Monday, March 12, 2018

Alisa Walsh reports from last week's MPI OC Panel on Food and Beverage Trends.

Alisa had the pleasure and honor of participating in MPI Orange County's panel discussion with FoodBeast's Geoff Kutnick, Chef Martin Salazar from Canyon Catering and Moderator Lisa Meller. The topic: Food and Beverage trends in the event industry.

The Conference Topic: On a scale of 1 – 10: How confident are you that you fully understand the role of food in our business?

We are seeing that there is significantly more pressure on us in our events industry to create experiences, not just “events”.   
Food has always been a cornerstone for human connecting –in our house growing up, the kitchen was the center of the house – cooking together, entertaining, and dining with family and friends.  When it comes to  “going out”  - can we even do it without food and drink?   
Now the role of food is taking center stage. We are seeing tours, trips, and travel experiences in our industry continue to grow and to even move into the general session. Food is no longer an afterthought but now needs to be at the forefront of the experience. People are craving to be wowed – new tastes, new visuals, new presentation.
Bye bye buffet chaffing dishes with big spatulas and a presentation that looks like a glorified cafeteria. 
However, budgets are only seeing slight upticks when the economy is confident, but never enough to meet the real cost and pressure for profitability.

Alisa is happy to share experiences and advice from a planner's point of view.

"What we are encountering is that food and beverage is the central focus of the event these days. It used to be headliner entertainment or an iconic venue or famous keynote speakers but food and beverage has moved to the top now. For us this means that our clients request a much more curated food experience. Consequently we work very closely with chefs these days and the collaboration starts much earlier in the event planning process.
For us as planners the design aspect of food has become very important - and we love it.

Social media has influenced people in recent years. There is a lot of information and inspiration out there about foods that many may not have been used to in the past. People are more willing to try unique foods. It helps our creativity and it allows us to be a bit bolder with our food and beverage presentation. It used to be buffets with chafing dishes provided by the hotels. That has changed completely. To give you an example, we had the opportunity to serve sushi from an industrial conveyer belt recently and desserts from a ferris wheel. We get to have a lot of fun with food and beverage displays these days.

However, overall event budgets have not really changed so we get creative to turn grandiose ideas into an event reality.
Food and Beverage is now the focus of the experience so we allocate more of the entertainment and decor budget portions to this. We also encourage the chefs to source foods locally and do the best they can within the budgets to deliver a top experience because that is what we are all about.

An important aspect for event venues is the attention our clients pay to food these days. Our clients want the quality of the food to match the overall quality of the event. And they do not want to be bound by catering contracts venues may have. They want the freedom to be able to bring in a chef of their choice.

I tell clients that there are a lot of creative ways to deliver a great food and beverage experience that allows the guests to interact with food in new ways. It doesn't have to break the bank either. Convention Bureaus are a great resource to get in touch with all the local vendors, such as craft beer breweries and local specialty food vendors that will enable the planners to deliver an outstanding experience within budget."

Bon App├ętit and Thank You for reading.

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