Saturday, January 19, 2013

F and B Smart Spending

Glitter Pop from Culinary Capers for
a Midsummer Night's Dream
with Cantrav Services

The most recent statistic I saw said that in just the US, over 34B is spent each year on food and beverage in the meetings industry. THIRTY FOUR BILLION DOLLARS. In ONE country, so imagine what the global spend is.  Now, think back to the last meeting you attended or planned, how much of the food was memorable? Delicious? Made you feel better? Created a positive discussion with the people you  were sharing the meal with?

We live in a world obsessed with food;  from TV shows to magazines, restaurants and cookbooks, the rise of the celebrity chef and a renewed interest in farm to table cooking, and we must take this momentum and collaborate with our caterers, CSMs, Chefs and move our industry collectively forward.

There is a whole range of research that shows how we will improve our meetings by including "brain-friendly" menu options that ensure we offer healthy choices that stabilize guest's blood sugar through a long day of meetings.  This is something I feel strongly we need to incorporate into our meetings, but not the primary focus for today.

Today is about how we take our passion, our global obsession with food and improve the way we spend money on F & B.  Let's take the basic tenets of what I consider the better way to plan, and explore these.

  1. Regionalize your planning.  Where are you going, what do they grow there, and how are they going to make it delicious for you. When you cut down on transportation and processing, the money now goes to the product, and the preparation and you will likely spend less for much more delicious food.  Ask the Chef what they LIKE to showcase, and you will likely be stunned at the results.
  2. Build conversations around food.  It is proven that when we "break bread" with other human beings, we are more apt to develop relationships, so allow time and space and provide service that provides this. No more sending a lone server out with 24 bites on a tray into a room of 200 where it is about grasping for food, instead consider setting  a large central station and inviting people to come and explore the options. Provide information on what you are serving, where it comes from, or even a story - get people talking about what they are actually tasting.
  3. Make every bite count.  Create healthy menus, using fresh, delicious, recognizable products that will provide nutrition, not just fill space. 
  4. Pair menus.  For plated dinners, consider pairing the courses, cucumber water with a fresh salad; a crisp white with a squash soup; a deep red with a lush entrĂ©e; mint tea with dates and pistachios or baklava style desserts might be one example that is healthy, delicious and creating levels of positive surprise and discussion.  There are thousands of possibilities depending on where you are - use the knowledge of your local partners to create amazing experiences. (Like Brain-Friendly, environments to support discussions is another whole subject)
  5.  How about combining our passion for food with our interest in corporate social responsibility?  There are also opportunities to use our excess to support our communities, and certainly throughout North America many city's hotels and convention centres participate in food runner style programs that allow unused food to go to local shelters and soup kitchens.  Thank you to all of you who are doing what you can.

What if we took this another step, and instead of one break or one meal, we told our groups that we weren't going to provide anything for one break, but we would instead be donating the cost of that break to an organization like No Kid Hungry and feeding x number of children x number of hot meals?  Or sending that break to a local shelter.

Let's change the way we approach our food and beverage planning, and make every bite count.  Who's with me?

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