by Sarah J.F. Braley | June 01, 2007

chartRubber-chicken jokes aside, the growth of the celebrity chef culture has affected banquet menus in a positive way. In an online survey conducted in May to learn how meeting planners are handling meal functions, 61 percent of the 240 respondents said menu options have improved in recent years, while 30 percent said the choices still are too boring and predictable. Seventeen percent said some venues have gone too far, creating dishes that just don’t work for large groups.

Planners don’t always get a preview of how good the food will be. Just 20 percent of the sample did a tasting for their most recent banquet, while the other 80 percent said they didn’t request a tasting. In general, 15 percent of respondents always hold a tasting, 41 percent do so sometimes and 44 percent never do. Following the taste test, 63 percent of the planners surveyed always or sometimes modify their menu choices as a result.

chartMore often than not, attendees get two entree options, according to 49 percent of the sample. About a quarter (26 percent) usually offer three dishes, and another 24 percent offer just one. One percent of the respondents generously provide four entree options.

Guests generally prefer beef dishes, according to 51 percent of those surveyed, while 40 percent said their groups like chicken better, 8 percent said their attendees favor fish and 1 percent said vegetarian dishes are the most popular.

When it comes to making the final decisions for banquet night, most planners (57 percent) approve the final menu themselves. Another 33 percent said it’s a collaborative decision, while 10 percent of the meeting planners surveyed said the boss or client has the final word.