Clients ask a lot of questions about menu tastings. Here’s a sampling of those questions from meeting and event planners. The answers should help guide you the next time you’re in a place to taste.
When is doing a menu tasting appropriate?
How do I maximize the opportunity of a tasting? What am I looking for?
Planners have expressed frustration with the food quality at tastings, that it was not the same as at the event, and they were not sure why that happened. Clients get upset when a venue wants to charge for a tasting and then credit them on the invoice once the business is booked. They’re surprised when venues limit the number of people who can attend a tasting.
Here are some insights.
Menu tastings are an important part of a planner’s job. Too often tastings aren’t done with the respect they deserve. It takes a lot of work from a venue’s perspective to coordinate a tasting. Venues complain that groups ask for tastings because they want a way to feed their committees during a planning session. That isn’t what a tasting is all about.
A tasting is an opportunity to sample the food you are considering serving your customers. When I plan a tasting, I am very strict about telling the chef I want to eat only what my group is eating. I’m not interested in expensive food, the chef’s favorites or trendy food. Only the food my attendees would want to eat.
I give the chef a list of food items that are popular with the group. You should look at plate presentation, ask about buffet presentation, seasoning and most importantly, most importantly, how the food is going to be kept at its desired temperature once it is prepared. It’s important to discuss and understand how the food will be held, what vessels will be used and what the travel distance is between the kitchen and the event.
Taste the food under the same conditions your attendees will. If the food is going to sit in a hot box for up to an hour before it’s eaten, you should taste it the same way.
Now, about the financial aspect of tastings. The reality is that tastings cost the venue time and money. They don’t mind doing them if they are legitimate. That’s why some venues have started limiting the number of people that can come to a tasting and/or offering a credit once the business has been booked.
If this are a sticking point with you, and if hotel rooms are involved, add the tasting to your wish list before signing a contract. If you want tastings at several venues before you choose one, some of the financial responsibility is yours. I just booked a $40,000 piece of business at a restaurant in Orlando, and the client didn’t pick up the bill for my general tasting.
But be forewarned: You will see tastings becoming more and more strict, especially at chef-owned restaurants.
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