Retreat Planning 101: Food + Drink
Food and Drinks, quite literally, the bread and butter of your team’s epic retreat! After securing your location and ideal venue the next step in creating the perfect offsite experience is crafting each menu to support the flow of your event. Start to piece together a rough itinerary of your retreat details with key items in place such as transportation time, meetings and workshops, activities, and then you can start to see where the natural meal times will fall into place.
It is important to envision the progression of the day and when your team will need a little pick me up. We try to avoid sending our teams out for outdoor excursions after a very heavy lunch, as it usually brings the overall energy level down quite a bit. On the flipside, after a long afternoon of adventuring, it is important to have some delicious appetizers and snacks to greet them upon their return. Ensuring that meal times are scheduled appropriately to your retreat really makes each meal count!
With groups ranging from ten to three hundred, how do you craft a custom menu that suits all different pallets? When planning out each meal, the number one thing we aim to do is create a diversity in options. If you’re working with a hotel, it’s common for them to organize buffet options that usually feature a protein, veggie, and side dish, and a salad. These packages are usually more cost effective than ordering a-la-carte, and often items can be swapped for an alternate depending on your group’s needs.
If instead you’ve securing a private chef or catering company, take a peek at some of their past menus. When working with an outside caterer or chef, they want to you to be just as happy with the menu, so they are always eager to recommend a some of their highlighted items that have been a big hit in the past with groups.
At this stage, it is important to get a little feedback from your team to be sure to be aware of any and all dietary restrictions, especially when planning for larger groups. It’s easy to fall through the cracks, but it is always good practice to be sure to prevent spending money on food that people are unable to enjoy. Additionally, we want your team to have an amazing time where everyone feels included and taken care of throughout the weekend. Caterers, Hotels, and Private Chefs are typically very aware of this and are happy to work with you to be sure they have either a range of options prepared or set aside special meals for your gluten intolerant or vegetarian guests.
When it comes to organizing a budget food and drink, we like to look at the cost per head for each meal, so you can decide where to best allocate your spend. For starters, we like to allocate $25 for a full breakfast, $35 for lunch, and $50 for dinner per person. Depending on your group size and your destination this can fluctuate, but allowing a fair amount in the budget up front will help prevent any surprises or additional costs down the road.
Often times on multiple day retreats, especially if you are in a city with ample options, a meal or two can be up to the guests to cover. If you are planning on a big dinner on Saturday night, you can give your guests a smaller stipend of $25 to hit the town and dive into some local food to experience with a few co-workers. Or, if your event wraps up on Saturday night and people aren’t flying til Sunday, feel free to let them choose their own breakfast. Also it’s always smart to remember that money saved in one spot allows you to allocate more towards another meal or experience!
The next piece to consider is alcohol. Will you be serving just beer and wine or is your team looking for an open bar package? Consumption can be tough to estimate, but no one knows your team like you do. Referencing past company events helps in starting to hone in on an accurate count for your team. Here’s a quick BEVERAGE CALCULATOR to start to get a fair estimate of bottles needed to host a successful event. Keep in mind that with mostly medium to heavy drinkers, often the price of the open bar will be a great place to save, especially if your team prefers top shelf!
Another budgeting highlight, is to be sure to be aware and address your venue’s Food & Beverage Minimum. We love to use this opportunity to cover a fresh breakfast and coffee since the team is already on site to start their morning off strong before your work sessions or activities. Depending on what your day looks like, it can be smart to add in light items such as snacks, coffee, and refreshments to your food and beverage minimum, especially if you will be hosting on site work sessions! This helps to keep your team motivated and engaged while they bridge the gap between breakfast and lunch.
You might want to take a look at our comprehensive Retreat Planning Guide!
Once mid-day hits, it’s time to fuel up again! What does your afternoon look like? If its a full day of work sessions and meetings, we suggest going for a hot lunch with a variety of options to give the team a chance to kick back and regroup before the afternoon sessions. Maybe your retreat is more geared towards the outdoors and you’ll be heading out on a kayaking adventure after lunch. In this case, we like to keep things light. A great suggestion is a boxed lunch, picnic style, with lots of energy fueled snacks such as granola bars, fruit, and a delicious sub sandwich to power you through the afternoon while mitigating the after meal exhaustion.
Whether you spent your day in meetings or out in nature, your team will be ready for a reward! Some of the most memorable moments of your retreat kick off during a company wide Happy Hour. Curb your team’s appetite with a couple hors d'oeuvres and a champagne toast at sunset to celebrate a day of growing closer as a company and exploring a new destination together.
After Happy Hour, segment seamlessly into an epic team dinner. This is a great chance to really wow the team by bringing everyone together in a fun, memorable way. Picture a beautiful open space with ambient lighting, exciting cocktails, and a delicious menu to bring out a couple of speeches or note from the CEO to wrap up your retreat with a strong, inclusive message highlighting all of the amazing experiences of the week and aligned vision moving forward. Whether it be a high end restaurant buyout, stunning meal on the lawn with twinkle lights, or a convertible dining hall with beautiful indoor and outdoor space with a mountain backdrop, there are plenty of ways to craft the perfect memorable team dinner on any budget.
As you step into planning later into the night, you’ll check with your venue for their alcohol policy as you may be able to bring your own alcohol to cut costs, especially if you are embarking on a more rustic style retreat at a smaller venue. Whether you choose to serve beer and wine with dinner or start your open bar early, it is important to keep in mind people’s intoxication levels as the later hours roll around. If your dinner is planned for 6 PM and people are drinking til later hours in the night, we have two pro tips to ensure safety and comfortability of all guests: RIDESHARE and LATE NIGHT FOOD. If you are headed out on the town after dinner, be sure to utilize Lyft, Uber, or Via to eliminate any dangerous situations on the way back to basecamp. Finally, it is always a great idea to organize some late night snacks to balance out a night of drinking for a comfortable next morning. You can never go wrong with a couple extra Pizzas!
The meal planning process is an incredibly exciting one, because who doesn’t love food. Throughout the entire planning process, our favorite thing to keep in mind is your location and what makes it special. With food, this is no different. Our best Offsite meals are when we are able to truly highlight vendors native to the area and base your menu on local ingredients. Not only does this guarantee fresh ingredients, but it also gives you the opportunity to dive deeper into your location. Maybe it’s the Pueblo Green Chilies in Colorado, the Poke in Hawaii, or the local wineries in Northern California. So dive in, explore your destination, gather around delicious meals, and enjoy every minute!