Having hosted meetings of all sizes for decades, Fairmont’s catering and conference teams are on the cutting edge of knowing what’s next for planners. From the latest flavors and event favors to putting a unique twist on a tried-and-true activity, Fairmont’s meeting experts share a glimpse of what to expect in 2012 and beyond.
Food Trucks Head Indoors
Street food has come a long way from pretzels and hot dogs, and many destinations are experiencing an explosion in gourmet food trucks. With tasty menu offerings that are quick and easy to create and serve, the food truck phenomenon has gained a devoted following. Recently, Fairmont staff has brought in these mobile operations as a fun option for meetings and events, which are also a quick, affordable lunch option.
“For a recent event we created a custom food truck, which was put together by our Catering Team, Executive Chef and Engineering Department. It offered small bites including Lobster & Fontina Mac-n-Cheese, Kurabuto Pork Belly Sliders with Espresso BBQ sauce, Saltimbocca on a stick with sage and fig glaze and Yellow Tail Tuna Tacos,” said Donna Bauer, Director of Catering and Conference Planning at Fairmont Newport Beach, California.
Just My Size
When you can personalize your candy, flip flops, jeans, perfume and more, why should your meeting be any less customized? For clients who are striving for high touch, high value, Fairmont experts suggest resort buyouts as an effective way to wow attendees and streamline the entire schedule. With the focus on only one group, hotel colleagues can customize every aspect of the program and attendees have the run of the house.
“We’ve had incentive buyouts utilize our entire resort with rounds of golf, spa treatments, team building activities and even their own cinema nights,” said Jane Frazer, Director of Sales and Marketing at Fairmont St Andrews in Scotland. “Coordinating in-house activities becomes much easier when one group has the run of the resort. Everything from yoga classes to whiskey tastings to specialized highland games can be tailored to their exact needs.”
Design-Your-Own (DYO) Activities
Planners looking for events that are fun and engaging have been inspired by Fairmont colleagues to bring the DYO trend to their agendas with activities that tap into creativity and leave guests with a take home that is both distinct and memorable. In Montreal, Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth added a touch of style and originality to a recent event by letting attendees blend their own lip gloss from a range of trendy colors at a customized “Lip Gloss Bar”.
“The Lip Gloss Bar was a great way to create customized gifts for attendees that really made an impact” said Nathalie Guertin, Regional Sales Director at Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth. “They loved playing with colors and creating something that was not only tailored to them, but extremely functional as well… a definite hit!”
Beer Takes Center Stage
The craft beer trend continues to grow in popularity, and Fairmont’s meeting teams are helping planners appeal to newly minted connoisseurs by booking beer meisters instead of wine sommeliers for events. At The Fairmont Washington, D.C. the World of Beer and Tapas Flight has been booked faster than anyone can say hefeweizen. Starting with Slow Braised Pork Belly paired with Sierra Nevada, India Pale Ale, a beer meister takes guests through New World Tuna Salad with Widmer, Hefeweizen; Beef Tenderloin and Duvel, a Strong Golden Ale; and Miniature Guinness Crème Brûlé with Guinness Stout.
“Attendees tend to consume less when drinks are incorporated into food stations, but beer tastings are also a great way to point guests toward interesting food pairings they might not otherwise know about,” said Suzie Murley, Director of Conference Services at The Fairmont Washington D.C.
Meet the Farmers
Planners know that a great way to create a memorable event is to weave the local community and culture into the agenda. Menus featuring local food and produce are one popular way to do this, but to really have an impact, Fairmont hotels are bringing in the farmers themselves. At Fairmont Pittsburgh, food stations highlighting individual local farmers and vendors take interaction to a fresh level. At one event, attendees were able to chat up Maggie Henry from Henry Family Farms as they sampled her organic braised pork tacos while quizzing her and four other farmers about products, farming practices and more.
“Local cuisine and menus have been popular for years, but with this event we were able to put a new twist on the trend and make it more engaging for attendees, giving them a real understanding of the provenance of their food,” said Christina Niles, Director of Catering & Conference Services at Fairmont Pittsburgh.
Special Diets Don’t Need Special Prep
Dietary restrictions are nothing new for meeting planners, but with health and wellness issues on the rise along with requests due to allergies, planners need to juggle cost, taste and function to create menus that are delicious and healthy for everyone in attendance. At Fairmont, Lifestyle Cuisine Plus caters to guests who have specific diet-dependent conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and celiac disease, as well as unique dietary preferences including, macrobiotic, raw and vegan diets.
At The Fairmont Orchid in Hawaii, for example, luncheon banqueting menus can include items such as Cucumber gazpacho with Hilo hearts of palm (Raw); Ahi sashimi, tomato mushroom relish, brown rice and baby greens (Dash/Heart Healthy); Mango summer rolls with peanut dipping sauce (Gluten Free); Buckwheat noodle stir-fry with carrots, organic bok choy and shiitake mushrooms (Vegan); Almond butter crusted salmon, fresh corn, brown rice risotto and swiss chard (Diabetic) and Whole grain carrot cake with whipped Hilo avocado (Macrobiotic).
Bigger is Better
Blockbuster meetings are still paramount for some clients, and many planners are again looking to spend money on big events and marquee names that will make them stand out. Over-the-top offerings like the recent 4,000-square-foot outdoor cinema constructed at Fairmont Bab al Bahr for the Abu Dhabi Film Festival are part of the trend of events looking for the biggest and best offerings for guests.
“We worked with Swiss OpenAir to create the world’s largest outdoor cinema, and it was a huge success,” said Melroy Vaz, Senior Manager, Groups, Conference Services & Catering at Fairmont Bab al Bahr. “Beyond the Film Festival, we think this is going to be a really great option for meeting planners who want to blow away their attendees.”
More Time, More Space, More Flexibility
As the bar climbs ever higher for events that “wow” stakeholders and attendees, large multi-media presentations are the norm, not the exception. And Fairmont colleagues know that in addition to meeting space that can accommodate high-tech AV equipment, savvy planners will want full access to reserved space for more complicated set-ups. Of course, letting top executives have as much rehearsal time as possible also makes early set-up an increasingly coveted perk.
“Our new conference center, which will add 52,331 square feet of indoor meeting space anchored by the new 23,000-square-foot Palomino Ballroom, will provide us with the opportunity to host two overlapping groups with overlapping move-in and move-out times,” said Pamela Gilbert, Director of Sales and Marketing at Fairmont Scottsdale Princess.