Michael Green Leveraging Food and Beverage Choices to Reinforce Meeting Goals

Ready Set Serve: Seven Ways to Make Dinner Events Run Like Clockwork

May 05, 2008

By Michael Green

What’s the most valuable thing you and your clients have? Time!

And no one wants to waste it sitting through another painfully long rubber-chicken dinner that drags on endlessly because of an unrealistic timeline, lack of staffing, too many courses, or a lack of understanding of the group dynamic.

These interminable events only leave guests waiting to go back to their hotel or race home to pay the babysitter. Here are a few time tips to effectively manage an event, keep your guests engaged from beginning to end, and leave them wanting more.

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Put A Cork In It: Six Wine Myths Debunked

May 02, 2008

By Michael Green

In the last few years, America has embraced wine with a passion, though some persistent wine myths still prohibit many event planners from making educated, informed wine selections. With the right wine facts though, you can impress clients and guests, branding yourself through unexpectedly delicious wines. Here are six wine myths that need debunking:

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It’s Not What You Serve but How You Serve It

June 08, 2007

By Michael Green

Seven Simple and Low-Cost Ways to Turn Your Dinner into an Experience

Let’s face it – sometimes there is not much you can do about the quality of food and drink at a hotel banquet hall or conference center – or even at a restaurant. Sometimes your hands are tied – maybe there are budget issues, perhaps the host does not want to go off-site or maybe there is a lack of quality restaurants in your conference region.

Fret not! Here are seven things you can do to transform the “rubber chicken” dinner into something special:

1) Opening Numbers. Greet guests with a specialty cocktail to begin. Rather than having guests cue up at an open bar, create and brand a drink with your company name or corporate culture and have servers offer it to your guests by its name. For example, “The Competitive Edge” or “World Domination.” If the drink is especially yummy, you can give guests the recipe as a takeaway.

2) The Power of Words. Make sure the menu card takes full advantage of the evening. Even if it is a rubber chicken dinner, where did the chicken come from? What type of goat cheese was used? Are the carrots organic? “Otter Farm Raised Braised Chicken Breast” and “A Selection of Artisan Cheeses from Pleasant Ridge” sounds better than chicken and cheese. List wines with vintages and places. Be specific. Brand the menu with your corporate logo and tag line. Proof and proof again.

3) Get A Room! Eating certain foods can be daunting and are best enjoyed with friends and family in the comfort of your home. Don’t turn the very act of eating into a culinary comedy. Your guests want to come off as polished and professional and they want to make a favorable impression. Do you really want guests to run up a dry cleaning bill after the meal? Avoid soups, long pasta, excessive spice and anything with bones or shells (quail and lobster).

4) Cold Shoulder. Select a first course that can be served cold or room temperature. If your opening remarks go on too long, or if your guest are slow in sitting down, servers will not need to make a mad dash to get hot food out to your guests.

5) Flower Power (or Not!). Money spent on flowers can be out of control and often not necessary. You can create other low-cost options. What about a potted-herb centerpiece of the herb used in one of the dishes? Beautiful bunches of grapes? Perhaps an elegant bowl containing a selection of seasonal fresh fruit. Keep the centerpieces low and avoid anything that is aromatically intrusive. A selection of wine glasses, votive candles and a creative solution can go a long way.

6) The Right Mix. Music can set the tone and brand the night. Don’t leave it to chance. Make your own mix. What songs are appropriate to your meeting goals and corporate culture? Make copies for a low-cost, high-impact gift.

7) The Seventh Inning Stretch: Pass mini desserts or set up an elegant, easy-to-navigate dessert buffet. Towards the end of the evening guests will want to stretch and mingle. Keep desserts small and easy to eat – one-bite delights.

Have an idea? Email me at [email protected] with your easy and low-cost entertaining tips; the three most creative submissions sent before June 15 will win a free subscription to Gourmet magazine.

Why Most Wine Lists Are Poor & Five Things You Can Do About It

May 30, 2007

By Michael Green

Most hotel and conference center wine programs are a study in vinous mediocrity. Commercially acceptable at best, though if you factor in typos, missing vintages, outrageous markups, lack of wine knowledge and poor wine service you quickly get to mediocre.

