Working with Food Vendors

Food is an important part of a hacker’s experience. Shared meals can help bring hackers together, and give them the brain fuel they need to build their projects. Each food vendor will have different order requirements and delivery schedules. Below are some recommendations to help you have a successful relationship with your food vendors.

Venue Requirements

Often times venues will require you to use their catering services, especially universities. Before you start to evaluate food vendors or put in any orders, make sure you see if your venue has any requirements first.


We recommend that you place your order 2-4 weeks prior to your event. If you use the venue's catering company, they may require you to finalize your order sooner.

Delivery If your vendor is delivering the food to your venue, make sure you are scheduling the drop-off at least 30-60 minutes before you plan to serve the food. You don’t want the food to get cold, but you also want to allow enough buffer time in case the delivery arrives late.

When you put in your food order, you should be specific about where the food should be delivered and who they should contact upon arrival. Give them a backup phone number in case the first organizer doesn’t pick up.

If your food vendor is providing a family-style meal (on large platters meant for sharing, rather than as individual plates) they will need more time to set up. We recommend scheduling the drop-off for 60-90 minutes prior to the meal start time. In this case, we don’t have to worry about food getting cold because it’s likely they will be using chafing dishes to warm up the food. However, some venues have restrictions on the use of chafing dishes due to them involving flammable material, so check the rules before you plan on using them.

Distributing Meals

If your food vendor is providing a family-style meal make sure you coordinate with them on who will be serving the food. Some vendors like university catering services have special requirements that require you to utilize their staff for food distribution and preparation.

When putting in the initial order, make sure to ask how the food vendor how they would like you to return the chafing dishes, table cloths, and other reusable goods. If they plan on picking up the goods after the meal and helping you clean up, make sure you coordinate a time in advance. You don’t want to be left with tables full of leftover food, and dishes after a meal with no plan.

We recommend also getting allergen details and posting a "Menu" at checkin so hackers can see what the options are for meals ahead of time. Here is an example from an event.


If you’re running a large-scale event, often times food vendors will put together a price quote and meal plan for you to review. Especially if the price quote was higher than you expected there is no problem in asking the food vendor to see where you can reduce costs as long as you do it politely. Below is an example of an appropriate question to ask to see if there is room for negotiation.

Say you’re getting charged $20 per person for dinner and that puts you over your budget. Ask the food vendor, “Is there another meal we could provide that would bring down the cost to $15? Are there changes we can make to other meals to save us money?”

Meal Ideas

Some random meal ideas. Make sure you have dietary restriction alternatives available! Especially Gluten-Free

  • Thai

  • Pasta

  • Tacos/burritos

  • Boxed Lunch/Sandwiches

  • Nice pizza - not the cheap stuff

  • Halal/Gyros/Falafel

  • Mediterranean/Grain Bowls

  • Breakfast Tacos

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