A gourmet writer’s guide to business networking, part 2

A gourmet's guide to business networking, part 2

Help yourself to some tasty finger food…

In case you didn’t catch up with last week’s article, I am a “serial networker” as someone on LinkedIn called me recently.

In my work (and giving talks) as a business writer I have had more business breakfasts than Gordon Ramsay has said the F-word on TV, and enough business networking lunches to feed a small developing country for a year.

So here is my guide to the typical foods we encounter on these business networking occasions … particularly useful for people traveling between the UK and North America. Last week we looked at breakfasts, but this week we look at lunches and suppers as in…

Buffets and finger food

“Finger food” still makes me fall about laughing after all these years because it makes me envisage piles of dismembered fingers on serving platters. Childish, I know.

Cake. Often, the one thing that stops a buffet from otherwise being a fiasco. High sugar content means cake, cupcakes etc. aren’t quite as likely to be heaving with bacteria after a few hours on the buffet table, although they do dry up. Go on … no-one will notice if you dunk one in your coffee…

Crisps/chips. Crispy tasties, and if of the more expensive variety have the potato peel still on them. I just love the marketing brilliance here: save fortunes by not peeling the potatoes and shove a whacking great premium on them because they are “healthier.” WTG.

Chicken drumsticks/wings. Nice idea, but they are greasy as well as potentially spicy. If people are standing up to eat all this stuff off paper plates using just one proffered paper napkin, how the hell are they expected to hand someone their business card without it being covered in mess? Tip for buffet chefs: go for breaded wings or drumsticks because the outer surface is dryer.

Fruit. Aw, easy one. But unless the fruit slices have been out in the open air for so long that they have dried up completely, they do create a watery problem for stand-up eaters. Eat with a plentiful supply of paper napkins, if you can find any.

Healthy veggies with dips. What my late western Canadian dad used to call “rabbit food.” At buffets, the veggies usually look a lot prettier than they are to eat; a raw broccoli floret that has been sitting around for several hours tastes like wood shavings.

Prawns/shrimps etc. Superb for those who can eat shellfish. Boring for those who can’t, and positively terrible for those who are allergic. I am allergic. One time I was in a conference room in the UK sitting near the back, adjacent to where the lunch buffet was due to be served. Immediately before the lunch break staff brought in steaming trays of grilled prawns (shrimp). I began inhaling the vapor and started to pass out. I only just made it to the ladies’ room where I stayed for 10 minutes until the damned things had cooled down. Tip: don’t serve shellfish at business meals – a) many of us are allergic and b) many of us can’t eat it for religious/cultural reasons.

Sandwiches. Often this is where you really do sort out the wheat from the chaff. Good sandwiches can be delicious and most enjoyable. However bad ones can make you puke. Also, because usually they have been delivered in on a tray and refrigerated for some hours, by the time you get to them they are all stuck together. Prising them apart can be messy. And if they have been at room temperature for a few hours before you get to them, try to avoid those containing fish or poultry – both fillings that can be infected by bacteria very, very quickly. If you’re hungry but the sandwiches look old, stick with cheese, ham or vegetarian options.

Sausage rolls. A particularly British quirk consisting of some sausage meat baked into pasty. Large versions are sold at older-fashioned fast food outlets as luncheon snacks, and smaller ones are still purveyed as party food. Most of them are relatively tasteless and drop pastry crumbs all over your clothes.

Vol au vents. See sausage rolls, above. Grown-up vol au vents were invented in France as vehicles to contain appetizers / first courses at dinner parties. However miniature versions are popular both as canapés and as “finger food” at buffets. Tip: they are made using puff pasty which flakes off everywhere. Don’t indulge if you’re wearing your dark-colored Armani suit.

What are your experiences of “finger food” and other business buffets?

Please share…

photo credit: jamieanne via photopin cc




  1. As you know my network is neither breakfast or lunch and since it runs from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. I needed yo pick a “snack”. When we held it at The Pie Shack that was easy. He only had pie so a piece of pie for everyone.

    Unfortunately he closed his Beaches venue so I went across the street to The Beacher Cafe as you know. There I offered a cup of tea or coffee and a slice of apple crumble pie. That was a year ago. I’ve noticed though in the last couple of months that several people have had a toasted bagel or scrambled eggs instead of the apple crumble. I guess it’s still too early in the day for pie!!!

    • I think maybe people are a little wary of such sugary delights whether that’s in the morning or not. What’s great about The Beacher Cafe though is that you have a lovely choice of goodies, whether sweet or savory. Personally, at that time of day I prefer “brunchie” dishes like Eggs Florentine or scrambled eggs with smoked salmon. Yum. And as I remember it The Beacher Cafe does both really well. Simon the Pie Man’s place was lovely, but – certainly if that were in Europe, anyway – his delicacies would be more appropriate for afternoon tea.


  1. […] the two earlier articles in this series about my gastronomic experiences at business breakfasts and buffets. This week I get my teeth into (geddit?) the sit-down lunches and dinners many of us have to […]

  2. […] the two earlier articles in this series about my gastronomic experiences at business breakfasts and buffets. This week I get my teeth into (geddit?) the sit-down lunches and dinners many of us have to […]