Meeting Professionals Cite Top Priorities For 2020 in Teneo Hospitality Group’s Annual Survey


Planners Point to Growing Priorities of Service Delivery and Value, Over-Reliance on Technology, Creative Meeting Environments, & a Demand for Curated Experiences


Eden Prairie (Minneapolis), MN, March 2020….As a new decade dawns, leading meeting planners are identifying the most pressing issues confronting the meetings industry. Challenges include service delivery and value, creative meeting environments, the demand for unique, curated meeting experiences and an over-reliance on technology without accompanying technical support.

Teneo Hospitality Group, the premier group representation firm, polled top meeting planners coast to coast to determine their most pressing issues and concerns. These experts represent a spectrum of the meetings industry – finance, pharmaceuticals, real estate, insurance companies, non-profits, associations and technology.

“Planners cited a number of priorities, from unreliable technical services to concerns about budgets and outdated meeting room setups,” according to Teneo President Mike Schugt. However, a closer review of the survey reveals underlying concerns of consolidation of hotel sales offices resulting in response delays. “Trends toward centralization and an over-reliance on technology have created a bureaucracy that can slow the meeting planning process rather than expedite it.”

Priority #1 Delivery of Service and Value. Planners pointed to a decline in hotel communications services, particularly in the areas of prompt responses to requests for proposals and other crucial information needed by planners. Once contracts are signed, planners often noted difficulties in obtaining select services and facilities for which they contracted. Also reported was the need for greater technical support once a meeting is in process.

“This is becoming a serious issue for the industry,” says Mike Schugt. Planners asking for RFP responses usually need an answer in 24-48 hours and often contact three or more sources in order to present options to their clients. Planners we polled, all point to a situation where centralization of sales offices and dependence on technology has created a system best described as cumbersome, tech-driven and lacking in the kind of meaningful human contact needed to build lasting and effective relationships.” Service, service, service remain the watchwords of the meetings industry.

Suggested Solutions to Address the Priority: Planners can expedite the RFP response process from a hotel by simplifying their approach for information and meeting options, according to Mike Schugt.

“Today’s hoteliers face many competing demands and more layers of approval, particularly among the big brands,” he notes. By providing concise information, combined with flexibility, planners can reduce lead times and get the information they need. Be flexible with dates from the beginning. Even a slight shift in timing helps hotels create more and better options. It’s best not to source more than five cities at once as this may indicate to the hotel it has little chance of winning the business. At the beginning of the RFP process, limit initial concession requests to the most important issues. It takes hotels longer to respond if there are up to 25 requests to be approved. At this stage, planners should communicate key concessions, letting the hotel know there will be others but they are seeking availability and only certain terms with their RFP. Planners should also explain their decision-making process, the timing, and when they will narrow things down to a short list. This allows the hotel to prioritize accordingly. It is also vital that planners provide detailed history for each event so that the hotel has the information necessary to create a productive, memorable meeting.

Priority #2 Curated Meeting Experiences. “The impact of experiential travel on every segment of today’s travel industry cannot be overestimated,” Mike Schugt asserts. Planners view creative, transformative experiences as key in driving meeting engagement that in turn enables content absorption and post-meeting ROI performance. “Although Millennials have been influential in demanding more curated and meaningful meeting experiences, research shows that this is a requirement of all meeting attendees regardless of demographic,” Mike Schugt notes. “And, it is imperative that experiences be carefully curated to meet the specific needs of the organization.”

Suggested Solutions to Address Priority: “Look for independent hotels and smaller brands that have more flexibility in creating imaginative and inspiring experiences and a strong sense of place.”

Teneo members are predominantly independent properties in outstanding destinations that work closely with local travel partners to showcase the area’s attractions while delivering a high level of service. As such,planners can host a dinner under the Statue of Liberty or a brainstorming session in the middle of million-year-old red rock formations in Colorado. When in Rome, host a board meeting in a vault that was once a part of the ancient Diocletian Baths. In London, dine amid the thousand-year-old splendors of the Tower of London’s magnificent rooms and take a private tour of the fabled Crown Jewels exhibit. Also, look for venues where wellness concepts can be folded into the experience. Hiking or biking to a local attraction, outdoor yoga, jogging trails, white water rafting, horseback riding, meditation classes and unique spa treatments.

