The Art of Banquetology

Economy and diet consciousness have companies cinching belts.

Belt-tightening—both fiscal and literal—has led to the demise of excessive and overindulgent meal functions.

That's just fine with Florida's Crowne Plaza Melbourne Oceanfront Resort and Spa, which has had much success with its concept of Banquetology, described as a stylized meal for both the eyes and the palate. Banquetology fuses three emerging trends: right-sized food portions, a variety of menu options, and aesthetically-pleasing presentations.

Rolling food carts showcasing a colorful bounty are set up throughout the function space. Edible offerings vary from daintily tied sandwich pieces to desserts served in shot glasses.

"America's tastes have become more sophisticated, and many yearn to try new and inventive menus. Banquetology helps us to meet these expectations. It provides our guests with a wide variety of menu items in just one seating," says Bradley Francis, a chef at the resort. "Plus, it's a modern, neat look that our clients like."

Each dish is carefully designed with aesthetics in mind, focusing on right-sized portions that minimize calories. Plus, given the smaller portions, guests can have a few different selections.

Right-sized portions are also cost-effective. Food and labor costs are dramatically reduced, says Deborah Pooley, director of catering at the resort. The average cost per person is $10 for breaks; $20 for lunch; and $30 for dinner.

The concept of Banquetology also encourages interaction, since most options are action stations featuring such offerings as omelets, stir-fries, and mini-burger and panini bars. Instead of a line of ho-hum metal chafing dishes, chefs use griddles, Crock-Pots, and frying pans.

"The days of the big, bulky deli buffet are over. We serve small sandwiches, oriental boxes with salad in them, shooters for dessert. Not only does this coincide with the change in people's diets, but it also results in less waste. A guest can have a half of a turkey sandwich and a half of a tuna sandwich. It gives the client more choice, but is also keeping everything portion controlled. Everyone loves the concept," says Pooley. "The smaller portions also allow for greater exchanges between attendees, since they are not rushing to eat a huge meal to stay on track with the meeting's agenda. Plus, attendees can have three desserts that are served in shot glasses instead of one—and still not overindulge."

The Crowne Plaza Melbourne Oceanfront, which sits on the Atlantic, recently completed a $30 million property renovation that included its 16,000 square feet of meeting space and all 270 guest rooms and suites.

Originally published Feb. 1, 2009

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