I have catered a range of events and banquets. The right food adds to the atmosphere of a game. If you’re trying to evoke 1950s America then hotdogs and burgers are part of that. They’re much less part of a group who’re mainly influenced by oriental themes.
I walked around Empire as a NPC and for several camps you could tell who they were by the smell of cooking food. Daily life taking place in camps adds huge amounts of atmosphere. Mealtime rituals also help to tie a group together and add to a coherent flavor. It’s not just getting the right flavours that adds to a game, but the way you prepare and the way you eat the food.
I enjoy catering events for the same reason I like running them. The challenge of getting large amounts of food prepared and fed to a large group of people really pays off in terms of that feeling of accomplishment. Creating that situation for people is important. It gives them another way to expand on their character, and as it’s a much more controlled environment you can usually create a much more ic atmosphere with it.
Tell your players what food you’re providing.
With the SciFi events we often wanted an army feel. We wanted players to have ration packs. These are expensive and divisive. We’ve tried making food packs that similar, which people didn’t like, and buying some ration packs but getting the players to supplement (we told them what we’d got and let them bring other stuff). If we were doing this again we’d just tell them to bring their own ration packs. As this was for the drakelow tunnels event we didn’t want them using flame based heaters (our monsters wouldn’t see them). We got them heating packs so that they could use these and it would be a bit safer. This worked quite well. It meant those with coffee issues could control their own problem.
We did state this in the information we gave the players.
We always have a separate catering team. Following feedback they tend to have npc characters and at times are a key part of plot. Their main focus is food. They are responsible for getting food cooked and to players. They are in charge of the kitchen area, and potentially also the dining space. We don’t always expect them to cook in an ic space. Usually they have a scout hut style catering kitchen.
As for shopping, we’ve found that tescos ends up a similar price to costco, although both is the cheapest option, and that butchers aren’t always more expensive. Game makes for interesting, ic and different meals and is often inexpensive, and that people never have enough room for pudding. We always over cater custard, but it’s a nice flexible foodstuff and is hilarious when you’re exhausted because you’ve been cooking all day.