Priority #3 The Meeting Environment. The meetings industry has made great strides in bringing conference spaces into the 21st century but some venues have been slower to update technology and to revamp inflexible spaces.

Today, changes in the meeting environment are driven by its largest demographic – Millennials. “Millennials come from universities and work environments that consist of open, collaborative spaces equipped with the best in technology,” notes Mike Schugt. However, survey respondents reported that finding adequate space that allows for easy flow and access between rooms remains a challenge. Natural light, from skylights and large windows, is increasingly in demand by this demographic and newly built hotels are now designed with modern, glass facades, large windows and skylights, along with easy access to outdoor meeting spaces. Current, effective technology in meeting rooms, ergonomic, easily moved and comfortable furniture, privacy and protection of attendees, equipment and information, all were important planner concerns.

Suggested Solutions to Address Priority: Planners should examine and develop every aspect of the meeting room from interactive technology and WiFi to acoustics, room layouts and furnishings. Choose a hotel in a location that is conducive to meetings – quiet, well appointed, private and secure. Meeting rooms should be spacious and flexible with minimal time needed for set up. They should be equipped with top technology, easily moved, comfortable furniture, natural light and ample recharging stations built into tables and chairs, and enable meetings to flow easily out of doors.

Interior design should be simple and not distracting, but with pops of color such as accent walls, plants and artwork to add appeal and interest. Find a venue where the meeting can be mobile – on the beach, on a rooftop, in an historic building, in a garden.

Space should flow seamlessly to accommodate both meetings and social events and should be designed to provide a sense of place inside and out. Nature is an integral part of the Hotel 1 Brooklyn Bridge, renowned for its highly sustainable interiors and wood and metalwork recycled from Brooklyn’s industrial era. A living green wall studded with live plants brings nature inside the hotel. Floor-to-ceiling windows overlook 85 waterfront acres that make up the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy and the stunning New York Skyline beyond. Two centuries of American history live in the lavish ballrooms of Washington, DC’s iconic Willard Hotel where planners can also bring the meeting outside with team-building exercises that showcase the capital’s legends and landmarks. Like The Williard, look for inventive team-building programming that teach a skill, promote camaraderie and give a sense of place: Boat building in California, a surfing lesson on Oahu, plus an array of exercises from golf to culinary contests.

Priority #4 Tech Support. Planners continue to be concerned with the costs of technology and charges for WiFi. However, a far more serious issue is a lack of adequate technical support. “This tells us that at a time when technology has reached new levels of sophistication, there still are instances where a planner’s worst nightmare is realized and an entire presentation can fail,” says Mike Schugt. Planners have reported problems linking WiFi and AV, compromised bandwidth and AV vendors who fail to be present at the event or are unable to fix problems that arise during a meeting.

Solutions to Address Priority: Do your homework, get in writing that someone will be at the presentation to test the system and address issues where they arise. Planners need to stay current on technical advances in order to negotiate costs and coordinate effectively with vendors, hotel staff and attendees, and anticipate and solve problems. Mike Schugt also notes that one advantage of the current trend towards independent big box hotels is their ability to provide topnotch equipment and in-house support.

Priority #5 Budget concerns dominated the survey and informed every other issue of concern to planners. According to Teneo President Mike Schugt, major advances in technology may have made for greater efficiency in some areas, but the accompanying cost increases make advance planning and cost control difficult.

Suggested Solutions to Address Priority: Solving budget issues is more difficult in the face of the hotel industry’s record-breaking rise in occupancy rates and group sales, according to Mike Schugt. “It’s a sellers’ market,” he notes, adding that sales staffs of big brand hotels, operating under more rigid corporate policies, may lack the flexibility to negotiate better terms. Given the volume of incoming RFP’s, they may also lack the time for an in-depth effort to solve these issues.

