How to… cater for branded events

David Ridgway, executive head chef at Smart Group, outlines the issues which need to be considered when it comes to catering for branded events.

Requirements that need to be met for branded events are massively different to standard occasions. Lots of research needs to be undertaken in order to produce completely bespoke menus. For standard events our menu bank would be used as these recipes already contain specifications and costing; for branded events it needs to be an original offering.

There are a number of challenges to be aware of, for example a frequent consideration is trying to understand what the client fully wants, and ensuring that all requirements can be met in a short space of time.

Controlling costs for themed events is difficult. The client is aiming for an incredible menu with an amazing design, however they’re sometimes surprised when presented with a pricey quote. Additionally, adding extra equipment to ensure the brief criteria are met can pose a logistical problem – it needs to be carefully planned to allow service to be go ahead as normal.


Transferring a concept to the masses

An awareness of scalability and deliverability is essential. I have been in a situation where a ‘quirky’ product, delivered to 1,000 people, has had the reverse impact the client wanted; we prepared a full English breakfast as a dessert, it proved too tricky as it was too gimmicky for the event size, affecting the occasion negatively.

The most ambitious request we have had to date is when we were asked to deliver an À La Carte Menu to 100 people while stationed in the middle of a field, simultaneously trying to serve a flambé dish for each course. At another dinner, for 600 people, we were asked for dry ice to be poured onto the table centre, while also spraying an atomiser of pine. These actions, which were to represent a walk in the woods, were being performed while the fillet of beef was being served to the customers for the main course.

Two events which have particularly stood out for me were the Superdrug and Virgin Holidays activations. Superdrug wanted an art deco theme, to which we delivered the parfait starter with jam in toothpaste tubes and the dessert, a Knickerbocker Glory, in Campbell’s soup tins with ‘BOOM’ chocolate shards. Waitresses then served these on picture frames containing images of Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe lip designs. For Virgin Holidays, fish cakes were served in baskets that were attached to flying hot air balloons, which were then placed in the centre of the tables for all the customers to enjoy.