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Planners Dish on F&B Needs and Preferences

A recent survey finds greater demand for touchless experiences, less emphasis on healthy food choices, and more.

Meeting professionals are changing their thinking about food and beverage as the return to in-person events arrives. While the quality of offerings remains their top concern, safety procedures are a near-equal priority in today’s environment. 

In a survey conducted by F&B-services firm Sodexo/Centerplate of 202 event planners who use either conference centers or convention centers, 93 percent cited quality of offerings and 90 percent cited safety procedures as critically important factors when partnering with a catering provider. Safety procedures were not even asked about in the previous survey conducted two years ago.

On the other hand, value for money and healthy choices were the factors that dropped the most in importance to planners since the previous survey. Among planners, value went down in critical importance from 84 percent to 79 percent, while healthy choices went down as a critical factor for planners: 59 percent said it was critical this year versus 71 percent of planners two years ago.

When it comes to safety procedures, the report noted that planners expect both catering staff and retail F&B-outlet staff to conduct frequent cleaning of serving and seating areas; use detailed signage to maintain cleanliness and social distancing among attendees; offer more pre-made and pre-packaged food options to minimize handling; and offer touchless services for payment.  

Lastly, the survey found that the F&B-budget outlook among planners is not exactly promising: 44 percent of planners expect to have a lower budget for their largest meeting once in-person events resume, while 31 percent expect their F&B budget to be flat. Just 25 percent expect an increase.  

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