Millennial preferences shift hotel catering
Millennial preferences shift hotel catering
05 JUNE 2015 6:12 AM
Millennial meeting trends are touching the catering department in hotels, with these meeting planners wanting creativity and customization.
For many hoteliers, especially those of us who host business and social events such as conferences, conventions and personal milestone gatherings, the quality of our banquet and catering service is of utmost importance. In order to be successful we need to exceed our clients’ expectations and do whatever we can to ensure they don’t leave with a bad taste in their mouths (pardon the pun).
Those expectations are rising across the board, and they are being driven by what I’ll call a “millennial meeting trend.”  Simply put, today’s meeting planners are looking for creativity across the board. 
For example, many of today’s gatherings and events are less formal and more dynamic. Where there once was a projector, a screen and folding chairs, there are now laptops, Skype chats and cushioned seats. 
Translating the trend to catering
This new millennial meeting trend and desire for creativity also is touching the catering department. It wasn’t all that long ago that creating a menu and preparing the food for a group event was fairly straightforward. The menu typically featured a standard set of items and choices. Meeting planners weren’t doing the real menu planning. Instead, their job was to do the choosing. As long as you delivered on what was selected and the food was fresh, the customer was happy. 
Today is a new day, and we need to understand what this means for us as food and banquet managers. 
For starters, there often is no “standard” menu to work from. Today’s meeting planners want menus that are created and customized to meet their unique needs and wants. This could include things such as organic products, items from local suppliers and specific dishes that are dietary and allergy friendly. 
Sometimes this involves sitting down with the planner and a blank sheet of paper and creating a menu from scratch. The cost for this will be higher, in some cases significantly higher, but the planner takes this into consideration when making decisions and often decides the cost-to-benefit ratio worth.
Being earth-conscious and environmentally friendly in order to limit our carbon footprint is also something that is important to consider. Using cloth napkins, compostable cups and recycled or recyclable to-go containers are a few examples of how we can work with a meeting planner to accomplish this.
Regarding the environment for the event, the setting likely will need to fit the theme. Instead of a buffet food line and traditional large roundtables, a planner for a millennial meeting might be seeking an “a la carte” restaurant environment with a floor arrangement and the seating set to convey a small diner feel.
What does this all mean? 
If we want to be successful we must realize that today’s meeting planners are looking for creativity, in style and substance. If we understand this and are able to collaborate with them to plan a gathering that is “outside the box” we’ll position ourselves well for the next big meeting to come to town. 
Of course, we’ll need to make sure we have enough blank paper.
Tom Conran serves as a principal of Greenwood Hospitality Group, where he is responsible for strategic investments and third-party hotel management assignments. Mr. Conran has more than 30 years of hospitality experience in the management, finance and real estate sectors. Prior to Greenwood, Mr. Conran served as VP of Business Development for Richfield Hospitality. Mr. Conran earned a bachelor’s degree from Keene State College in Keene, New Hampshire. Mr. Conran was a founding member of Meetings Planner International in Hartford, CT, and he currently serves on the Owners’ Advisory Board of DoubleTree Hotels.
Adam Greiner serves as Corporate Director of Food and Beverage for Greenwood Hospitality. Mr. Greiner is responsible for the operational oversight and execution of Greenwood’s food and beverage operations and initiatives. Mr. Greiner has 10+ years of executive leadership experience in the luxury hospitality market including private restaurant, hotel and destination resort settings. In his career Mr. Greiner has held a number of high profile positions ranging from hotel Food and Beverage Directorship’s to General Manager of upscale restaurants. Prior to joining Greenwood, Mr. Greiner served as Food and Beverage Director of high-profile properties including the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort and The Greenbrier Resort.
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