In her conference trends predictions for the next six months, Claire Rowland, director of marketing at QHotels, explained: “At the start of the year we touched on the importance of conference and event food. Increasingly the discerning diners, event bookers and delegates are looking for something a little different from the norm, an element of choice and a menu that is sympathetic to dietary requirements such as gluten-free options as standard.
“Bookers are often looking for guidance and as the quality of the food has a direct impact on the success of the event, it’s essential we steer them in the right direction and work to exceed expectations.
“From healthier options to indulgent treats (often a mixture of both is chosen) and regional produce, we are seeing a range of requests being tailored to the season and locality of each event. How venues react to the changing environment on the day is important too, such as serving ice creams on a hot afternoon to revitalise delegates. We should never underestimate the importance of food in ensuring the success of an event.”
Another study by Radisson Blu Hotels found that 47 per cent of workers admitted to daydreaming during meetings, with 37 per cent missing a key point because of their lack of attention. As a result, the firm decided to shake up its conference offering with a stronger focus on food.
The new conference format includes balanced and healthy food meant to keep delegates’ brains alert, as well as a creative ‘brain box’ to be used as an alternative to traditional meeting rooms; and free Wi-Fi.
Steve Manfield, area director of marketing UK and Ireland for Radisson Blu, said “Our Radisson Blu ‘Experience Meetings’ concept was launched in response to changing customer demands and focuses on delivering seven key components for successful meetings to ensure that they are effective, efficient and engaging for all who take part.
“Radisson Blu has also developed a special Brain Food menu for meeting delegates, comprising nutritionally balanced and healthy food items to keep delegates alert.”
The chain is taking Experience Meetings around the UK and Ireland with a purpose-built events truck until the end of July. Upon entering the truck, guests are introduced to the new meeting concept through sensory experience including live chef demonstrations and audio visual presentations.
“The UK’s meeting industry generated £5.6bn for the economy in 2013, therefore it’s important that meetings are designed to be as productive as possible. Our study shows that people can often get quickly distracted and phase out during poorly planned and frequent work-based meetings in the office,” Manfield added.
Among other trends mentioned by QHotels’ Rowland were:
- A more hybrid approach to conferencing as events bookers look to cater for virtual delegates accessing content remotely and widening the reach of the day – hence the need for free Wi-Fi, video conferencing and live streaming facilities.
- Simple corporate social responsibility packages as organisers can let that aspect slip down their list of priorities while focusing on budget. For example, QHotels is offering a carbon offsetting programme with no logistical impact on the day, and Radisson Blu’s Experience Meetings include ‘a commitment to being a responsible business through carbon-neutral meetings’.
- A tendency to look at the surrounding areas of the meeting’s location inorder to create a destination experience for delegates visiting from outside the region. As a result, hotels should have dedicated teams in place to offer local knowledge and support bookings.
“2014 has been named as the year for recovery for the events and conference industry and we’re definitely seeing its effect in our business as enquiries continue to rise and briefs become more tailored with increased spend.
“Quality and service are still king but more companies are looking for an event with a difference within faster and short lead booking cycles, reflecting the need for a strong return on investment in quality and service,” concluded Rowland.