Food and wine festivals regularly spill out into the streets of Las Vegas. Almost 15,000 people attended beer, wine or whisky festivals last year. Including Vegas Uncork’d, which brought 6,000 people to The Park, The Cromwell or The Cosmopolitan for celebrity meals prepared by the likes of Giada De Laurentiis, Gordon Ramsay and Scott Conant. Wine Spectator hosted a grand tasting at The Mirage for 4,000 people.

For planners looking to move attendees out to where the famous flavors live, Lip Smacking Foodie Tours offer culinary adventures with names like Savors of the Strip. Sundance Helicopters pairs aerial tours with dinner for savory bites and neon lights.

The presence of some of the world’s best restaurants clustered right outside (and sometimes inside) the hotel lobby is a great opportunity to indulge attendees’ taste for exploration. Your concierge can offer suggestions for different price ranges and food preferences that can turn breathing space in a program into an adventure.

Celebrity Chef Culture Feeds Bottom Line

Chris Meyer, vice president of global business sales for Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA), says that his agency’s studies show visitors are getting younger and bringing new expectations for what a trip to the city will include. The average age is still the mid-40s, but last year visitors were three years younger, on average, than the year before. “This trend has been going on for the last five years,” he says.

Travelers are spending serious money when they come. The LVCVA’s 2016 Visitor Profile Study found that the 42.9 million visitors last year had an economic impact of $60 billion. That is more than the GDP for the entire country of Luxembourg.

For the 23rd year in a row, the oasis in the Nevada desert was named the No. 1 trade show destination in the country by the Trade Show News Network. It hosted 57 of the 250 largest trade shows, more than the next two—Orlando and Chicago—combined.

Altogether, Las Vegas hosted nearly 22,000 meetings, conventions and trade shows, drawing a record-breaking 6.3 million delegates to 150,000 hotel rooms. And the fun capital is still growing. More than $9 billion in hospitality space is under construction or in development for opening in the next few years.

They come for the amenities, the gaming, the shows and the business. But they stay for the food. “When people travel, they are looking for unique experiences,” Meyer says. “Food is a great way to provide that.”

Photo of Rx Boiler Room

Welcoming Groups

Many Zagat-starred restaurants are not limiting themselves to whoever might wander in off the street (or in some cases plan ahead a year to secure a coveted Saturday night table). They see the opportunity to showcase their skills to larger audiences in off hours by catering to groups and are opening their doors wide to the meeting industry, happily reports Chris Meyer, vice president of global business sales for Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

Some restaurants that are open to the public only for dinner host exclusive breakfasts or lunches mixing fun and business. Working with these culinary geniuses to make the most of these special spaces can be a recipe for a unique experience people will savor—and more importantly, post to their social media and go back home and tell other people in the office about.

“People are craving authentic group experiences that aren’t cookie-cutter, and we provide a unique culinary aspect,” says Michael Frauenheim, director of operations at local celebrity favorite Rick Moonen’s RM Seafood and Rx Boiler Room in Mandalay Bay.

At Rx Boiler Room, everything can be moved out to create a custom space to accommodate groups as small as 10 or as large as 300. Many of those groups bring special requests. “We created a neon yellow cocktail for Pella Windows to match their bright yellow company logo,” Frauenheim recalls. The restaurant also recently hosted a Bombay Sapphire mixologist competition to create appetizers and desserts. Cooking and cocktail demos, book and cutlery giveaways are also popular with groups.

“The end result is that groups come away feeling like the experience was custom-made for them,” Frauenheim says. “Group business is crucial to Rx Boiler Room’s success and we pull out all of the stops as needed.”

Craftkitchen, a 65-seat restaurant in the Las Vegas suburb of Henderson, often sells out the restaurant in the evening for group events and makes custom healthy menus to fit the event’s needs. “We once hosted a company’s new product launch,” says Chef/Owner Jaret Blinn. “We had to create a seven-course dinner menu incorporating pairings with their companies’ products—four wines, one sake and two beers. It turned out really great.”

Further Reading:

Nevada Meetings: Served on a Silver Platter