By Regina Baraban
“If attendee ROI can be measured in social media buzz, then I think planners can hit the jackpot with creative and Instagrammable culinary events,” says Steffi Kordy, owner of Cocoon Incentives. In general, she says, novelties, personalization, sustainability (farm to fork or fish to fork) and adding an interactive experience are some of the best ways to get the F&B wow factor.
Planners can orchestrate immersive and memorable culinary experiences in many ways, says Kordy. Speaking with Prevue, she shared the following insights.
Think outside the box, Kordy advises. For one incentive program, she tweaked the idea of “breakfast in bed” to something different from what everyone had expected by booking a hotel suite and offering breakfast served buffet-style atop the king-sized bed. “It meant that attendees had to meet in the suite, which was a casual setting to start the day. This was an out-of-the-ordinary breakfast setting that attendees would not soon forget and led to informal talks among them.”
Lunch can be a good tie-in with an activity, says Kordy. For example, she notes a recent SITE summit at the Boca Raton resort, where attendees could choose between deep sea fishing or exploring the hotel’s herb garden with the chef. After bringing in the bounty from sea and land, all attendees came together to create a hands-on lunch, with the chef explaining how to filet the fish, choose appropriate herbs, and so on. “Everyone helped, not only to provide the food but also to chop and prepare a little,” says Kordy. “It was a quart of teamwork, an equal part of networking and a dose of sustainability, all topped off with an unforgettable communal lunch. If ROI equals memorable and ‘I want to do this again’, it was mission accomplished!”
The plant-based trend is valid not only for food, but also for drinks. Instead of a typical happy hour reception, Kordy recently offered an incentive group a mixology class using edible flowers. “Attendees created their own concoction using colorful edible flowers, while learning about some of their nutritional benefits and how they could create picturesque drinks.”
Dinner is where event planners can get most creative, says Kordy. “I think a big part of a spectacular dinner is in the presentation,” she notes. “This ranges from live entertainers serving food or drinks to using robots to deliver food. Other ways to present food in a spectacular fashion include using dried ice to make instant custom ice cream with the ingredients the guest chooses—under much fog fanfare, diners create their very own flavor. Personalization of any kind that allows diners to customize their meal is very popular.”
“An invitation to a MICHELIN star restaurant is definitely a big draw for attendees,” says Kordy. “It’s a bragging right to have eaten at any of them, and typically their dishes and presentations are spectacular. One of my favorites is Next restaurant in Chicago, where chef Grant Achatz turns food into a piece of art and yet keeps a local flavor. For example, a menu themed around Chicago’s 1893 World’s Fair presented the food tableside on a little a Ferris Wheel—a reference to one of the inventions showcased at the fair. Their dishes are poetry with local sass, each course a pleasure for all senses. Of course, you have to know that your group will appreciate these multi-sensory culinary experiences, because they come with a hefty price tag.”