A New World for Food-and-Beverage Events

Here's a host of questions to ask -- and what to require -- when planning your next menus, room sets and more.

The past few months have been tough for our industry. A lot has changed and will forever be changed, including how we serve food and beverage at events. Personally, I hope (and think) we will get back to having fancy buffet displays, preset salads and desserts, and passed hors d'oeuvres, but it will take a while.

According to a recent Dataessential survey, 74 percent of respondents said safety and health are the biggest factors preventing them from dining out in restaurants. The study also revealed that nearly 40 percent of consumers are worried about touching items others have touched, 15 percent are worried about how staff are preparing and handling food, and 43 percent said self-serve salad bars and food bars were seen as "too risky." While this was based on consumers eating out at restaurants, I think we can safely translate those same concerns to event food-and-beverage experiences as well.

So, as you begin think about what hosting the next meal function might look like for your organization, I wanted to share some information and guidance that I have collected by talking to chefs and food-service experts at large hotels, conference centers and catering companies.

To be quite frank, no one really knows all the answers, but what is crystal clear is that communication, transparency and visible food-safety practices are key.

Safe practices have always been important for our food-service partners, but to be honest, most meeting organizers - myself included - often overlook it, relying on or taking for granted that our food-service providers would handle it. The communication about food safety practices typically has been kept behind the kitchen door

Last year, I compiled "A Food-Safety Management Plan Is Essential for Your Event," which offers questions for planners to ask their food-service providers about the food they are serving, where it was sourced and food-safety practices around managing attendees' dietary needs. It did not really cover the nitty-gritty that the U.S. Food Code or international food codes require.

COVID-19 has changed that. Food safety is no longer an issue simply designated for the catering companies, hotels and venues we contract with to provide meals and cocktails at our events. Our stakeholders - clients, attendees, boards, sponsors, vendors - are going to want to know exactly what we are doing to create safe food-and-beverage experiences for them. So we'll need to work with our food-service partners to maximize our confidence in them and minimize attendee concerns. 

Read the full story at NorthstarMeetingsGroup.com