F&B Inspired Breakouts: How Interactive Breakouts Are Spicing Up the Meeting & Convention Experience

By Martin Pfefferkorn Executive Chef, Hyatt Regency Atlanta | August 05, 2012

As Executive Chef at Hyatt Regency Atlanta, I oversee the restaurants at the hotel as well as the weddings, social gatherings and corporate functions that take place in our 180,000 square feet of event space. I present unique menu specialties blending my own inspirations with the indigenous ingredients of the New South.

Southerners, and visitors to Atlanta, expect a certain amount of classic comfort food, however what they find in today’s menu selection is not your mama’s comfort food. Pimento Cheese, Biscuits and Jam, and blackberry cobblers are a few examples of comfort food selections whose recipes have been reinvented. Gone are the days of heavy “fat” laden recipes. I like to bring an explosion of flavor using the concept that “less is more” and “fresh is best.” Southern sophistication has found its way into the largest and smallest kitchens. Atlanta brags more than eight contenders in the “Top Chef” popular show.

The Hyatt Regency Atlanta is satisfying Meeting Planners hungry for innovative breakout ideas. The hotel offers over the largest ballroom in the state to small boardrooms for executive meetings. We embrace our Southern roots and allow experts to run the show with interactive and learning-based breakouts.

According to information provided by Elizabeth Mann, Sales Manager for an Atlanta Destination Management and Corporate Event Planning Company, Juice Studios, there is an increase in demand for meeting breaks that not only incorporate refreshments for attendees but also an interactive learning experience. She also said, planners are presenting the challenge to keep corporate groups entertained and enlightened between breaks in meetings while integrating the current and evolving food trends.

Crafty with Craft Beer

George Brown, Senior Food & Beverage Director at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta, isn’t the type to settle for a boring event. Based off a concept used in the hotel’s Lobby bar, Twenty-Two Storys, Brown helped bring craft beer to the forefront of the interactive breakout experience.

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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.