In finding solutions to these challenges, Teneo identified a significant trend that has strong potential to address these issues. According to Mike Schugt, “The number of independent hotels and smaller brands is growing, and so is the evolution of big box hotels.” These larger properties are increasingly breaking off from major brands and deploying their expansive meeting spaces, extensive room inventory and outstanding technical services to become independent operators. This offers planners more flexibility and negotiating power as well as greatly increased options to create meaningful, transformative meeting experiences.

“These solutions rely on building and maintaining relationships between the hotel’s sales teams and meeting planners,” says Mike Schugt. “That is the essence of our mission – to bring these groups together for the benefit of all. Technology can enhance those relationships, if used with thoughtfulness and humanity and as a means, not an end.”

New Builds Signal Growing Strength of Independent Hotels, New Entrepreneurial Brands, as a Dozen Teneo Member Hotels Open 2017-2018

Construction Trends Span Independent Properties, Leading Brands, Major Markets, Second Tier Cities, Historic Restoration, Contemporary Design

Eden Prairie, MN, October 2017 … New hotel construction in major markets and second tier cities is signaling the growing strength of independent hotels and smaller entrepreneurial brands. The new properties span urban hotels, resorts, historic restorations, and anchors of major redevelopment programs, emerging business districts and dynamic new sports and entertainment complexes. They are breaking new ground in the areas of sustainability, art and architecture, historic preservation, food and beverage service and design, and using modern technology to create new meetings and guest experiences.

“This year and in 2018, we will see more than a dozen new Teneo-member hotels opening in the US, Mexico and Spain,” says Mike Schugt, president of Teneo Hospitality Group, the premier global firm representing 300+ independent and luxury branded hotels, resorts and DMCs. “These innovative and farsighted entrepreneurial efforts are found across the industry spectrum, in independent properties, in newer boutique brands such as Salamander Hotels & Resorts, Solis Hotels & Resorts, 1 Hotels, Heritage Hotels & Resorts, the Sydell Group, and in major-brand players such as Marriott International, Omni Hotels & Resorts and InterContinental Hotels & Resorts.”

1. New builds are part of ambitious redevelopment programs. The InterContinental Washington DC – The Wharf is part of a dynamic new hub of hotels, restaurants, office buildings and residences now rising on the banks of the Potomac River. Omni Hotel at The Battery Atlanta is a cornerstone of the mixed-use area adjacent to SunTrust Park, the home of the Atlanta Braves. At Hartsfield Airport, the recently opened Solis Two Porsche Drive plays a key role in the emerging Atlanta Airport Business District. Frisco, Texas is part of the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex where the new Omni Frisco Hotel is the official hotel of the Dallas Cowboys and located in the team’s new Star Headquarters stadium and office complex. The Omni Louisville Hotel, a 610-room luxury hotel, is rising over the city as part of a new development of offices, clubs, restaurants and residences.

2. Hoteliers continue to see the investment potential in historic properties. Two of Teneo’s recently-opened member hotels occupy historic buildings being revamped and reopened. The LINE Hotel, DC will be reborn in an historic church and the NOPSI Hotel, New Orleans, is now open in the city’s former public utilities building, a National Historic Landmark. Notes Mike Schugt, “While renovating these properties and preserving their ambiance is expensive, the individuality and historic significance of these hotels are a strong marketing advantage. And, the construction of these buildings is far more sound than those built more recently, making them an excellent investment.”

3. Interior and exterior designs are breaking new ground and providing a sense of place. Hoteliers realize that cookie-cutter architecture and predictable guestroom interiors are no longer competitive in today’s environment. 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge boasts a stunning interior design that pays homage to nature and Brooklyn’s nautical history. With a spectacular $115 million redevelopment underway, the ‘Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach features a spectacular 280,000-gallon oceanarium in the lobby. The Hotel Chaco‘s stunning design is inspired by the architecture and ancient Native American civilization of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. Located in Albuquerque, the hotel’s interiors are a modern version of the centuries-old pueblos and accented by Native American art and sculpture.

