7. Food / Refreshments
ChairJam Pittsburgh 2019 provided snacks and lunch for all participants. ChairJam Pittsburgh 2019 ran for 3 days, meaning we catered three lunches. We left breakfast and dinner to the participants discretion, only offering snacks outside of lunch. It would be best to avoid catering the same lunch twice in a row. Having variety is nice, but is not exactly a dealbreaker. Refreshments such as bottled water or assorted nuts are another important thing to think about. During brainstorming sessions and short breaks, offering snacks and drinks is a good way to keep people fresh and energized.
During ChairJam Pittsburgh 2019, we set up a food & refreshments area to serve both lunch and snacks throughout the day. Make sure that this area is accessible by wheelchairs.
7.1 Suggestions Regarding Food
Depending on your restaurant choices, set aside a suitable budget. We ordered around 22 lunches a day at a rate of around $8-10 a person. That meant that, aside from snacks and other refreshments, lunch cost us around $200 a day at ChairJam Pittsburgh 2019.
Offer several alternative choices. If possible, this is just a universal positive. This will depend upon your attendance numbers.
Choose the restaurant near the venue. You may even be able to just walk over and collect the food rather than having it catered.
Don’t treat everyone’s restrictions as vegetarian. Going the extra mile and serving people unique foods rather than just lumping all restrictions into veggie meals is a plus.
Try to think about food catering a week prior to the event. Establishing a list of choices will go a long way the day you need to actually order.
Set up an accessible area especially for food & refreshments.
Giving people a chance to take a break after a few hours of working to eat some food and discuss more leisurely is a good idea. We recommend scheduling lunch to arrive around 2 to 2.5 hours after development starts for a day.
7.2 Food restrictions, allergies and intolerance
We thought carefully about food restrictions to make sure we offered food that met each participants needs. If you plan to do so as well, the registration form should cover questions about food restrictions including dietary restrictions, allergies, and intolerances. Try to consider all special diet needs for both food and refreshments. Attempt to find a restaurant which can cater to people with multiple restrictions and provide multiple choices. If you only have a small group of participants, ask more details about food restriction during pre-event preparation. The smaller your group, the more personally customized you can make your orders. If you are catering food for a larger group and can’t personalize each person’s order, then try to provide a list of ingredients for each item for participants can review for themselves.
7.3 Snacks & drinks
We heartily recommend Instacart for quickly ordering snacks if you have this service in your area. It provides free 2-hour delivery window for new users and provides access to lots of stores (such as ALDI, Costco, CVS, etc.) with decent prices. With this, we were able to order snacks the morning of the event and have them set up before the event began. Some snacks that we included were pretzels, potato chips, bottled water, Coke, Doritos, assorted nuts, bananas, and apples. We also recommend providing ample dining supplies for your participants including reusable or compostable plates, cutlery, and cups.