“The best conference meals offer balance,” says Nancy Monte-Frye, CMP, LES, director of catering/convention services, Hyatt Regency Long Beach, Long Beach, Calif. “And the best advice is to know your audience.

“Complex carbs, such as starch and pasta, spike your insulin levels, which brings you down, and then you have no energy,” she says. “Protein carries you through the day.”

Although “trendy” diets shouldn't enter into a planner's consideration, Monte-Frye does see trends in menu selection that reflect the popular diet of the day. And, indeed, some have scientific evidence to support them. “For instance, red meat went away for a while, but now it's back. We're seeing a lot of filet and fish combo requests. Salmon, too, is popular again.”

What to offer instead of danish and coffee at breakfast? “Serve bagels instead,” says Monte-Frye. “Hardly anyone orders a full breakfast anymore, but you can offer bagels at a buffet or continental breakfast with spreads, and a breakfast egg burrito, or a bagel with scrambled eggs and cheese. Protein in the morning will keep attendees alert longer, compared to a buffet heavy with carbohydrates.” For morning breaks, offer yogurt and fruit.

“At afternoon breaks, we're seeing more requests for mixed nuts, because they're seen as brain food. And cheese is popular at breaks, too.”