They say that the key to your heart is through your stomach. That should also apply to your next corporate meeting or event.
Event catering as we traditionally know it has had a bad “wrap.” Dry sandwiches, unhealthy snacks and cookies, and sugary sodas have become staples of many trade shows and conferences. The consumer expects (and now demands) more for their belly. Dietary restrictions, sustainable sourcing, and cultural food trends are putting more pressure on experiential meeting planners to offer versatile, healthy, and delicious meals within a fixed budget. Unfortunately, that usually means some inevitable tradeoffs in the culinary experience for more robust technology options, often resulting in unhealthy, pre-packaged food choices.
Better Food = Better Meeting & Event Experiences
When the Culinary team at Convene started designing the Fall/Winter 2017-2018 Menu, we realized that there are four fundamental principles to offering great food at our clients’ meeting and events:
Pictured: Breakfast spread at Convene @ 117 West 46th Street
1. Nixing the Idea of Fast and Cheap
When it comes to food, “fast and cheap” is often the go-to option for today’s workforce. In this new age of “hypermobility,” recent studies found that frequent business travelers have weaker immune systems, a higher risk for obesity, and even a greater risk for mental health issues later in life.
Conference planners who are still cutting corners around food menu choices are devaluing how strategic F&B is to the purpose of their meetings. Faster and cheaper food often means less networking and bonding, which is one of the key reasons why people attend conferences to begin with. At Convene, we’ve observed that themed meals, unique food pairing experiences, cooking demos, and “Instagram-able” plates of five star restaurant-worthy food are well worth the extra dollars, and critical to participant satisfaction on event surveys.
Pictured: Nourish Cafe at Convene @ 117 West 46th Street
2. Accessing Food and Beverage When an Attendee Wants It
Snacks and caffeine should be readily available throughout the entire duration of the event, and easy to reach – no matter where an attendee is located within the venue. Convene’s “Nourish Cafe” is a great example of how accessibility to food improves the meeting experience.
Nourish gives attendees the same feeling of comfort they have when opening a best friend’s refrigerator: always available, easy to access, and filled with a variety of sweet and savory snacks, plenty of caffeine, and other hot and cold beverages.
Pictured: Convene’s Sea Salt Roasted Beet Pita
3. Incorporating Local Flavors
Localized cuisine is no longer just expected; it should be required – especially for large conferences where many guests are traveling out of their home base to a new destination. For example, we think there should always be an option to offer lobster rolls on our menu at an event held in Boston – the most well-known, beloved foodie item in New England.
As celebrity chef Guy Fieri once said, “We eat with our eyes before we eat with our palate,” so the presentation of the local cuisine should also tie into the local destination as well.
Pictured: Convene’s Hudson Valley Turkey
4. Taking a Human-Centered Design Approach to Menu Planning
We know that conference and meeting attendees are not all cut from the same cloth. They often come from different geographies with a variety of dietary restrictions and preferences – some may be doing the “Whole 30” natural food diet, while others are trying paleo, vegan, gluten-free, or dairy-free meal plans.
Our menus are designed first and foremost with the needs of our end users. They don’t include common allergens like nuts or shellfish, and all of our menu options always include vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options to accommodate the diverse preferences of our guests.
Our farm-to-table approach to our the Fall/Winter 2017-2018 menu takes it to the next level by bringing this season’s best ingredients from the most respected regional suppliers and their local partners.
“We’re bringing in the freshest produce from Baldor and our partner farms in the Northern Hudson valley,” said German Villatoro, Convene’s Regional Executive Chef. “Our highest quality meats are sourced from Master Purveyors, and our cheese is from Murray’s Cheese and other top creameries in the Finger Lakes region. What we’re most excited about is the amazing selection of root vegetables from this season’s harvest — potatoes, squash, parsnips, carrots and beets – as they drive our dynamic menu items like the Roasted Spiced Squash Salad with natural sweetness and an unforgettable crunch.”
The easiest way to upping your meetings & events game is by upgrading your food experience. You can check out all of Chef German’s latest creations in our Fall/Winter Menu Lookbook, or chat further with our event planning team today!