• When breaks overlap with keynotes or sessions in progress, avoid clanking silverware and plates or noisy food wrappers.
• Custom treats -- such as ice cream waffles or panini-grilled s'mores -- take a bit of time to prepare. Avoid long lines by having some treats made up in advance, and be sure to have enough servers and stations.
Great breaks are not just about fun themes and tasty fare. Be sure to consider the smaller details to ensure success. For example: Have you matched the tableware to the theme? Can the food be consumed in an easy and tidy fashion? Did you include options for attendees with special diet needs?
are a bit like fashion: The newest trends -- smoothie bars, coffee carts and even food trucks -- become so popular that, within a year or so, they end up being ubiquitous and overdone. The challenge for planners is to find a unique idea for a break that is fun, nourishing, energizing and -- perhaps most importantly -- conducive to networking. Breaks should be engaging enough to keep people in the break area and interacting with each other, rather than an opportunity to grab a snack and head off to a quiet corner to answer e-mails.
Following is an inspiring array of new concepts that meet those objectives.RAID THE FRIDGE
Make leftovers the fun and unexpected theme for an afternoon or evening break. Attendees select leftover-type foods -- cold chicken wings, sesame noodles and cold pizza slices -- from refrigerators or coolers placed around the room. Use takeout containers and mini pizza boxes instead of dishes, and set a few comfy couches around the break area, so attendees will feel at home and relaxed after they raid the fridge.CANDY SUSHI
For this unique and interactive break, attendees choose their own "sushi" ingredients from an assortment of candy. For example, Red Hots can serve as salmon roe, sour ribbon candy becomes unagi (eel), Rice Krispies treats are "rice" and fruit rolls fill in for seaweed. Let attendees pick their ingredients, while servers -- donned in traditional sushi-chef gear -- create colorful, sweet pieces.
Elevate humble French fries by adding a European flair. Set out trays of Belgian-style fries served in paper cones, and a selection of dipping sauces such as herbed mayonnaise, hot sauce and ketchup. To add a sweet snack option, have the chef make shortbread "fries" -- thin strips of crisp butter cookies -- that delegates can dip in warm almond butter, chocolate and Nutella sauces.
If budget allows, give the space a cosmopolitan European setting with café tables and street lamps (available from prop rental firms). INDOOR S'MORES
Bring the concept of s'mores indoors with giant cookies, chocolate chunks and marshmallows that attendees assemble and servers warm up on panini grills. CHILL OUT
If you've done the smoothie break one too many times, frozen fruit-and-yogurt pops can be a refreshing alternative. Or, for a morning break with a chill theme, offer made-to-order waffles alongside a toppings bar complete with ice cream (or frozen yogurt) and granola, fresh berries, nuts and even sprinkles. Louise M. Felsher, CMP, CMM, is an event producer and writer who specializes in strategic global event marketing. She is based in Pacifica, Calif.