4. Recycled materials enhance construction and design. Recycled materials are being used in both new builds and reconstruction of historic hotels. The new 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge uses recycled local wood and metal to create art and furniture to reinforce the hotel’s nature-inspired design aesthetic. Designers used wood flooring from an old Brooklyn distillery, and artifacts that reflect the legendary borough’s history.

At The LINE Hotel, DC, the wood from the pews in the former church has been used in the lobby and pages from old hymnals have been framed and displayed. NOPSI Hotel, New Orleans began as the city’s public utilities building and its original ironwork, soaring ceilings and majestic windows have been preserved and repurposed.

5. While the farm-to-table trend continues, new restaurant concepts are emerging, including those created by celebrity chefs. ‘Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach boasts two restaurants by celebrity chef Masaharu Morimoto. At The LINE Hotel, DC, two award-winning young chefs, Erik Bruner-Yang and Spike Gjerde, are creating three new restaurant concepts, one serving American classics with a Taiwanese twist, one with local Mid-Atlantic fare and another focused on a tasting menu.

6. Hotels are built to create new and unique guest experiences. At the rapidly expanding Atlanta Airport Business District the new Solis Two Porsche Drive overlooks the Porsche Experience Center at Porsche’s North American Headquarters. The Center’s 1.6-mile driver development track is great for teambuilding and just plain fun. Guests can drive with a professional instructor, view cars in the Heritage Gallery, challenge skills in a Simulator Lab and browse in the Porsche Retail Store. Omni Louisville Hotel will include a Speakeasy with a bowling alley and a high-end lifestyle and grocery store. The Grove Resort & Spa Orlando overlooks Lake Austin Nature Preserve where guests can fish, or take to the water aboard a variety of vessels from kayaks to electric boats. In 2018, the resort will open a spectacular Safari Water Park.

7. Local artists and artisans bring a sense of place, history and aesthetics. The Hotel Chaco in Albuquerque features the work of several of New Mexico’s leading Native American artists throughout the hotel, with contemporary painting and sculpture, fabric designs and crafts. In Barcelona, Spain, SOFIA is fresh from a multi-million-dollar renovation with stunning architecture and modern art that reflects the work of Barcelona’s legendary artists, Salvador Dali and Joan Miro. The soaring lobby showcases white and gold mobiles in the modern, geometric shapes they favored.

At 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, local artists and artisans have provided original artworks, textiles and sculpture. All of the artwork in the NOPSI Hotel, New Orleans is inspired by transportation themes reflecting the hotel’s original theme as a transit hub and home of New Orleans’s fabled streetcars. At Omni Louisville Hotel, work by local artists reflects the city’s equestrian heritage and will be displayed in the lobby art gallery.

8. An Emphasis on Wellness. Most of the new build properties offer full service spas. The all-inclusive Le Blanc Spa Resort Los Cabos has a 29,000-square foot spa with 25 treatment rooms, a hydrotherapy facility, and a fitness center with personal trainers and numerous exercise classes. Omni Frisco Hotel offers a Dallas Cowboys Fitness Package based on the same exercise programs used by the legendary football team and its cheerleaders. At 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, the internationally famous Bamford Haybarn Spa is open, offering holistic treatments and organic products.

Inspiring the American Experience, Historic Hotels within Teneo’s Growing Portfolio Shape 21st Century Meetings & Events

Eden Prairie, MN, July 2017 … A Beaux Arts mansion where John Jacob Astor and F. Scott Fitzgerald once wined and dined. The Residence of Presidents including Lincoln, Grant, and JFK. A Pacific palace where royalty rested and film stars frolicked on the beach. Lavish symbols of Old Florida when the Twenties roared and the Jazz Age played. A splendid salute to the Old South with a famous flock of ducks parading daily in the lobby.

