- Fast casual
This option offers a slightly higher quality of food, service, and atmosphere than a fast food restaurant; for example, Outback and Applebee's.
- Gourmet comfort food
Comfort food gets done creatively: macaroni and cheese with different kinds of pastas and cheeses, build-your-own burgers or sliders, sandwiches of all kinds, meatloaf and mashed potatoes, s'mores (always a big hit).
- Sauce reductions and oils
They result in intense flavors and colors.
Having a variety of teas for breaks and receptions is well-received.
- Pacific Rim
A blend of Asian and West Coast cuisines, it's an inexpensive type of cooking, and serving it creates variety.
- Nuevo Latino
It's not a Mexican buffet, it's things such as chicken with spices that give it a Latin flare. Desserts are much lighter.
- Interactive stations
These are a lot of fun for receptions, and they address the personal tastes of individuals, which is extremely important in creating a great meeting. For example, have a soup station with spices and other flavors that can be added, or a Mediterranean station — pasta with an assortment of added choices (shrimp, scallions, chicken, beef, etc.).
- Local flavor
Impart something special from the area on buffets, such as gumbo in New Orleans, barbecue glazes in Tennessee, conch chowder in Florida. You might even save money, because the property uses local sources.
- Taking advantage of your surroundings
Creativity is the key: if you're in California, use surfboards for buffet serving tables.
Unusual and gourmet chocolate: fennel and star anise, Cointreau, ginger and wasabi, sweet Hungarian pepper, praline, macadamia and coconut, pink and black peppercorn, coconut and curry. These can be put on coffee breaks — you don't need many.
- More chocolate (chocolate fountains)
Put out fresh fruit and marshmallows, and attendees go crazy; they love it. And it's not expensive to do white chocolate next to dark chocolate.
- Still more chocolate (hot cocoa)
It makes for a fun afternoon break.
- Healthy, but with choices
Sixty-one percent of American adults are overweight. This means that more people want healthy selections. Here are some fun ideas:
Set up stations and offer an egg and tomato scramble in a low-carb pita, vegetable frittata bites, or an egg-beater asparagus omelet with goat cheese served with tomato juice.
Sandwiches with low-carb breads and spreads, ginger chicken with snow peas and red peppers, smoked-chicken salad with raspberry balsamic vinaigrette.
Hummus with whole-grain pita, crudite, apples with peanut butter, nuts, olives, low-fat cheeses.
Asian chicken lettuce wraps, spice-rubbed (not fried) chicken fingers, beef kebabs with peanut dipping sauce, mushroom caps with melted goat cheese.
This was adapted from a past RCMA tutorial led by Kirk Howard.