George Bernard Shaw once said, “There is no sincerer love than the love of food.” I am sure there are some people who would disagree, but not many. Food definitely speaks to most of us and can be a great draw at a trade show booth. The question is what is the right food to serve? And, what foods should you avoid having at your booth?

Convention Halls Set Guidelines for Food in Booths

In part, the answers to those questions rest in the regulations presented by the various trade show venues and meeting planners. Many require approval in writing by the venue management or event planner of foods to be served by exhibitors. Some require that there be enough food for all attendees to sample. Many prohibit cooking in the booth, and all require that the food or beverages served be in compliance with applicable federal, state and local health and other regulations.

Getting the Food Right

Think about what attracts you to certain foods and beverages and what repels you:

  • Great aromas (think warm chocolate chip cookies, gourmet coffee) vs. foods that smell bad (i.e., overly pungent smelling foods like certain fast foods, spiced foods, fish, etc.)
  • Neat foods (dry, non-greasy foods like finger sandwiches, pretzels, bagels, etc.) vs. messy foods (powdered donuts, tacos, Buffalo wings, watermelon, cheese puffs, etc.)
  • Quick bites (mini muffins, sliders, finger foods, snacks) vs. time-consuming bites (soups, salads)

You get the picture: select universally appealing foods that have a wonderful aroma, are easy to eat and don’t require a long time to consume. By all means, avoid offering any food that may strike a negative chord with any group (i.e., foods associated with controversial manufacturers, in conflict with certain religions or ethnic groups, or foods to which many are allergic such as peanuts or shellfish).

Among the foods that attract the most traffic at trade show booths are the old standbys such as cookies, coffee and tea. Foods that reflect current artisanal trends such as food-to-table items like farm stand fruit muffins, tapas, and gourmet popcorn are great choices. Also popular are healthy super juices with probiotics, fruit infused waters, iced coffee and teas including green and mint teas.

Serve Your Food with Your Brand in Mind

Just as the food at the booth is important, so too is how it is presented and served. Take the opportunity to do some branding by using glasses, cups, plates and napkins that display your logo. Have booth attendants help serve the food, which conveys warmth and provides the opportunity to engage the booth visitor. Avoid lines and waiting for a snack or beverage by setting up the refreshments in more than one area of the booth and where they will not distract from your product/service marketing messages. The idea is to use the food to attract traffic to the booth, engage the visitors and convey a company that is warm, hospitable and interested in creating a positive experience for the trade show attendees.