When a sales group approached Catering Director Randie Haber of Hotel Monaco Baltimore, seeking a setting in which to interact and connect with their clients over breakfast, Haber pitched a breakfast reception.
“It dawned on me that when it’s a standard, seated breakfast, it’s not a setting that’s as conducive to conversation as a standing cocktail reception,” says Haber. “Why not serve breakfast in small bites, where no one has to manage a plate, fork, and knife, and all the menu items are passed?”
A New Dawn
Haber pitched the idea to the group, adding that not only will this allow them more access to their clients, it will convey to the clients a spirit of innovation. The group agreed, and since then, Haber has offered the breakfast reception to fundraisers looking for donations, corporations who want to generate enthusiasm in their sales force at the beginning of a program, and any client looking to surprise, motivate, and network with their group. As of midsummer, the hotel had hosted six groups ranging in size from 25 to 100 attendees, with two more groups on the books.
“People are so used to going to these standard meetings, sometimes multiple times a year; they come in expecting a continental breakfast or the usual eggs and bacon, but they’re dazzled when they see something entirely different,” Haber explains. “It’s new, it’s fresh, and it’s exciting; this kind of atmosphere can energize a group and get the creative juices flowing.”
Haber notes that a breakfast reception does cost more than a seated breakfast because there are more moving parts and more labor is involved. “We enlist at least one staff member per 20 attendees, depending on exactly how many dishes we’re hand-passing and how much we need to bus. But we find that the types of clients interested in this type of atmosphere don’t mind paying extra because they get a great return on their investment. The proof is that they keep coming back. We’ve gotten consistent repeat business since we started offering this three years ago.”
Up and At ‘Em
In helping to develop the breakfast reception menus, Executive Sous Chef Scott Hines wanted the small plates to be fresh, healthy, locally sourced where possible, and interesting, but not so unique that they are unrecognizable.
“We took some things traditionally served at breakfast and made them exciting, fun, and easy to eat in a bite or two,” Hines says. “We chose mostly healthy dishes but threw in one or two items that are fried for those looking to indulge.”
In that vein, the menu includes mini egg white tacos with spinach and sun-dried tomatoes, fried apple fritters, bread pudding bites, pumpkin donut bites, mini savory scones (such as cheddar and chive), and smoked salmon served in mini waffle cones with crème fraîche and dill. Deviled eggs topped with julienned ham, bacon, or salmon and dill are a big hit with clients, says Hines, and so are mini breakfast burritos (about the size of a sushi roll) with eggs and ham, spinach and cheese, red pepper and eggs, and grilled or smoked salmon.
“We also offer mini quiche, mini frittatas, and something that’s also popular on our wedding menus: chicken and waffle bites,” Hines says. “They’re bamboo-skewered mini waffle rounds with a bite of buttermilk fried chicken, finished with a sriracha honey glaze.”
To give attendees an added energy boost, the menus offer apple, carrot, and ginger juice shooters, baked oatmeal bites with almonds and apricots, seasonal fruit smoothie shooters, mini parfaits with housemade granola, and locally sourced fresh fruit kabobs with vanilla yogurt and honey sauce.
“It’s important to us to try to buy locally,” says Hines, “so we get our strawberries, blueberries, and watermelon right here in Maryland. We buy our cheese from a local cheesemonger. Our ham and chicken come from nearby Pennsylvania, and our honey comes from Virginia. We support the locals, and the locals support us. But that doesn’t mean we’ll settle for any quality. I don’t care if it came from our most loyal customer’s backyard; if it’s not high quality, we won’t buy it.”
Ashley Allen is an author and writer based in Leesburg, Virginia, whose work also appears in The Huffington Post.
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