Food & Beverage: Five Hot Trends in the Meetings Industry

By Andy Dolce Founder, Chairman & Managing Partner, Dolce International | February 20, 2010

While food trends may come and go, meeting planners always need to feed their attendees. With travelers' tastes expanding to more global flavors, today's successful meeting hotels must go above and beyond the typical banquet fare to wow today's finicky groups.

While traditional fare is still in vogue in some markets, hoteliers must keep abreast of culinary trends and changing palates. Did you know that some popular themed dinner buffets at the moment include Thai, Indian, Latin and Caribbean accented meals? Anything spicy, ethnic, bold or organic is sure to create a stir among attendees these days.

As hospitality leaders, we have a responsibility to address health and nutrition concerns of our guests. In addition, we need to ensure that we are purchasing items from local vendors when possible and selecting items such as organic meats and sustainable fish.

Aside from providing sustenance, culinary experiences for groups can be great team-building activities in both "Top Chef" and "Survivor" scenarios. The value of bonding over a home cooked meal cannot be underestimated. Read on to learn about five hot food and beverage trends in the meetings industry.

1) Broadening Our Horizons - The Most Requested Ethnic Meals

For meeting organizers, planning a meal that appeals to the exotic and ethnic tastes of attendees is growing in popularity. Planners are now inquiring about Indian-fusion and Japanese cuisine, while the more adventurous are pursuing Korean and African foods. In addition, interest in flavors from North Africa like couscous is spreading across the country and Olympic hype from Beijing will surely boost cravings for Chinese food. At Dolce International, our chefs are using many imported items such as Moroccan harissa, Thai curry sauce from Hong Kong, Malaysian tamarind, imported Truffles from France, lemongrass oil, fish sauce from Vietnam, and 100 year old balsamic aged vinegar from Tuscany.

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Social Media: Engagement is Key

There are currently 2.3 billion active users of social media networks and savvy hotel operators have incorporated social media into their marketing mix. There are a few Goliath channels on which one must have a presence (Facebook & Twitter) but there are also several newer upstart channels (Instagram, Snapchat &WeChat, for example) that merit consideration. With its 1.86 billion users, Facebook is a dominant platform where operators can drive brand awareness, facilitate bookings, offer incentives and collect sought-after reviews. Twitter's 284 million users generate 500 million tweets per day, and operators can use its platform for lead generation, building loyalty, and guest interaction. Instagram was originally a small photo-sharing site but it has blown up into a massive photo and video channel. The site can be used to post photos of the hotel property, as well as creating Instagram Stories - personal videos that disappear from the channel after 24 hours. In this regard, Instagram and Snapchat are now in direct competition. WeChat is a Chinese company whose aim is to be the App for Everything - instant messaging, social media, shopping and payment services - all in a single platform. In addition to these channels, blogging continues to be a popular method to establish leadership, enhance reputations, and engage with customers in a direct and personal way. The key to effective use of all social media is to find out where your customers are and then, to the fullest extent possible, engage with them on a personal level. This engagement is what creates a personal connection and sustains brand loyalty. The February Hotel Business Review will explore these issues and examine how some hotels are successfully integrating social media into their operations.