Give Me a Break!

By Heather Baldwin

Ask kindergartners about their favorite part of the school day and chances are they’ll tell you it’s recess. Things don’t change a lot as we age. Many meeting attendees still look forward to the breaks – no matter how gripping the meeting content may be. Yet most breaks still feature the same old skirted tables and coffee urns. Borrr-ring! Put some pizzazz into your next meeting by spicing up the breaks with a little creativity. To make them memorable without breaking your budget in the process, Hyatt Corp. ( recommends trying some of these inexpensive themes.

Think location, location, location. Think about where you’re holding your meeting and design a break that reflects the culture of that area. For example, chips and salsa – a very inexpensive option – would make great afternoon fare almost anywhere in the southwest.

Take me out to the ballgame. Popcorn is another inexpensive item around which you can build a theme. Just take a few carts of freshly popped popcorn in bags or boxes, add a few banners and flags and either send everyone to a central break area or have servers dressed in baseball garb hawking the popcorn. “Popcorn is a great afternoon snack,” says Dana Durand, director of catering and convention services at the Hyatt Regency Monterey. “It’s not heavy, it smells wonderful, people love it and it’s dirt cheap.”

Do the twist. Try turning a simple, inexpensive food into a gourmet treat by adding sauces and dips. The Hyatt Regency Long Beach, for example, created Pretzel Madness using soft pretzels and a variety of dunking sauces, such as chocolate, marinara, mustard and cheddar cheese.

Bring out participants’ inner child. Set up an after-school break with cold milk – regular and chocolate – and a variety of childhood treats, such as Oreos, Fig Newtons, Hostess Cupcakes, Twinkies and other similar snacks. Or dream up other kid-oriented themes. The Hyatt Regency Long Beach has had great results with themes such as Dr. Seuss, Curious George, Monopoly and Got Milk? The Got Milk? theme features freshly baked cookies and brownies, Milky Way bars and Milk Duds set atop a Holstein-patterned cloth covered by a field of green grass. Beverages, of course, include regular and chocolate milk.