Food & Beverage in a New World

Food & Beverage
Boxed entrees will become even more popular given today’s new food & beverage normal, says Tracy Stuckrath of thrive!

Today, as the axis of the food & beverage world has shifted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, safety and cleanliness have taken center stage.

“If there is a positive coming out of this, it is the fact that we have had a chance to look at how we do things and how we can do food & beverage differently,” says Stephanie Glanzer, senior vice president and chief of sales, MGM Resorts International.

Buffets, as we know them, are a thing of the past, contend industry experts. If they survive this pandemic at all, expect one-sided offerings where staff will serve your attendees; self-serve may never return.

However, not all properties have given up entirely on buffets. Rosen Hotels & Resorts plans to continue with buffets, although food will be served by banquet servers to keep guests from touching serving utensils.

“Banquet staff will be wearing masks and gloves while in guest contact and serving food and beverages; all buffets will be single-sided only with a distance barrier created to deter guests direct contact with food items. Rolled silverware will be offered with the option of rolled plasticware, and all plated meal functions will be served with no pre-set courses; napkin service has been suspended, and all waters will be pre-set with disposable lids,” explains Leslie Menichini, VP, sales & marketing, Rosen Hotels & Resorts for Rosen Shingle Creek, and Gary Bitz, the hotel’s director of catering.

Today, expect to enjoy boxed lunches and dinners with colleagues carefully seated six feet apart from each other.

“We are doing things differently right now. We are focused on microdining,” says Corporate Executive Chef Dewey Losasso of Bill Hansen Catering.

Another constant will be plate covers to protect food from airborne pathogens.

Similar to buffets, passed hors d’oeuvres at cocktail receptions are sure to vanish. So will glasses of wine left out on trays for guests to help themselves. Wine glass covers are sure to become popular and remember: these are an excellent sponsorship opportunity.

Also, a no-contact way to buy drinks will have to be developed because cash bars will not meet sanitation standards. Fortunately, there are now apps available to purchase electronic drink tickets.

Coffee breaks will look much different than we remember them. The days of your attendees helping themselves to coffee and tea will be replaced by staff who will make your favorite hot beverage, providing the perfect opportunity to turn your coffee break into a barista bar instead.

Coffee Breaks Among the Food & Beverage Changes 

“We have seen our last traditional coffee break,” says Dana Pellicano, Marriott’s vice president of food and beverage. “Innovative, smaller, bespoke solutions are coming to that space.”

“Food safety has always been important, but in the past, it was just kept behind the kitchen door,” says Tracy Stuckrath, CFPM, CSEP, CMM, owner, thrive! meetings & events, “We can look at the need for additional food safety as a burden, an additional labor cost, or as the opportunity to upgrade the service.”

To avoid the hazmat ambiance, have your servers skip the antiseptic-looking rubber gloves and replace them with white gloves. “Your meal function becomes a white-glove experience,” Stuckrath says. “Today’s action stations will have protective plexiglass walls, so get paint markers to decorate those walls and also include menu items in big, bold letters. Think about the clear film you see on store windows. Not only can you have fun with this, but it is also a great sponsorship opportunity.”

Given today’s new normal, it is more important than ever to coordinate with the catering manager and chef at your meeting or event venue. Remember, they are your partners. Be sure to address your concerns to them upfront.

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