When planners talk about wanting "healthy food" for their attendees, usually they mean F&B that promotes physical health. Increasingly, they may also be taking into account ingredients that enhance mental acuity, too. That's the thinking behind "Brain Food" from the Radisson Blu hotel brand, part of its larger brand-wide Experience Meetings initiative.
The F&B program, created by a team of chefs and nutritionists, provides groups with a series of meal and break menus tailored to helping attendees think with sharpness and creativity.
"It's so common to hear the first speaker after lunch say something like, 'hope you can all stay with me for this,'" says Gordon Taylor, director of sales and marketing for the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel Chicago, which introduced the Brain Food program earlier this year. "But with Brain Food, it's a change of perspective -- you feel refreshed, alert, and mentally healthy. It's about supplying food that puts you in the optimal frame of mind."
Not surprisingly, food that's good for a brain is also good for a body. Brain Food menus emphasize fresh, locally sourced ingredients with as little as possible processing. Whole-grain products, fruits, vegetables, and fish predominate, while meat, fats, and sugars are minimized. Think hummus and vegetable trays rather than cookies and brownies; mineral water and herbal tea rather than soda.
For breaks, groups can consider Happy Trails, a build-your-own trail mix bar with mixed nuts, yogurt-covered raisins, and dried blueberries and apricots; or Fruit Frenzy, with watermelon and peach smoothies, homemade protein bars, and pita chips with peach-mango salsa. For more substantial meals, there's everything from steamed black cod with organic beet salad to braised lamb ossobuco with steamed asparagus and plum tomatoes.
Radisson Blu's Experience Meetings initiative also includes a number of meeting amenities aimed at helping run an effective, creative event: complimentary Wi-Fi and access to breakout rooms conducive to innovative thinking. Called a "Brain Box," these spaces are designed with funky furniture, a chalkboard, and other offerings to encourage brainstorming.
The program grew out of feedback the brand received in a survey it conducted with parent company Carlson Rezidor about group meeting success and what's important to attendees. The top amenity was complimentary internet service, with 93 percent saying it was important, while high-quality A/V and good food also topped the list of responses.
"We took the ideas deemed important from the planners, and the concept grew out of that," says Taylor.
Experience Meetings has been rolled out at the four Radisson Blu properties throughout North America. So far, Taylor says the program has been a big success in Chicago, with groups finding the offerings not only help attendees engage more with the event, but they enjoy greater results overall.
"You are going to sell more if people are alert and they are mentally aware," he says.
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This article appears in the October 2015 issue of Successful Meetings.