Starve at a Conference? Nah!
By Laura Larsson, HAS Newsletter Editor, and Colleagues+
An International View of Conference Food: An Australian Viewpoint
Firstly, Australian conferences are usually fully catered, and funded by sponsorship. Catering at conferences over recent years has seen great advances. Many companies now exist purely for that end. The aim is to cater to all tastes - provide ample food – and allow delegates to take away to their room or to meetings. The intent is to ensure that delegates will not feel the need to find food elsewhere.
Fresh, healthy and sustaining foods.
Overwhelmingly the demand is for fresh, healthy, sustaining, yet manageable to stand talk and eat - vegetarian options are always included. Open sandwiches on interesting breads are the most common. Very little fried foods - if any at all – are served so that if and when they do appear - these are usually little Asian goodies with a chili dipping sauce. Fresh fruit is always available - which participants can take with them for later consumption. Cheese and biscuits will also always be offered - gone are the days of cheap and nasty cheeses, the trend now is to include a range of smoked cheeses, Camembert/ Brie, blue cheeses. Australia has a fabulous cheese industry. (no prejudice from this conference goer).
Morning and afternoon teas. Catering companies also provide fruit selections, plus an option of muffins and savoury nibbles.
Drinks. At Australian conferences there is always a range of milks - full cream milk (i.e., not fat reduced) through to skinny milk (less than 1% fat), Australians do not take cream with their coffee. Freshly brewed Coffee - plus sachets of caffeine free coffee, and always a selection of teas - including a wide range of herbal teas, and hot water with lemon slices are available.
Special food needs. Registration forms always ask if the registrant has special food needs. Australians usually ask for lots of champagne and red wine, as a light hearted gesture.
No need to carry food to Australian conferences. The Australian experience is that there is usually little need to take additional foods to a conference.
Sourcing food in the USA. This Australian colleague said that her personal experience at conferences in the United States was that she did need to source lunch, and her solution to food was to buy "take away" salads from a local supermarket.
The biggest problem she encountered - but had not expected - was that many hotel rooms do not have refrigerators - even the Hilton in Scottsdale in July! She felt this must pose a problem for delegates wishing to self-cater. She mentioned that all Australian hotel rooms - even the cheapies - have small bar fridges - so Australians can store food when travelling – e.g., by self-catering breakfast to save some money.