Impactful F&B

foodbevHow Food and Beverage Can Make a Difference

Food fuels the soul — and when used properly, it can serve up big success for meeting professionals. Maximizing the role of food and beverage at an event is the focus of today’s session “Impactful F&B: Designing Culinary Experiences That Satisfy and Engage,” from 1:45-2:45 p.m. in VCC West, Room 301.

Session facilitator Andrew Pollard, vice president for Centerplate at the Vancouver Convention Centre (VCC), will lead a panel discussion with Sam Bhandarkar, CMP, CASE, event placement director for LRP Publications Inc., and Shelley Johnson, director of events and operations for Western Canada Nasco Staffing Solutions.

Creativity can satisfy and address a host of food challenges, according to Pollard. “For example, the VCC recently had a corporate group that presented ‘An Evening of Change,’ and they changed it up by serving dessert first,” Pollard said. “Or consider using a reception-style lunch or dinner that gets people up and moving around.”

The three presenters will use the session to offer tips on selecting food and beverage based on attendee data and industry trends, determining what menu options will align with your event design and resonate with attendees, and collaborating with catering staff to incorporate the right F&B elements while staying on budget.

“Trust in your host facility and what they suggest. They are the experts in their own building,” Pollard said. “Try not to repeat the same program from year to year, but rather do what is right for the city you’re visiting. Events should reflect the best a destination has to offer and be representative of that destination. Doing a Mexican reception in Vancouver doesn’t make sense.”

That said, Pollard admits that even his team is taking a “calculated risk” in its selections for the Networking Luncheon scheduled prior to his session, from 12:30-1:30 p.m. Attendees will be presented with a menu that features “alternating main courses that encourage mixing and trading,” Pollard said. Whether diners choose salmon or chicken, there will be plenty of international fare, from the watermelon, orange, and kale salad to the mini-mango Pavlova dessert featured on a “shared” dessert tray.

Other topics during this afternoon’s session: challenges such as picky palates, food allergies, and lifestyle preferences. Up to 20 percent of attendees at some conferences make dietary requests, according to Pollard. Knowing your audience and defining the role of your event’s food and beverage will guide smart decisions. And ultimately, your attendees will return home with a memorable culinary experience.

“Our experience is that conference attendees always remember their culinary experiences at a venue — good or bad,” Pollard said. “What we as planners and host facilities need to do is communicate better to achieve success for all concerned. Planners need to play on the strengths of a venue, and venues must be highly competent in delivering everything that they promise — and more.”