Q: How important is it for you to incorporate local cuisine into a program?
A: Gareth Heyman: For international business travelers, adding local cuisine to the meeting might be their only “touch” of the destination they are in. Adding local cuisine gives them a taste of what they are missing. The incentive traveler has different needs to fill. They look at food as part of their experience. Not only does MorEvents provide menu cards at each meal, but often gives recipes to its incentive trip travelers.
Tracy Stuckrath: Very important, but you must also look at the cost associated with it. There are several things that come into play when trying to buy local. Some parts of the country don’t have access to fresh seasonal food all year long. Smaller groups are easier to feed “local” meals because the amount of food needed is not extreme. Localharvest.com provides a link to local farmers nationwide.
Q: What’s the most spectacular themed F&B event you’ve organized recently?
A: Heyman: MorEvents handled a board of directors meeting in Barcelona at the site of the former Stock Exchange. Surrealism was the theme with an Imperial table for nearly 70 people. Each course had a different entertainment theme including typical flamenco, Spanish guitarists, solo singers and Cirque-style, finishing with techno blacklight dancers. The finale was a laser light show that everyone marveled about.
Q: What trends and evolutions are you seeing in group banquets?
A: Stuckrath: Tapas, healthier plates, foods that feed the brain, gluten- and allergen-free foods. When it comes to feeding those with dietary needs, we need to make sure that everyone involved in preparing and serving the meals (planner, venue, caterer, chef and banquet staff) are aware of the need and understand how to properly prepare for and serve these guests.
Q: How can planners create upscale F&B events while keeping costs down?
A: Stuckrath: Working directly with chefs on the menu. Chefs know what is in season and where to get it. Tell them what you’re looking for in the meal and your budget and then let them be creative. Try not to order items that are labor-intensive; again, the chef can steer you in the right direction on these. Also, if you’re looking to use local and the price is too high, ask the hotel if there are other groups in house that you could partner with to make the purchase.