by Art Pfenning | February 01, 2004

Who decides what attendees will eat? A majority of planners (62 percent) personally approve the final event menu, according to an online survey of 442 meetings professionals conducted in December by M&C and NTM Research. To create the menu, 60 percent of respondents modify the catering options provided by the venue.
   For banquets, 64 percent of respondents say plated service, where each person is given a plate that has been prepared in the kitchen, works best. Another 33 percent prefer buffet-style meals, either served or self-service. 
   Interestingly, although the majority of planners (78 percent) say they sometimes theme their F&B events, for every planner who always themes the event (8 percent) there are nearly another two (14 percent) who never do.
   For receptions, buffet-style is preferred by 29 percent of those polled, while 18 percent favor passed hors d’oeuvres. More than half (53 percent) favor a combination of the two.  
   The survey showed a wide range for when planners finalize banquet event orders. One-third finish them up a week before the event, and nearly as many (32 percent) do so two weeks out. Another 25 percent submit their final BEOs a full month out.
   Because one meal never pleases all, 74 percent of planners arrange for vegetarian dishes to be available. Among other dietary options offered: kosher meals (31 percent); low-fat (23 percent); diabetic (20 percent); low-carbohydrate (19 percent); and low-salt (12 percent). Surprisingly, 18 percent of respondents report they don’t provide any alternatives for attendees with special dietary needs.