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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Hotel Spa: Oasis Unplugged

The driving force in current hotel spa trends is the effort to manage unprecedented levels of stress experienced by their clients. Feeling increasingly overwhelmed by demanding careers and technology overload, people are craving places where they can go to momentarily escape the rigors of their daily lives. As a result, spas are positioning themselves as oases of unplugged human connection, where mindfulness and contemplation activities are becoming increasingly important. One leading hotel spa offers their clients the option to experience their treatments in total silence - no music, no talking, and no advice from the therapist - just pure unadulterated silence. Another leading hotel spa is working with a reputable medical clinic to develop a “digital detox” initiative, in which clients will be encouraged to unplug from their devices and engage in mindfulness activities to alleviate the stresses of excessive technology use. Similarly, other spas are counseling clients to resist allowing technology to monopolize their lives, and to engage in meditation and gratitude exercises in its place. The goal is to provide clients with a warm, inviting and tranquil sanctuary from the outside world, in addition to also providing genuine solutions for better sleep, proper nutrition, stress management and natural self-care. To accomplish this, some spas are incorporating a variety of new approaches - cryotherapy, Himalayan salt therapy and ayurveda treatments are becoming increasingly popular. Other spas are growing their own herbs and performing their treatments in lush outdoor gardens. Some spa therapists are being trained to assess a client's individual movement patterns to determine the most beneficial treatment specifically for them. The July issue of the Hotel Business Review will report on these trends and developments and examine how some hotel spas are integrating them into their operations.