America’s past is present in these historic hotels that span the United States from Boston’s Back Bay to San Francisco’s Nob Hill. Once dazzling symbols of the country’s cultural, political and social history, some of these iconic hotels fell upon tough times as fortunes were made and lost and neighborhoods fell from social grace. Today, thanks to responsible and painstaking restoration programs and billions of dollars in investments, these pink palaces, proud towers, colonial manors and ornate mansions are no longer fading relics of bygone days. Splendidly restored to their glory, they are highly relevant in a new era of hospitality. As independent and small brand properties, they offer maximum opportunities to professional planners and their conferees for unique, memorable, one-of-a-kind meeting and event experiences.

“In this new era, authenticity, originality and a unique guest experience are essential to the success of a meeting or event,” says Mike Schugt, president of Teneo Hospitality Group, the premier global firm representing 300+ independent and luxury branded hotels, resorts and DMCs. “A historic hotel, renovated and equipped with the latest technology, delivers on all counts. Today’s planners and guests demand a singular venue, a commitment to authenticity and the most current technology. A historic hotel can provide all those elements to create a productive, memorable meeting. Often independently owned and operated, historic hotels are less bound by strict corporate policies and enjoy greater flexibility and creative freedom,” Schugt notes.

Teneo Hospitality Group’s members include more than a dozen historic hotels in the United States, several of them are designated as national landmarks. These properties have undergone extensive and expensive renovations that expanded public spaces and added new facilities while staying within the strict parameters set by local and national conservation bodies. All have installed new, state-of-the-art technology to meet both the needs of conference planners and guests and to operate on a highly sustainable level in every aspect of hotel services.

Teneo members also include Destination Management Companies in the same areas, which can enhance the historic hotel experience with original, exciting programs that showcase the best of each area’s storied past and dynamic present. Set sail on an America’s Cup yacht over Newport Harbor, tour California wine country, and dance in a Victorian ballroom overlooking the Pacific where King Edward VIII once waltzed.

Many of Teneo’s historic hotels played a key role in political life as well as the social scene. The Willard InterContinental Washington, DC, was a political hot spot from its earliest days as a restaurant and collection of boarding houses. The hotel first opened in 1847 on Pennsylvania Avenue, just steps from the White House and over the years hosted every president from Franklin Pierce to JFK, earning its name “The Residence of Presidents.” By 1860, The Willard was the center of debate over secession and Unionists and Secessionists were so divided they entered the building via separate doors. In 1901, a new and ultra-luxurious Willard was built, and it was brilliantly restored in the 1980s. It now stands as one of America’s most prestigious hotels. Another fabled Washington, DC hotel, The Hay Adams, emerged in Italian Renaissance splendor in the 1920s, on the site of two town houses once owned by prominent Washingtonians John Hay and Henry Adams. In a nod to the hotel’s Jazz Age roots the Hay Adams maintains an exclusive “speakeasy”, Off the Record, a favorite of DC insiders.

As great fortunes were made in the 1920s, newly minted tycoons built fabulous hotels. Florida was a favorite destination of the rich and many flocked to the “Pink Palace”, the Don CeSar in St. Petersburg. Also true to the era, The Biltmore Miami Coral Gables maintained a speakeasy and card game on the 13th floor.

Prohibition yielded some of America’s most iconic cocktails and historic hotels were up to the challenge of masking the harsh taste of illegal alcohol available during Prohibition. French 75s, Sidecars, Southside’s and Old Fashioned all flowed freely. Today, they are back on the bar menu and a favorite of Millennial guests and nostalgic drinkers, alike.

Farm-to-table dining can be traced to Boston’s lauded Omni Parker House, which in the 1850s boasted its own farm to supply guests and diners with the freshest ingredients, including butter for their famous Parker House Rolls. A literary hub for New England’s most famous writers, The Omni Parker House also hosted Charles Dickens where he recited and performed, A Christmas Carol, reading it to a rapt audience of Boston literary lions. The hotel’s kitchen once employed two famous political leaders: Ho Chi Minh was a baker there and Malcolm X, a busboy. Celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse worked as a sous chef before setting out for New Orleans.

