5 Nontraditional Ways to Serve Food

Make your meeting’s food experience more memorable with these serving tips

Forget plates—traditional dishware is out, and unconventional plating techniques are in. That is, meetings are now looking outside of flavor to provide elevated food experiences, often putting more emphasis on how meals are served (which can be just as memorable and Instagram-worthy as the food itself!).  

Now, nixing plates from your meeting doesn’t mean attendees should be stuck eating with their hands. Come mealtime, try these ideas instead:

Use natural elements. For planners who have design in mind, wood, slate, marble and other natural serving dishes are an easy way to break convention and serve dishes in style. 

Opt for edible vessels. Talk about no waste—made-to-eat dishware, such as cookie cups or plates made of large butter lettuce leaves, turn food itself into dishware. Be sure to pick foods sturdy enough to hold food, and keep in mind that edible vessels will allow flavors and food textures to mix, so pair meals accordingly. A savory dish, for example, shouldn’t be eaten on a plate made of brownies. 

Keep it cultural. Many dishes come with cultural rituals or specific serving etiquette that is stripped away with the use of more conventional dishware. Take mealtime as a learning opportunity and educate guests on how different cultures appreciate mealtime. Dumplings served in Chinese dim sum, for instance, are traditionally cooked and served in small steamer baskets. So, to stay true to custom, serve guests individual steamer baskets and let them enjoy accordingly.

Play up your setup. In lieu of a sit-down meal, make mealtime interactive. Create build-your-own-plate stations with decorative displays that, unlike buffets, come with a setup that pushes attendees to engage with their food in a different way. Think easy-to-grab food hanging from a wire or mimicking the setup of grocery or restaurant storefronts. 

Switch up cooking techniques. If you’re not ready to forgo plates and silverware entirely, consider cooking with nontraditional dishware instead. For example, cooking some meats and fish over hot river rocks can amplify and create new flavors. To make sure attendees still get the experience of using nontraditional vessels, try an open kitchen setup where guests can watch chefs at work.