remember good writing skills and a chef's ability are two different things. If you are choosing a venue and the food is an important factor, take a look at reviews on TripAdvisor and similar. 3. Quantity, quantity, quantity It's very important to budget for a sufficient amount of food for your event. In the case of canapés or bowl food service for instance, it can be tempting to trim the budget, but this is often dangerous for the obvious reasons. Talk to the venue manager and take their advice on what would be a substantial amount to budget for per head. 4. Clarity Do not allow providers to be vague in their provision of food. When no explanation is attached, "nibbles" for instance is something of a bête noir for us. Will cheap looking crisps on paper plates project the right image for your event? There is nothing wrong with providing an informal food service (in some cases we actually recommend it), but remember there is a fine line between informal and cheap. 5. Think about the message you want to convey The type of food service you choose will have an impact on the message you want to convey. Canapés and bowl food are popular as they are considered to be less formal than a set menu. 6. Don't forget the vegetarians All venues will be able to cater for vegetarians and those with special dietary requirements. When you are selecting from a canapé menu make sure you accommodate for vegetarians. It's good practice to do this even if you aren't sure whether vegetarians will be present on the day. Remember guest lists can and do change. 7. For larger events, consider asking for a sampling session For larger corporate events (in our experience 100 guest + events), some venues are happy to accommodate a tasting session of their menus in advance. Some venues will only do this after a formal booking. Where food is a particularly important part of the equation, and where you are not familiar with the venue's food offering, this can be a useful procedure. 8. Look for suitable food and wine/beverage matching advice Advice here should be free, useful and should either come from your event provider or the Sommelier at the venue at which you are hosting your event. 9. Remember the difference between set menus and A La Carte A La Carte implies that your guests can choose any dish they like from a menu, either at your event, or before it. A set menu is precisely that - each guest has the same dish in each course and this is predetermined in advance. For events and functions, set menus are used almost without exception. Some venues allow a choice of dishes within the set menu format (often up to 3) but again ask for this to be agreed in advance of the event day. Remember of course that if you go down this route you will be spending time collating people's dish choices for the day, something you may not want to do! 10. Finally, remember that you can pass it all over Companies like The Tasting Quarter can request menus on your behalf, make recommendations from canapé lists and provide you with all inclusive costing examples summarising their fees and those of the venues. Remember good companies are also likely to have tasted the food at the venues they're recommending to you. If you haven't got time for points 1 to 9, remember you can always pass it over (but check to make sure there is no cost for this service first).

Pip Martin is the Founder of The Tasting Quarter, a Corporate Wine Tasting & Specialist Events Company. After management positions in Harrod’s Foodhall, Pip became Corporate Events Manager at Richard Branson’s online wine merchant, Virgin Wines, where he hosted over 200 wine events in a little over 15 months for companies including BBC, Morgan Stanley, PricewaterhouseCoopers and JP Morgan. Since 2002, via The Tasting Quarter, Pip and his team have produced and hosted tastings in South Africa, Dubai, Morocco, Ireland, Holland, Belgium, France, Germany, Denmark, Finland and Switzerland for groups of 10 to 3000+. He has run virtual, hybrid and AI augmented tastings for companies including AVMI, Oracle, Adobe, Google and Cisco. He also counts all the Magic Circle law firms in the UK as repeat clients for in-person events. Pip’s media work has included wine presenting on Sky One’s Taste programme and BBC1’s Saturday Kitchen. Writing credits include wine articles for Condé Nast’s Gourmet Travel and Esquire.