Hoteliers in San Francisco, inspired by the city’s steep hills and stunning views, forged the concept of the Rooftop Bar and none is more famous than The Top of the Mark at the InterContinental Mark Hopkins. The hotel was built by a railroad magnate in 1926, and the bar and restaurant added in 1939.

Opulent, Beaux-Arts architecture appealed to the tycoons of the era who were investing in new hotels. Examples of this lavish style are found in New York’s recently relaunched The Knickerbocker Hotel, once a palatial property owned by JP Morgan and now born again as an elegant Times Square hotel. The Willard InterContinental Washington D.C., Boston Park Plaza and Sir Francis Drake and Stanford Court in San Francisco have preserved the elaborate ornamentation, bannisters, balconies, columns, cornices, pilasters and triangular pediments that mark this extravagant architectural style.

Equally rich appointments can be found in the Italian Renaissance style of The Peabody Memphis. First opened in 1869 and reconstructed in 1925, the impeccably restored hotel is a hub of the city’s business and social life. Each day, the legendary Peabody Ducks march through the lobby and swim in its fountain to the delight of guests.

In Nashville, The Hermitage Hotel took the Beaux Arts and Italian Renaissance styles to new and extravagant levels. Opened in 1910, the hotel featured marble floors, walls and columns as well as ornate ornamental plasterwork. The original chandeliers still hang from the lobby’s spectacular painted glass ceiling. Guestrooms were paneled in mahogany and equipped with such “new features” as running ice water and a telephone. U.S. presidents from William Howard Taft to President Bush visited the hotel, as did Charlie Chaplin, Babe Ruth and Country Music legends from Hank Williams and Patsy Cline to Johnny Cash.

Another famous historic property, The American Club in Kohler, Wisconsin, had a humble beginning as a residence for immigrant workers recruited by the Kohler Company, makers of bath and plumbing fixtures. The elegant Tudor building once contained a pub and a bowling alley for the residents. Today, it is one of America’s premier resorts with a championship golf course and the Kohler Experiential Learning Center, noted for its teambuilding and leadership programs.

The Hotel Viking in Newport, Rhode Island, sits on the city’s premier address, Bellevue Avenue, along which New York’s fabled “400” built their spectacular “summer cottages.” Its graceful architecture and newly renovated interiors recall Newport’s Colonial days as a thriving seaport and later as a yachting center. Built in 1926, The Viking is named for a band of Norsemen who may or may not have established a colony in Newport in 1120. They are said to have built a mysterious stone tower near the hotel that still stands.

Hoteliers accept major challenges and responsibilities in managing a historic property. Maintaining the hotel, meeting rigorous requirements from local, state and federal preservation bodies, operating with an elevated level of sustainable practices while incorporating 21st century technology demands commitment and creativity. In some cases, that obligation extends to the land surrounding the hotel. At Hotel del Coronado in San Diego, the hotel meticulously maintains its stunning Pacific beachfront, a favorite spot for parties, teambuilding, and top-flight entertainment. In Pennsylvania, the Omni Bedford Springs Resort, dating back to 1796 and set amidst the Allegheny mountains, preserves ancient hot springs that first drew the likes of America’s Founding Fathers. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams took the waters here, and the springs still feed the hotel swimming pool, one of the nation’s first, where musicians once played while hotel guests swam.

Despite the challenges and initial expense, a historic hotel is an excellent long-term investment, according to Darrell Tamosuinas, Teneo’s CEO. “These buildings were constructed to last and retain a level of craftsmanship and architectural authenticity not being built today,” Mr. Tamosuinas says. “They recall a time when Americans were on the move, building, exploring, creating and incorporating the best of the Old World with the energy and vision of the New, and today provide a destination experience unlike any other.”

