Association Insights


Put your money where your mouth is and dig into a healthier menu at your next event

Oct 11 2016

By: Katerina Selezen

Your content may be king, but unless you have the fuel to cook up an appetite for engagement, your next event may not bring home the bacon. With food and beverage sizzling in the top three main factors of the event budget cycle, you can’t afford to fizzle with generic menu options, having your attendees dozing off.

While organizations are propelled by innovation, budgets are shrinking, and commodity prices are reaching a boiling point. Are you allotting proper planning for food and beverage, to ensure that your menu reflects the originality and sparkle of your next event, without breaking the bank?

Consider some creative but practical ways to peak attendee attention, make conscious use of resources, and cater to your mission, goals and budget.

You are what you eat

Food is fuel. Seems like an obvious fact, right? Yet after grabbing that gluten-free, preservative-free salad for lunch, we continue to load our attendees up with cookies and muffins. With an intense program compressed into an eight-hour flash, delegates need real sustenance – NOT processed sugars and refined carbs – to satisfy the brain’s nutritional demands and focus. The crucial messages at your conference may be getting lost in the mounds of candy bars, unless your team is alert and participating.

Less is more

With the industry’s habit to over-order and overspend, organizations end up tossing a chunk of their event budgets out with the trash. Meeting planners may not see the budget efficiencies underneath those piles of food waste, causing them to settle for traditional options and forego preferred menu items.   

“Event organizers should take a closer look at budgets to see what they’re getting for what they’re spending,” says Trevor Lui, Director of Operations and Sustainability at The International Centre. “They can save money where they’re usually throwing away 15 to 20 per cent of what they buy. They might want to offer fair trade coffee, but avoid that option because it costs 15 per cent more. Why not buy and waste less, using the money saved to order fair trade instead of conventional coffee?” 

Give a little – get a little

We are no strangers to inflation. Every year, commodity prices fluctuate. We accept it on our trips down the grocery aisles. We even accepted it this year as we had to pinch ourselves standing in the cauliflower section. When it comes to planning food and beverage, however, event professionals often overlook growing product and service expenses. Let’s not cry over spilt milk, but rather put time and effort into strategizing budgets that accommodate rising costs.


You don’t need to create groundbreaking, condensation-converting technologies to join the fight for accessible drinking water. The culture shift lies in the very bottles, pitchers and coolers at your events. With so much water being discarded at meetings, conversation on this topic is more pressing than ever. Eliminating bottled water, avoiding excessive jugs on tables, and setting up water stations offers a viable solution and makes a significant difference in the future.    

One of the only four event venues in Canada to have Level 1 ASTM/APEX certification, The International Centre provides innovative solutions to cook up sustainable events, and food and beverage is a key ingredient. Having re-engineered their food program, the event venue now boasts upwards of 50% of healthier content, partnering with local growers to offer seasonal fruits and vegetables. With The International Centre’s guidance, you will not only be fuelling your attendees, but also reducing excess ordering and minimizing food waste.

Redefine your menu to redefine your meetings, and transform your associates’ experiences. To team up with The International Centre and ensure that the food and beverage at your next event is (not) a piece of cake, visit, or contact Trevor Lui at