Because of this rough economy, planning events at conference centers with all-inclusive packages has become more popular. There are several reasons why, with the first being the most obvious — the budget. When everything is included in the conference price, planners can understand and effectively budget their costs. Part of the package price includes the culinary experience, but it’s a fixed experience, meaning: The chef controls what is being served. You, as a customer, do not get a lot of say unless you want to go off the package and pay additional money for a la carte items. For someone like me, I find this frustrating because conference centers market to the masses (as they should), but I find their food to be more about quantity than quality. If you are looking at doing something at a conference center, I would like to give you a few “tips” to enhance your culinary experience in this “package” situation.
- Many packages offer one hot item at breakfast and on the afternoon break. Suggestion: Take the afternoon hot item off, and put that money towards enhancing your Continental breakfast.
- Many packages offer a hot breakfast sandwich (chef’s choice). Suggestion: Ask up front what this sandwich is and let them know that you want flexibility to change that, based on the tastes of your group. Don’t forget to accommodate the vegetarians in your group.
- Group lunches tend to be chef’s choice. Suggestion: Write into your contract that you will see this menu a week prior to your event. I make a point of letting my conference services manager know the tastes of our group in advance and ask that the chef work those suggested items into the menu.
- Morning and afternoon snack items may not include snacks that your guests enjoy. Suggestion: Communicate with your CSM and see what can be accommodated and what can’t.
My experience with “tweaking” menus in package environments has been good. If you communicate your needs up front and negotiate these needs into the contract, then you will be in good shape if you want to customize your culinary from the package.
This is my story for now and I am sticking to it.