That experience is enhanced by state-of-the-art-technology and embraced by a new generation. Thanks to committed hoteliers and investors, we can again imagine the glamour of a Gilded Age when princes and presidents, moguls and movie stars dined, danced, dealt and forged America’s history. These immersions into the best of the past while leaping forward into the 21st century are uniquely available to professional planners and their conferees at historic properties. As independent and boutique brand hotels and resorts, they offer unlimited opportunities for one-of-a-kind meeting, group teambuilding and event experiences.

 

Top 10 Food & Beverage Trends for 2017 from Teneo Hospitality Group Chefs, Luxury and Independent Properties Take Lead meeting New, Diverse Demands

 

Eden Prairie, MN, January 2017 … The food revolution that swept America’s tables all the way to the White House has reached the kitchens of the country’s hotel and resort ballrooms and banquet spaces. Chef-led, millennial-driven, and embracing the issues of sustainability, sourcing, wellness and diversity, the 2017 food & beverage trends show an increasingly complex and sophisticated market.

“Today’s hotel and group banquet guests have new and highly diverse dining requirements and demands,” says Mike Schugt, president of Teneo Hospitality Group, the leading professional group meeting sales organization bringing together 300 hotels, resorts and destination management companies worldwide with professional meeting and event planners.  “Luxury and independent hotels are well-positioned to provide customized culinary solutions to planners, as they are less restricted by brand corporate procedures and purchasing requirements.  This has resulted in an explosion of culinary creativity, and has made local sourcing of ingredients much easier, providing chefs detailed knowledge of how vegetables are grown and how animals are raised.”

Teneo recently addressed food & beverage trends at its Annual Summit, partnering with guest Executive Banquet Chef Stefan Peroutka of The Venetian and The Palazzo in Las Vegas.  A native of Austria who has cooked in several acclaimed restaurants in Europe and the United States, Chef Peroutka brings the same creative vision and commitment to excellence to group events.

“I believe that a key factor to longevity and success in this industry is based on a simple concept that I refer to as an ‘HONEST Food Program’,” said Chef Peroutka.  “It is built on delivering fresh and real ingredients that are prepared with proper technique and passion, always setting out to preserve the integrity of all ingredients used. This is the basic concept to building great culinary programs.”

Top 10 Group Food & Beverage Trends

Trend #1  Local and Sustainable 

Sourcing and using locally-raised meat and produce is the most productive way to meet the changing requirements for healthy dining while reducing a hotel’s or resort’s carbon footprint. Chefs are assured of fresh ingredients and much more intensive knowledge of the food they are buying and serving. Says Chef Peroutka, “Increasingly, group meeting and banquet guests want to know where their food comes from, how it is raised and fed, and they have a right to that information.”  For example, meat from grass-fed cows, raised without hormones is far healthier and tastier. By buying locally, a chef can assure guests from personal knowledge that their dinners come from animals that have been naturally and humanely raised. Indeed, animal welfare is a growing concern, especially among millennials.  Buying from local farms will also greatly reduce transportation costs and emissions.

Trend #2  Natural, Minimally Processed Foods

Creative chefs throughout the country are leading a movement to educate and excite their customers about experiencing foods as close to their natural state as possible, and not overly seasoned or processed. As healthier, plant-based ingredients replace processed food and awareness of the dangers of sodium, sugar and saturated fat grows, Americans are demanding healthier food at meetings and banquet events.

Trend #3  New Cuts of Meat, Non-traditional Fish, Meat Versus Plant

Animal-based proteins will assume a more secondary role in 2017 as chefs respond to guest’s individual diet preferences for more sustainable and healthier eating habits. Look for a greater use of vegetables, seeds, nuts and legumes as part of the protein intake at group dining events.  Since some fish have become scarce, more abundant species such as mackerel, rock fish and skipjack are now trending as healthy protein sources.  To make food more sustainable and affordable, chefs are using a variety of cuts of meat – not just breasts, shoulders, and legs, but the entire animal.

