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How to get the most out of your menu tasting

A menu tasting is integral to the event process and should be approached as a partnership between you and the venue. Communication is crucial. Ensure you share your expectations of the event with your event coordinator in advance. The event should be elevated by the food. Guests will remember the catering, so make sure the menu enhances their experience.

Together with CH&CO, our catering partners at Church House Westminster, we deliver more than 800 events a year and for this reason our clients can count on experience and industry knowledge to ensure event menus with a wow-factor.

  1. IS THERE A CHARGE FOR THE TASTING? A menu tasting really is an extension of the venue’s catering prowess. If you are confirming the event with the venue, there should be no charge for a menu tasting. We have included menu tastings as standard with our Christmas party packages for example, which helps both us and the event organiser to plan every detail of the event together.
  2. SELECTING MENU CHOICES. When choosing your menu consider the seasonality of the menu. Ask about how produce is sourced, enquire about sustainability and what kind of dishes will have the biggest impact for your event.
  3. CONSIDER YOUR EVENT ATTENDEES. Large events require a different approach to smaller gatherings. Check to see how dishes are assembled and enquire about serving schedules to make sure that the logistics of your awards dinner go like clockwork. Find out details of your guests’ dietary requirements so that these can be discussed at the tasting. Check waiting staff ratios and seating arrangements. We usually allocate 1 waiting staff member per 10 guests for a dinner or 1 per 15 for a reception. In addition to the waiting staff, our supervisors and managers will also provide front of house support and direction
  4. FOOD & WINE. Use your tasting notes to score the quality and the presentation of the dishes. Consider portion sizes and scrutinise the taste. Remember the golf analogy: keep the ball in the middle of the fairway. Put your personal tastes aside and consider the group of attendees. Don’t forget to bring a camera along to take pictures. Now is also the time to consider wine pairings but provide an indication of your budget before the tasting so that comparative wine choices can be presented.  
  5. GO A STEP FURTHER. Utilise the tasting to discuss your event requirements and presentation. Often with a dish, there’s a realisation that it might look more striking on a different colour or shape of plate. Investigate options for table linen, silverware, china and glassware. This discussion will inevitably lead on to event theming and décor, so if you wanted to include these details during the tasting, give plenty of notice to your coordinator so they can be ready with viable solutions. We usually have our AV Manager join the tasting at this stage to elaborate on theming and lighting ideas.
  6. TAKE YOUR TIME. Allow for plenty of time. We suggest 2.5 hours for a three-course menu tasting so it is not rushed and to give you an opportunity to meet the Chef after the tasting. Give honest feedback during the menu tasting and don’t be shy. Challenge the Chef to incorporate bespoke touches. At a recent event, our Chef, created unique macaroons for a dinner incorporating the company’s corporate colours.

Following the menu tasting, notes are collated and summarised by the Catering Manager who will take the necessary action(s) to update your menu and share this with you for final approval.

To conclude, use the tasting as an extension of the event planning process. The tasting can often spark new and creative ideas for your event, making it time well spent. 

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