Remember what I spoke about in my last posting ― “Wine and Food: The Perfect Event Partner.” Think of food and wine as your marketing partner; it can brand your event.

Five Things You Can Do to Stack the Bottles in Your Favor:

1. Get the Wine List WELL in Advance. This will give you an idea of what you have to work with and how committed the venue is to a wine program. As you peruse the list, ask yourself the following: Does the list feature both prolific and boutique selections, are vintages listed (yes, vintage can make a difference), is the markup over 300%? Do any of the selections excite you? Does the sales or banquet manager know anything about wine (and wine and food pairing) beyond what they are trying to sell?

2. Ask For the REAL Wine List. Often the venue will present you with the banquet wine list, which features “easy” to get selections. These limited selections are high-volume products that are often easy for the hotel to get on a regular basis. Not a bad thing necessarily but can be limiting. Ask for the full wine list – the list that is used for the general hotel/hotel restaurant. This will often be more global, and more well-rounded.

3. Ask to Speak with the “Wine Guy.” Involve the beverage director/sommelier or food and beverage director when considering selections. If they know you are serious about using wine and beverage to help brand your event, they might special order something for you (often at a lower markup) since the venue does not need to hold onto extra inventory.

4. NEGOTIATE! If you know the markups seem unfair, negotiate. If you are planning many events on-site, they will (most probably) be willing to work with you.

5. B.Y.O. It might be less expensive and more of a branding/marketing opportunity to bring in your own wines. Even with a corkage fee of $10-$20 per bottle you might get a better-quality wine for the money. Source that special wine yourself.

Wine: A powerful event tool to make your event even more, well… eventful!

Wine and Food: The Perfect Event Partner

May 29, 2007

by Michael Green

FACT: Everyone needs to eat, most everyone likes to drink and everybody loves to talk about it!

All too often, cautious event planners execute wonderful events but fail to realize that food and beverage can be powerful marketing tools.

Beyond the actual taste and tactile sensation of wine and food there are other – and often more important – psychological factors that are more powerful when defining and differentiating your event. The world is hungry for authentic “can’t be bought” experiences and food and wine can provide tasty opportunities.

Think of food and wine (or more broadly food and beverage) as your marketing partner. They can brand your event.

Think of every decision of the food and beverage journey as a marketing and branding opportunity that can communicate corporate culture, goals, new wins, icebreakers, and product and service launches.

Thirsty For Inspiration? Think Reason, Season and Region

Get to the heart and get your inspiration for why you are having your event. This should generate some creative and appropriate food and beverage ideas.

•Expanding Markets: Develop a wine dinner or reception that focuses on these markets. Ever taste a wine from Mexico, China, Greece or Uruguay?
•Unveiling New Ideas or Trends: Use each course as a case study to illustrate new trends – screw caps, sous vide cooking, organic/biodynamic wines, organic produce, celebrity chefs and mixologists.
•Company Anniversaries: Go back in time and explore wine and food from the birth of your company; what did you eat and drink 25 years ago?
•Women in Business: Create an experience that celebrates female chefs and vineyard owners.
•Leadership Initiatives: Craft an evening where the food and beverage shine the spotlight on leaders in the hospitality industry such as Robert Mondavi and Alice Waters.

The season can also provide inspiration. A hearty more homey comfort dining experience might be great with the chill of winter while lighter fare may be more appropriate as the temperatures rise. Remember: We often drink and eat with the seasons. Here are some additional ideas that take their inspiration from the season and time of year.

•February: A Rose inspired event around Valentine’s Day. Some of the toniest Champagnes are rose and rose water is reemerging as a popular ingredient in many dishes.
•July: Made in America! A food and beverage journey that celebrates cuisine and beverage from different regions in America.
•Winter: Strong, Sweet, Warm and Fortified – A Tasting of Ports and Desserts.

Don’t overlook the importance of place to help craft an authentic experience. What unique foods, beverages and talent can you find in your region or the place where you are holding your conference or event? Sometimes the freshest ideas are right in your backyard. Also many of the finest wine destinations are located no more than two hours from a major city: North Fork of Long Island (New York City), Napa Valley (San Francisco) and Champagne (Paris).

So raise a glass and fork and toast the endless epicurean event opportunities!

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