Trend #4  Healthful Snacks

New and healthier snacks are coming on the market, impacting both what is offered at hotels and resorts, in meetings, and what individuals purchase or prepare for themselves.  Planners have long seen the need for energy-boosting break-out items such as fruit, nuts and yogurt.  These will be joined by seaweed and plant-based snacks, and smoothies made with nut-based milks rather than dairy.

Trend #5  Ethnic-Inspired Breakfast Items

An increasingly diverse American population now consumes a breakfast that goes well beyond bacon and eggs, and international attendees bring their own preferences. Many Europeans start the day with a variety of breads and charcuterie from prosciutto and salami to pâtés. Middle Easterners enjoy spreads and salads, while Latin Americans prefer spicier breakfast entrees with meats, eggs and empanadas. In 2017, look for fruits such as pomelo, star fruit, mangosteen, red bananas, pomegranates and Asian pears for breakfast.  Hot and flavorful cereals such as congee mixed with vegetables or even spicy Korean kimchee makes a flavorful change from bland oatmeal. Popular breads will include pita, nan, flatbread, and tortillas for build-your own breakfast burritos.

Trend #6  Bolder Flavors

The phenomenal success of Siracha sauces and wide exposure to spicy ethnic foods such as Thai and Indian cuisine, make today’s guests far more adventurous diners, particularly among millennials. With an international mix of conference attendees, planners must explore ways to incorporate these items on restaurant and conference menus.

Trend #7  Hybrid Cuisine

Hybrid Cuisine evolved from the fusion food trend, which sometimes resulted in dishes that were more confused than fused.  Hybrid cuisine is all about respecting the craft and traditional techniques of two culinary worlds and combining items into a harmonious well balanced dish. For example, it could be as simple as Korean fried chicken combined with a daikon Kimchee turned into a slider with miso mayonnaise.

Trend #8  House Made / Artisan Items 

This trend is about creating a unique, individualized and memorable experience for guests – all produced and customized in house. This could be a small consumable item that is property-or event-specific … something a guest can take away with them, and which can later transport them back for a few moments to re-experience the event.  This may be house-made snack mixes, gourmet popcorn, macaroons, or small jars of house-made jams, chutneys, mustards or infused seasoning salts.

Trend #9  Grab & Go with Mobile Apps

Like many current food trends, this is driven by busy, tech-savvy millennials. At conferences, attendees can use hotel or meeting apps to access interactive menus through personal mobile devices, ordering freshly prepared menu items for quick pick up without the wait. The apps can also be used to order to a vendor booth or break-out meeting space, for fast convenient service.

Trend #10  Cocktails, Mocktails and More

Beverages can make an event, and the emphasis should be quality and innovation over quantity. Many classic cocktails are making a comeback, including Manhattans, Side Cars and French 75s.  America’s very own whisky, Bourbon, is giving Scotch a run for its money and gin lovers can now choose from a variety of tonics for their G & Ts. Talented mixologists are mixing their own infusions from fresh ingredients. Locally brewed craft beers and local wines enhance the overall dining experience and also contribute to sustainability.

Nondrinkers don’t want not be limited to simple water or chemically laden soft drinks. Planners can provide non-alcoholic beverages that are imaginatively presented. Fortunately, the current concern with health and safety has given rise to Mocktails, alcohol-free takes on mojitos, Cosmos, Martinis and Bloody Marys with infusions of fresh fruit and colorful garnishes.

In conclusion

“We are seeing a much more complex and challenging environment emerging within group food and beverage,” says Teneo President Mike Schugt.  “These changes will demand a creative, flexible response to guest demands, including an emphasis on flavor, health, and strict attention to sustainable farming & livestock practices, and dietary needs.”  While Mr. Schugt sees luxury and independent properties in the vanguard of this movement, he has no doubt that the entire industry will eventually step up to meet these new challenges. “This is an innovative, creative industry,” Mike Schugt affirms.  “We listen to our customers, ask questions, learn, and then lead the way.”

 

Chef Stefan Peroutka
Chef Stefan Peroutka