The food and beverage industry pre-pandemic had been continuing to culminate as chefs around the world were pushing the envelope on ingredients, preparation and presentation. Now those supply chains that chefs relied on for the best ingredients have been broken and new safety requirements have been established to keep associates and guests safe. The new question we are all asking ourselves is “where do we go from here?”.
Virtual Eats Connecting virtual attendees to a food experience is a great idea! Whether you are sending snacks, wine and cheese or dinner it makes guests feel appreciated and connected. The question has come up in my MPI community asking if its worth it. I say yes. Think about that feeling you get when you receive a package or a gift, it sparks so much joy. If an Amazon package can do that, I am 100% confident a curated gift from you to your attendees will do the same. Here are a few box ideas: local snacks from a specific destination, chocolate tasting and cookie decorating. You can even turn some of these into a team building/networking session!
Buffets Buffets have always been my least favorite (even before the pandemic) as I never liked the idea of multiple people touching the same serving utensils and food sitting in chafers. Safe to say I LOVE THAT WE ARE RETHINKING BUFFETS! Before the shut down, many venues were moving towards single serve displays in lieu of classic giant hotel pans and serving bowls. This helped the lines move faster and kept the stations cleaner. As events begin to re-emerge, I believe this trend will continue and we will see more pre-packaged or pre-plated stations with plexiglass barriers.
Cocktail Service Cocktail or butler service is when a server roams the event room with a tray of food or drinks. As much as I like this style of service, it seems to put the server at the most risk. An idea to keep your team safe while still providing the same variety of appetizers is to make individual small plates with the selection of hors d’oeuvres. This can be set-up as a self-serve or server staffed station with plexiglass. You should consider your staff’s health just as much as you do with your guests. Everyone’s health and safety is important.
Floor Plans & Rotation Think about the last conference or gala dinner you planned, worked or attended. What did the rooms look like and how did they feel? Maybe for you, the rooms are packed, sometimes almost shoulder to shoulder, and there is an enormous buzz from the chatter and the energy. Now think about planning, working or attending that same conference today. Probably not going to happen. If you are starting to plan your annual conference for 2021, think about what will need to be different and speak with your venue regularly as mandated restrictions may effect your expected event revenue and contract obligations. Here is a crowd density calculator to assist when it comes time to create your floor plan.
Your floor plan will greatly impact your food & beverage service as the number of guests permitted in a space will be limited. It may mean moving towards meal rotations or shifts that would extend your food & beverage service times and increase staffing costs.
Sustainability & Cost Even though pre-packaged items will be the leader of food service, it is extremely important that we choose sustainable packaging. This could be re-usable glassware, recycled paper, bamboo or seaweed materials. Sustainability doesn’t stop with packaging. It goes deeper to where the food is sourced, how it was farmed and the used labor practices. When you have the choice, speak with your venue chefs to see where your food is coming from. Supporting local farms reduces carbon admissions by reducing delivery distances, ensures better & healthier in-season produce that has not been artificially ripened by chemicals, and keeps local farmers and their teams employed. Eco-friendly products may be more expensive; however they are the right choice for the environment and our communities.
If I have learned anything from the food, beverage & events world, its that those in this industry never pass on a challenge. Yes the industry that we know is in jeopardy, but I am confident these talented minds will recreate and elevate the guest experience.