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COVID Event Guidelines as of March 2021

The days leading up to the shutdown, clients were calling to cancel their celebrations and we were rescheduling their events 2-4 weeks out. Yes we all thought this would be over in 2 weeks! Now here we are almost a full year after the events world was demolished by COVID-19 and we have some exciting (although underwhelming) news for event professionals and event seekers in the New York and Connecticut areas. Both states have similar event guidelines beginning this month. Keep reading to see what’s happening!

📢PSA: If your event is during the summer, please do not begin to worry! Think about how much changed every week in 2020 and where we are now. The biggest difference being the vaccine roll out. I am not an expert nor a fortune teller, but based on last year I expect updated guidelines for the summer.

New York Wedding & Catered Event Guidelines as of March 15, 2021

  1. Venues may operate at 50% capacity with a maximum of 150 people per event.
  2. All attendees must be tested prior to the event.
  3. Upon entering the event, attendees will be required to sign-in with updated contact information to assist with potential contact tracing.
  4. Masks must be worn at all times except when seated, eating or drinking.
  5. Dancing is permitted! HOWEVER, the dance floor must be split into zones with at least 6 ft in between each zone. Guests may only dance with those in their immediate party, household or if seated at the same table. Guests can only dance in their zone. If you have a live band or performers without masks, they must be 12 ft away from guests and/or have a physical barrier.

Connecticut Wedding & Catered Event Guidelines as of March 19, 2021

  1. Venues may operate at 50% capacity with a maximum of 100 people for indoor events and 200 people for outdoor events.
  2. All attendees must be tested prior to the event.
  3. Upon entering the event, attendees will be required to sign-in with updated contact information to assist with potential contact tracing.
  4. Masks must be worn at all times except when seated, eating or drinking.
  5. Venues must notify local health departments of large events, above the social gathering limit, in advance.

I hope this news brings you a little joy! Stay positive and ready for the future.

All information was found on credible state government websites March 3, 2021. This information is not final. Expect updates on the most current available guidelines in your area.

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The Future of F&B

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.

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The Core of What We Do

During the last few months, the hospitality, meetings and events industry has taken a huge hit with many individuals losing their jobs and even closing their businesses. Being apart of an industry that never seems to have a slow season then abruptly shuts down can shake even the most organized and veteran meeting professionals. Prior to COVID-19, we were busy planning in-person meetings at hotels, huge conferences at convention centers and maybe even a few video calls; but in the back of our minds, we knew that hybrid events were slowly entering the market and would eventually become the norm. Ready or not hybrid events were the future…COVID-19 only helped speed up the process.

By being thrown into the fire, most of us learned on the fly adapting and making changes along the way. However, change can be hard to accept in any situation whether in your personal life or professional career. YOU have to decide how you are going to move forward. Will you rely on returning to the past or what we think of as “normal”? Or will you refocus your energy, learn a new skill and develop a creative strategy that will lead your team and clients into the future? When I see these two questions, there is only one answer.

As meeting and event professionals, what lies at the core of what we do is bringing people together. We bring people together to celebrate, collaborate, decide, educate, network and inspire. Whether it is through an in-person, virtual or hybrid event, it is our mission to deliver an experience that brings people together. Yes, it may be a challenge to pivot to virtual especially when we have postponed taking the time to educate ourselves and even have these conversations with our clients; but, we are the kings and queens of problem solving! This is what we do! We are constantly planning, recreating and finding solutions based on our clients needs. Yes its a challenge, but its nothing we can’t handle.

Stay positive. Stay focused. Stay true.