Any meeting is more enticing if you know someone’s bringing donuts. Fact. And that’s only the bare minimum application of the fact we all know: Food makes a gathering better. Food (and drink, if we’re lucky!) accomplishes a lot:

  • Food adds value for folks to physically arrive;
  • Food gives you energy to keep up the work and/or play;
  • Most importantly, food symbolizes the care you have for your company.

Breaking bread is a powerful means of connection. When you gather your people together, the attention you give to how you nourish their stomachs directly nourishes your shared sense of community.

With that all said, however, consider these words of caution:

If the ol’ box of donuts isn’t inspiring you, it’s likely not inspiring your friends, family, coworkers or kickball team.

Seize the potential in sharing food with guests. Leave the donuts behind, and consider these five suggestions to make your refreshments refreshing and add meaning to your gathering!

1. Have a treat ready for your guests as they arrive.

The character Helen in the 2011 comedy “Bridesmaids” was “the bad guy,” yes, but she did know how to throw a good party. The main character Annie merely pulls into the driveway of the party location and is greeted by an attendant handing her an ice cold, delicious pink lemonade.

Take a cue from Helen. Shake up the timing of when people eat or drink in a small and playful way, and your guests will know this isn’t an ordinary party.

2. Turn courses into a mini progressive dinner.

The layout of Catalyst Ranch lends itself to exploring and walking about. If you also have room to roam, utilize all your space. For example, we might host appetizers in our new Polka Room (with golden hour sunlight streaming in) and serve a family style entrée seated in our cozy Tango Room, before digestifs and sweets at each coffee table in the Cha Cha.

Shake up the setting of a meal and its courses to keep guests literally on their toes and to inject new energy at multiple intervals.

3. Put a spin a potluck

Who says you have to plan the whole menu? Split up what could be a burden! But instead of just “Bring a dish,” give them a creative nudge. Fun takes include:

  • An Appetizers Only dinner
  • An Oscar night viewing party where each dish has a movie title pun. 
  • A cookie decorating party, and you each bring your favorite cookie embellishment.

Shake up the purpose of the potluck, and it becomes an opportunity for each of you to share yourself and your personality.

4. Add some friendly competition.

One of the best Meetings we’ve seen at our venue had a cheesecake decorating contest. Given their own already-made cake, attendees raced two at a time, decorating their cake in their own way, before the group crowned the winning cake. They got so into the competition that their roars of cheering and laughter in the Jitterbug Room could be heard at the opposite end of our venue!

In a different setup, one of our staffers’ favorite nights out was at a friends’ “Iron Bartender”, à la television’s Iron Chef.

Shake up the activity of food by introducing competition, and you turn a traditional cocktail party on its head in the best way possible.

5. Select a caterer with tricks up their sleeves.

At a certain point, you have to leave it to the professionals. Make your event memorable by choosing a caterer that has something really unique to offer.

Just like how you take pride in “the company you keep” socially, we have the highest regard for our circle of Preferred Caterers. With their own specialties and backgrounds, each one offers food experiences that are at once satisfying and memorable.

Here are just a few:

As a student at Pepperdine University, Taylor Mason fell in love with the West Coast taco culture, and that love inspired the pop-up catering business she co-founded with her now wife, Maya Mason. Taylor’s Tacos been impressing crowds with their “street tacos with a whole lot of soul” since 2018.

Kuma’s Corner is a Chicago legend, famous for their love of meat and heavy metal. Our special event clients can provide guests with slider or 5oz versions of their signature burgers (each named after a heavy metal band, such as the Iron Maiden or Led Zeppelin), plus their famous mac & cheese and plenty of side options.

We’ve been longtime BFFs with Big Delicious Planet, our West Loop neighbor famous for their Urban Farm Dinners and who’ve been named “The Greenest Caterer in America.” They make crowd-pleasing feasts using produce from their very own impressive urban garden, and their impeccable, gorgeous food is perfectly at home in our vibrant space.

One of our Preferred Caterers for weddings and special events, Tri-Star Catering is also Catalyst Ranch’s catering partner for all our daytime meetings. Tri-Star brings thirty years of catering expertise to building menus for our hungry clients. We’re expecting new menu items very soon—their wide-ranging meal options are refreshed regularly!

Click here to see all our Preferred Caterers.

The food you provide your guests or meeting attendees doesn’t have to be forgettable. It can deepen their experience and bring everyone closer together. Consider shaking things up to delight your company and enhance your gathering.

Our spaces are intended to inspire connection and community. Tell us about your next meeting or special event, and how we can help you make it more meaningful:

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