10 Surprising—and Simple—Ideas for Jazzing Up Meeting Breakfasts and Lunches

By Jenny Berg April 24, 2013, 7:00 AM EDT

Grab-and-go options also included Mason jars filled with Italian pasta salad.

Photo: Natalie Jenks/Orange Photography

When it comes to creative catering, cocktail parties or lavish sit-down dinners typically steal the show. Often, breakfasts and lunches—especially during packed meetings with tight schedules—are meant to be quick rather than remarkable. But a recent Coupa Software conference at San Francisco's Westin St. Francis Hotel April 8 to 10 proved that lunch and breakfast service can be quick and efficient but still leave an impression on guests.

Roar Events managed the two-day conference and developed all the creative concepts. The team worked closely with the hotel's chefs to develop menus for the event. “For the breakfasts, we wanted to drive attendees to Inspire Hall, our trade show area,” said Caryl Lyons, managing partner of Roar. “We had 26 booths in the space, and with 500 attendees, there was no way we would be able to set up a buffet as well as tables and chairs. So instead, we encouraged guests to talk to the sponsors and brought breakfast to them.” Wearing trays around their necks—in a style of service one might spot at a ballpark—servers roamed the trade show floor and delivered smoothies, miniature yogurt parfaits, and more.

At lunchtime during day one, “we wanted to create instant conversation,” Lyons said. To prevent conference attendees from sitting with people they already knew, planners assigned industry topics to each table. Lunch was served family-style on lazy Susan platters, and dessert was served in Inspire Hall to drive guests back to the trade show.

On the second day, guests had less time for lunch, so planners added a grab-and-go option. With an “indoor picnic” theme, the lunch offered a station with wrapped sandwiches and salads in Mason jars; guests could stow the goods in takeaway bags and take them to various meeting rooms. Those who did have time for a seated lunch sat at tables with cookies and pitchers of pink lemonade. Here's a look at the fun, easy-to-replicate ideas for quick meeting meals.

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