By Patty Katsaros
While you may appreciate cuisine and even consider yourself a foodie, you may not have contemplated the role food has played in building your relationships. The experiences shared while breaking bread are often the most memorable. Food brings people together in a most meaningful way. In business, however, we often lose sight of this little gem when organizing customer or employee related events. We focus instead on how to bring people in, whom to invite, even what content to provide - but the food is often an afterthought at best!
Boston pop-up restaurant affairs, often held at a secret location with a surprise menu, bring together a diverse group of curious guests. I have seen firsthand how the collective experience serves to open people up. Diners share stories, express opinions and even begin friendships as they relate to the cuisine. Chef Wheeler Del Torro , a Boston based pioneer in creating unique pop-up gatherings, thrives on this interaction: “There is nothing more rewarding than watching food melt away the walls people instinctively put up when in a room with strangers. Great cuisine is a natural conversation starter.”
So why not consider making food the centerpiece of your next event? It may cost you more than those veggie trays or cheese plates, but the benefits that come from creating a memorable experience will be more than worth it! Just as dinner parties break down barriers, an event that revolves around food fosters discussions that extend beyond business. The connections created lay the foundations for the meaningful relationships key to success and sustainable growth. You develop a deeper understanding of your guests as people and not just clients or prospects. Who they are outside of the office invariably shapes and informs how they relate to you and your company’s product. Uncovering this enables you to provide value uniquely suited to your client and to establish trust so important to both parties.
Here are some quick ideas for your next event:
Create your event goals first then consider how food will help you meet your objectives. For example, if you want to increase interaction between your team and clients, have your staff serve creative appetizers that require explanation.
If value is created by guests interacting with each other, facilitate the process with participatory food prep stations or a short pre-meal cooking class.
To remind clients of your expertise and leadership, feature food experts to educate your guest on the origin of the food served. You could assist the lecturer and facilitate the Q&A.
Serve a variety of unique items to accommodate varied tastes and dietary restrictions while encouraging discussion
Patty Katsaros, a Boston World Partnerships (BWP) Connector and founder of P.H. Koules Consulting, helps companies engage their clients and prospects with custom, targeted events. Her Art of Networking series brings together top Boston professionals for fantastic food and meaningful connections.