Pastries or fruit: Top tips for choosing the best meeting refreshments

A meeting without a cup of coffee is like a desert without an oasis, and for many, a pastry is almost as much of an essential part of a meeting as coffee. Many people, however, avoid sweet foods served at meetings. Some people try to avoid sugar, some fat, yet some others don't eat gluten - should we get rid of snacks at meetings altogether just to ensure that nobody is offered anything they do not like or want?

No, we should not; there is a great variety of snacks to be had at meetings, and sometimes even a sweet pastry may be the right choice. Maiju Anttila is a chef at the Sodexo Galaksi in Oulu. She says that refreshments served at a meeting are important for the success of the meeting and some thought should be given to them. However, the company that offers the biggest pastries is no longer the most impressive.

Anttila won the PRO 2017 award for professionals in the hotel and catering industry, and she is in charge of the kitchen at the Technopolis campus restaurant in Linnanmaa, Oulu. Her duties include planning the lunch menus and food service packages for meetings. Anttila wants to offer varied and easy solutions for those organizing meetings, as well as fresh flavors and ideas.

Freshness and small portions

According to Anttila, people's general interest in healthy food and nutrition becomes clear when they arrange meetings: "People want fresh and healthy food. When it comes to sweet snacks, they prefer smaller portions, and there is more demand for various options, such as vegan alternatives. Sweet and savory snacks such as tapas are also very popular, as are healthy energy-boosting drinks."

Even coffee, the staple of every meeting, is now challenged by alternatives. Anttila recommends that, in addition to coffee, flavored waters, iced tea and freshly squeezed juice are served. She says, "It's the trend now not to serve anything too heavy at a meeting; a selection of fruit, for example, could do. You don't even have to offer coffee but instead you can serve juice made from fresh and pure ingredients."

People want fresh and healthy food in meetings

Refreshments to the client in a click of a button

When choosing refreshments for a meeting, it is important to take the length of the event into account: you will need heartier snacks for an event that lasts several hours or even a day than for an hour's meeting. The time of the meeting also needs to be considered. Anttila says that it is quite common to serve savory snacks at meetings taking place in the morning, while in the afternoon, it will more likely be sweet pastries. She suggests that a varied breakfast is served at meetings that start first thing in the morning.

When booking a meeting, Technopolis clients can also order the required refreshments through the online booking system. Anttila explains that it is essential that ordering refreshments is as easy as possible, but it is equally important to offer clients a variety of alternatives to choose from. At the Oulu campus, the selection of refreshments is extensive with various themed packages. There is, for example, a superfood package, which includes healthy and energizing foods, and a coffee break buffet, which varies according to season and was planned in the spirit of Finland's 100 years of independence celebrations.

Eating is a social activity

The refreshments at a meeting must keep the participants alert, active and efficient but they also play an important social role. "Enjoying something to eat and drink in a group can be an ice breaker, and it may even make the issues under discussion a little more approachable," says Anttila.

Anttila says that most organizers order refreshments for their meetings even if the meeting is only a short one. Offering top-quality food and drink enhances the company image and may demonstrate to clients or employees that the company wants to look after their well-being and level of alertness.

Coffee and other refreshments served over a long day of meetings also provide participants with necessary and refreshing breaks and set a pace for the day. "People have an opportunity to get to know each other during coffee breaks, and they can also talk about more personal things that are not necessarily work-related. This may even prove fruitful for the meeting itself," says Anttila.

Whether you choose a traditional pastry or a super trendy smoothie, it is always a good idea to offer participants some refreshments. Anttila explains that there are some things that can go wrong, "You should find out if anyone follows a special diet and let the kitchen know. It's embarrassing if a participant has celiac disease, for example, and is not able to eat any of the pastries on offer." Anttila asks organizers to be especially careful if there are any overseas participants. They may find it offensive if there is food on offer that is not customarily eaten in their home countries.