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Food for Thought: 4 Association-Event F&B Recommendations

It’s a real trick to find a balance between satisfying attendees’ dietary needs and delighting them with local items and interesting presentation, all while minimizing an event’s carbon footprint. Here are 4 tips for planners.

Meeting attendees are a fickle bunch, especially when it comes to what they eat and drink during their time on site.

In a session held at the American Society of Association Executives’ Annual Meeting & Exposition in late August, John Hawley, executive director of association sales for Hilton Worldwide, cited these statistics from a recent survey of attendees from dozens of business events: 62 percent said food and beverage is a “major factor” in their decision to attend an event, and 75 percent said that if the F&B quality were good enough they would definitely return to that event.

However, 66 percent also said that their most recent event experiences featured food and beverage that was not good enough to persuade them to attend in the future.

To make F&B a positive factor in potential attendees’ decision to come to a meeting, Hawley offers the following advice:

• Planners should “communicate details of all the F&B experiences ahead of time—market them to members like you do for other event elements.”

• On the other hand, don’t reveal everything up front—delight people with the unexpected to elevate the experience. “You want Instagrammable moments for the food, its presentation on the plate, and how it is served if you are using different stations around the room.”

• Make friends with the head chef. “His or her creativity is essential. Ask the chef to leverage seasonality with local foods, and find out which other items and presentation styles have worked best for previous groups.”

• Help both your attendees and the earth with your F&B choices. “Plant-based menus feature minimally processed items with no eggs, dairy, fish, or meat used. Creating such a menu for everyone for at least one meal introduces people to different things.” For instance, chick-pea pasta accompanied by meatballs made from beans, browned mushrooms, and spices can be excellent. What’s more, “each plant-based meal you serve lessens the meeting’s carbon footprint.”

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