F&B worth bragging about

You are an influencer. As a meeting prof, you’re constantly helping to steer the future of businesses, organizations, even—if I may be so bold—our world, by creating settings in which minds can be at their best. But there’s also another, often unconsidered way you wield enormous influence.

Your RFPs.

By requesting specific advances in, say, F&B, you help create a demand that eventually topples the dominoes toward purchasing upgrades. Put another way, if the hotel’s sales and marketing team hears similar asks often enough, they will work to get them put on the property’s purchasing docket.

That’s why it’s worth taking a look at some of the latest on the food and beverage scene from the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago, which revived this year for the first time since 2019 and attracted 51,000 registrants. These included restaurant owners, foodservice professionals, food and ingredient suppliers and equipment manufacturers from 110 countries and all 50 states.

“Your catering RFPs wield enormous influence.”

A Kitchen Innovations Showroom—largest in the event’s history, which dates back more than a century—highlighted promising solutions in automation, efficiency, safety improvements, sustainability and waste solutions.

Read More10 Important Technology Questions to Ask in Your Next RFP

Zero-proof beverages, dairy-free and plant-based foods, and a heightened focus on global flavors were prominent across the show floor. In all, more than 1,700 companies filled nearly 600,000 sq. ft. of space at McCormick Place, in categories ranging from foods and beverages to technology and entertainment. A tip of the toque to Glen Hasek of Green Lodging News for curating much of what follows.

Paper or Plastic?

  • Paper straws are so much better than plastic for the environment, but they can be a mushy mess in a cocktail or iced soft drink. The company Enviro Sip Straw featured its BOSS straws. They resist collapsing, shredding or becoming soggy for more than 24 hours, are made of 100 percent recyclable paper and have food-grade, biodegradable bindings.
  • Picnic, grab-n-go and to-go packaging is rife with new options that are compostable and earth-friendly. This category was especially well represented by non-plastic, non-polystyrene, biodegradable food packaging options. Better Earth calls its products “field to food to field” because they are made from readily compostable materials ranging from bamboo to sugarcane to agricultural fibers.
  • How the catering kitchen cooks and serves can be just as important as what it cooks. Alabama-based Smart Buffet Ware came to Chicago to show off its serving induction systems that are cheaper to use and more energy-efficient than buffets warmed with canned fuel or electric heaters.
  • Bottled water (in plastic) will surely draw complaints from eco-conscious attendees. Filtered water stations are one workaround, but the Atmospheric Water Generator by Altitude Water of Port Lucie, Florida, extracts humidity for drinking from the very air we breathe. Altitude Water’s motto: “We make water licensed from Mother Nature.”
  • Did you know that conventional coffee plants are among the most heavily doused with chemicals in the world? We’re talking synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and insecticides. Fair trade-certified coffee supports a more healthful environmental stewardship, as well as fair prices for coffee farming families. Distant Lands Coffee, a pioneer in sustainable coffee production exhibited at the food show. It began growing coffee at the owner’s family farm in Costa Rica in 1968 and specializes in private-labeled roasts for foodservice and grocery retailers.

Ask and You May Receive

On your next hotel RFP that includes catering, ask for more than a low attrition rate on the sleeping room block, a hosted reception or reduced parking fees—ask for a better world. You might just get it—in the form, at least, of organic or sustainably produced coffee, compostables and no plastic bottles or straws.

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Then weave these F&B wins into your event’s story when marketing for registrations. Especially in today’s travel-wary world, everyone wants more than an inspiring keynote to feel good about gathering.

This article appears in the October 2022 issue. You can subscribe to the magazine here.