Michael Herman
Opening Space for Business Agility

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some food notes from The Giving Conference, 40-45 participants, 2.5 days (amounts per full day)

from michael pannwitz in berlin...

my feeling is that every facilitator has her own style and preferences etc. concerning food at an open space. There also can be some important cultural/religious elements around food, kosher food, pork not being welcome by a number of religions, vegetarian dishes if you have lets say Indians (not the Northamerican, I presume) there, etc.

I dug through my files for an english version and found the text I sent to the organizers of the training event we had in Moscow in 2000.

When we got there, the kitchen had not been involved yet but we were actually able to have contact with them and had a grand time trying to explain.

It all worked out save for the fruit. It was available all over, so Jo Toepfer and I would get huge amounts of fresh fruit both on our way to the training site and again during the lunch break, participants devoured it.

Here is what we sent them, you adapt:

"Ideally, there are buffet style lunches. This allows people to go get their food not a precise time but in a span of 2 hours during the noon-time (lets say 12:30 through 14:30, for instance) to accomodate their own pace. This should be light, healthy food that can be kept warm over a period of time, self-service.

Dinner is different, there it can be a nice sit down affair. Most essential, however, is the permanent buffet consisting of tea, coffee, fresh milk, some fruit juice, water, fruit and vegetable sticks (carrots, turnip, cucumbers, whatever in season) with simple dips. It needs to be catered frequently (fresh glaces, cups, filling up stuff as it is used up). This eleminates the traditional breaks which are not provided for.

My experience here in Berlin and Germany is that training sites are not usually accustomed to provide food in this manner but that they are quite capable and even enjoy trying out a new way. We might talk with them about our ideas when we get there. I enjoy talking to the cook and the person in charge of catering and the manager of the center even if at the end it turns out that there is no way other than the way that they have always done things for whatever reasons."

And here is a recent instruction that I sent to the training in Denmark, it is in German:

[german deleted]

The main points are:

A continuous buffet, beginning 30 minutes before the official start all the way to the end consisting of coffee, tea, mineral water, one kind of fruit juice (in large bottles or pitchers for selfservice), fruit of the season (nothing fancy, local stuff like apples), fingerfood cut vegetables (carrots, cucumbers, zuccini, tomatoes, raddishes, green asparagus (when young it can be eaten uncooked), turnips, red beet...the kitchen has a blast with this...and a couple of very simple dips (joghurt) (of course, you can go fancy with whipped avocado dips and the like, its not necessary) No cookies, no sweets.

The idea is you just whip by (or linger) and grab something in the spirit of self-organisation.

Over a period of a couple of hours this continuous buffet is expanded with a soup or a pizza or something else light and easy to grab on the run (there is no scheduled lunch break, if the food is there from 12 noon til 2pm group session might start at 11.30 and 1 pm nonetheless)

In the afternoon, lets say around 3:30pm I ask for some simple cake cut into convenient fingerfood size pieces.

If people stay overnight, there can be a fancy sit down dinner in the evening.

This kind of catering does require staff to continuously keep the buffet stocked, fresh cups and glasses, etc.

One other thing to think of is to where the buffet and food should be located. I prefer it right underneath the news wall, so people can study proceedings while having a cup of coffee or nibbling at the vegetables. This is usually in a hallway or lobby just outside of the main meeting room. If the os is spread out horizontally or vertically,

I still like to have the buffet near the newswall, sort of attracts people.