A memorable “culinary journey” is more important than it has ever been for meeting planners.
With alternative, high-quality options like gastropubs, restaurants and cafes abounding nearby, the expectation for food quality in conference spaces has risen substantially.
Convene’s participant-first approach to designing our Perfect Plates program for meetings and events falls in the big, chiseled hands of Executive Chef German Villatoro, an experienced corporate chef with a demonstrated history of working in the events services industry and at various restaurants and hotels around the world.
Not only does German provide premium culinary experiences to Convene clients around the U.S., he is also responsible for developing our seasonal menus each year. Each menu is laser-focused on sustainability and freshness, thanks to his close partnerships with local food providers such as Baldor and Fulton Fish Market.
After serving more than 200,000 meeting attendees at Convene last year, German has learned a few tricks of the trade when it comes to surprising and delighting guests from around the world.
The Science of Food Research Meets The Art of Hospitality
“We spend a lot of time anticipating the needs of meeting attendees before they set foot in our space. Our seasonal menus are fully designed based on the feedback we get from our clients as well as the nutritional specifications that contribute to more productive meetings,” said Chef Villatoro.
Protein- and fiber-rich foods with low glycemic indexes, such as fish, chicken, and vegetables are ideal to keep productivity sky high. Legumes and avocados are other examples of “brain food” that keep attendees feeling full, alert and focused.
Additionally, it is best to avoid heavy foods that weigh you down, and stay away from snacks and foods that are high in sugar. This can help fuel creative brainstorming sessions and ensure attendees can power through long meetings. Meeting planners should aim to offer elegantly plated dishes that are full of health benefits but still delicious.
For shorter duration (several hours) and longer duration meetings and events (several days or weeks) meeting spaces should be well-stocked with on-demand snacks and small bites, as well as a variety of hot and cold drinks to provide the extra energy participants will need to get through their days. Most importantly, these snacks should be available throughout the entire day, not just within break periods, as meeting participants may be on a different eating schedule or time zone.
Convene’s approach to offering snacks and beverages aims to give attendees the same feelings of comfort they have when opening their best friend’s refrigerator – it’s easy, accessible, and comforting. Our hospitality team constantly curates and sources different types of products from local partners to keep our Nourish café offerings fresh and current. Best of all, Nourish provides unlimited snacks and drinks for all meeting participants.
It’s important for every large event to keep common allergens completely off your menu. “We don’t use shellfish or nuts in preparing any of our meals at Convene, so our menus are very guest-friendly,” said Chef Villatoro. To go the extra mile, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegetarian options should all be provided – and your “foodie” attendees should enjoy eating these options too!
What Culinary Success Should Look Like
It’s almost impossible to go out for a meal these days and not see someone taking photos of their food with a cell phone. This goal should be no different for a meeting planner. Not only will it boost social conversation, but it proves attendees are engaged and enjoying themselves.
Unique appetizers, specialty cocktails or beautifully plated dinners that restaurant-goers would be jealous of will be the key to their discerning palates, hearts and minds.