Tying a Brand's Aesthetic into Menu Design

As caterers, we aren’t just there for the obvious events—weddings, mitzvahs, and other special occasions. We have the unique opportunity to create food and dining experiences that can play a huge role in companies’ marketing efforts. It’s these branding events where a company’s signature aesthetic can serve as your muse for the entire menu and catering experience.

Years ago when Modern Art Catering was just a small company, I received a call from Richard Meier of Richard Meier & Partners, a prestigious architecture firm famous for landmarks like the Getty Center and other well-known art museums in Los Angeles. They were having a holiday party for their small staff of about 45 people at a modern art museum gallery. They sent me their favorite artists and paintings, and I took that and ran with it! I was able to create an entire menu based on their favorite artists and specific paintings by those artists. I designed 12 dishes that either looked like or had some element from the specific paintings, really tying in the brand’s love for modern art into the event menu. They went to several different caterers with the same task, but most of them just renamed dishes they already had to match up with certain paintings. They ended up booking me for the next three years in a row because I listened to them and designed a menu that reflected everything they loved about their brand!

Last year, I teamed up with Reservage Nutrition for the Natural Product Expo.

Reservage Nutrition sells different supplements, and a core part of their brand is traveling the world trying different ingredients and flavors like bergamot and bone marrow. The purpose of the Natural Product Expo is to try to attract buyers to different products, but typically booths only capture the attention of attendees for a few minutes at a time. We came up with the idea of designing a functioning restaurant inside the expo so that guests could sit down and actually interact with the products on a personal level. I designed a 30-minute, four-course menu that incorporated the different nutrition products and ingredients that were integral parts of Reservage’s brand aesthetic.

The four-course meal was set up right on the Expo floor

Prepping the courses

It was a creative challenge for me, because I wanted to use different and unique flavors like bergamot and simplified wine from their products. It took two and a half months to write a high-end, fine dining tasting menu that could be executed with no oven in less than 30 minutes inside the expo.

We went back and forth with tastings, and were able to include even the most obscure ingredients in a delicious way. When it was all said and done, the “restaurant” booth resulted in the biggest return they’ve ever had from the expo. It was a great way to get attendees to sit down and enjoy the products.

Shown: Attendees enjoying the four-course fine dining menu right inside the Expo

A unique catering experience (and well-designed menu) allowed them to achieve their marketing goals, by tying in the idea of “food around the world” and conveying it to their buyers.

Behind the scenes, ready to serve

One of the courses: Baby radishes, micro kale, herb cream, malt, and cocoa soil

The key to fully grasping a brand’s true aesthetic is to listen to your client, ask the right questions, and challenge yourself creatively to use ingredients in a new way! At the end of the day, every brand (or couple) is trying to convey their unique brand aesthetic to their customers and guests, and a unique catering experience can be the perfect tool.

Get Fresh, May 2016