F&B Column: A Choice Meal

At the opening dinner for a corporate meeting at the Hyatt Regency Dallas at Reunion in April, each of the 200 attendees was able to order his or her own entree—at the table, off a menu. Although the salad, appetizer, and dessert courses were all preselected, the guests were able to choose whatever they felt like eating right then, right there (from a selection of three, that is).

That element of choice has long been unusual for banquet dinners of this size, but at Hyatt properties, it is quickly becoming the norm. Hyatt recently introduced "Personal Preferences," a new brand standard that gives a choice of entrees to guests of banquets ranging in size from 20 to 2,000, according to the company.

At the Hyatt Regency Dallas at Reunion, Food & Beverage Director Nassy Saidian says the program fills a long-standing need. "We've had a lot of special requests for both lunch and dinner," Saidian says, noting the general public's increasing attention to diet and cuisine. "There came a point when we knew we had to change what we were offering." Now, planners select the courses surrounding the entree ahead of time, as usual, but are then able to select three main course options (out of seven available) from which their attendees can choose at the meal.

The program has been well received. "That corporate group was here for three days, and the planner had selected 'Personal Preferences' for the opening meal only," Saidian says. "But after that first meal, they were all so pleased with the outcome and the feedback that they changed all the remaining meals to the 'Personal Preferences' program."

Since main courses are chosen tableside, it's impossible (or at least impractical) to pair wines specifically with each entree. So planners select wines ahead of time—usually one white and one red, Saidian says—which are then stocked in sufficient quantity to accommodate the group's needs. Planners are charged a per-person fee, regardless of what guests select for their entrees. "The price is determined once you've made the selection of your three items," Saidian says. "So if everyone at the meal chooses to go with the beef and no other entree is selected, the price is still the same." And that price is determined by the choice of the other courses as well as the menu for the entree. Wine is charged based on consumption.