Creating a Non-traditional Banquet Service for Meetings

By Kevin Batters Vice President Food & Beverage, Stanford Hotels Corporation | October 28, 2008

Unique Catering Options

Most, if not all, of the major hotel companies have restaurants in their hotels. This allows for a fantastic opportunity and advantage when creating a unique banquet menu. The attitude my team has taken, is to reflect the theme of the restaurants at each property and allow this style to flow into banquets. Food and beverage directors must take great care and place major emphasis on not offering generic fare and items that seem to be on so many catering menus.

At our Waikiki property we have incorporated many of the popular dishes from the hotel's new 24-hour dining restaurant. The always open, serving anything and everything from the menu at any time of the day or night gives all guests the opportunity to eat breakfast, lunch or dinner at any time they desire. The catering department can now use items served in the restaurant and use them for meetings. The Meat Loaf and the Sumo Saimin are extremely popular dishes that are used for banquet menus. The Chef has also created a vegetarian menu, not just available as a substitute for people who choose not to eat meat or fish, but designed and incorporated into the flexible menu options.

At our Marriott hotel in San Diego, the banquet menus are centered around the offerings at that property's popular neighborhood restaurant. It features a large open view rotisserie and pizza oven. Many of the items on the banquet menu come directly from this equipment. The San Diego property specializes in corporate meetings from 10 to 100 people, and many of the items offered to these groups come directly from the restaurant. Some of these options include fresh sliced breast of rotisserie chicken on an open faced sandwich, fresh pizza, whole fish carved at each table and grilled hamburgers with assorted garnishes are an attractive option for a lunch meeting instead of the more traditional roll-in cold buffet or deli platter.

In Charlotte, our catering staff has learned to be extremely creative by finding options that are also interactive for the guest. A "Tour de France" lunch option incorporates stations presenting regional French cuisine from the major stops on the original Tour de France route. A South American Kitchen in the hotel's ballroom includes culinary stations with chefs preparing and presenting national and regional dishes from that part of the world. Stations are supported by props and decorated landscapes set up as background staging.

Staff can also find ways to highlight any ho-hum presentation with illuminated skirting on buffets and cake tables, ice sculptures on lighted pedestals and elegant set-ups in cooperation with outside d'ecor vendors.

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The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.