Making Meals More Experiential


Making Meals More Experiential

Three Ways to Elevate Event F&B

Featuring Bishop-McCann’s Susan Harper

Originally posted on Successful Meetings
September 2018

There are few things that attendees look forward to during a conference or corporate event as much as mealtime. But there is plenty more a meal can do than satiate hungry attendees. From providing visitors with a memorable, and Instagramable experience, to helping to drive home the larger theme of a gathering, food and beverage can be a multisensory, invaluable tool for a creative meeting planner – if you know how to make the most of it.

To gain insights on getting more out of F&B, we spoke with a number of planners, chefs and other culinary experts about how to elevate meals into something more impactful. Here are three major takeaways they suggested.

Experiential F&B

Give the Familiar an Experiential Twist

“There are a lot of ways that things can be more of an experience rather than just “oh, here’s food” says Christine Couvelier, a culinary executive, executive chef and global culinary trendologist who runs the consultancy Culinary Concierge.

She points out that the major trend this year is “retro,” which can mean dishes “based around food memories.” Things like brown-sugar shortcakes with strawberries, mac and cheese or fried chicken …

Make It Relevant

Beyond creating a memorable experience with F&B, planners can use it to help drive home the message of an event. Executive Chef John Armstrong of the Sheraton Seattle Hotel, which boasts 1,235 rooms and 40 meeting rooms, has helped planners customize their F&B with elements that make it particular to their gathering on their industry. For example, he put together the menu for a science organization in which most attendees worked in a lab. He and his team served up gazpacho in clear test tubes and the amuse-bouche in petri dishes …

Susan Harper, CIS, program manager at Bishop-McCann, emphasizes that for this to succeed early conversations are key.

“Great experiences are the result of a positive engagement and partnership between the planner, convention services manager and chef,” she says. “Challenge the chef with new ideas. The No. 1 mistake is choosing standard hotel menus without consideration of how each could be made better or without recommendations from the CSM or chem.”

Create a Sense of Place

The clearest way food and experience can go hand-in-hand is by connecting what attendees are eating to the unique place where the event is taking place. Amanda Solon, senior manager of conferences and events for healthcare IT software company Netsmart, found this to be the case when bringing the approximately 85 attendees of the company’s Masters Trip of top performers to the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia for an incentive event.

The gathering of incentive winners from a number of departments throughout the company included an awards brunch, a private beach excursion, and a dinner at luxury venue Villa Susanna. But the highlight of the experience may have been the food. At Villa Susanna, the group partook in a day pot stew – a traditional Caribbean dish simmered for hours – among other local experiences….

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Read Susan’s blog Play With Your Food!