“Where’s the candy?” I heard two women ask each other in the exhibit hall at a large conference this year while perusing the afternoon snack offerings. The planner of the conference had gone the healthy route with a build-your-own mix of sunflower seeds, pistachios, granola, coconut and dried fruit. The truth is, I too had noticed the absence of my beloved M&Ms, usually the first jar to be emptied in that kind of spread. Later, I overheard the same women bonding over the tragic lack of chocolate.
Ah, food—the great uniter. But it can also be the ultimate divider, with the rise of dietary restrictions and food allergies causing next-gen F&B issues for planners (get a breakdown of these by Connect Marketplace presenter Tracy Stuckrath here).
In our annual F&B Issue, we dished up a hearty serving of the latest trends, from flash mob-style waitstaff and smokin’ cold dishes to sparkling wine’s big comeback and the most popular craft beers at convention centers around the country. We discovered in our research that while the wellness movement is in full force, there’s still something to be said for comfort foods—warm buttermilk biscuits or iced sugar cookies, anyone?Outside meeting room walls, there are many tastes to be explored, and no finer dining than in the handpicked cities in “Forks Up! 10 Foodie Cities for Meetings.” Our list highlights James Beard Award-winning chefs and eclectic private dining rooms in some of the best foodie destinations, including some that might surprise you.
Remember, you’re never going to please everyone, but you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take. If the F&B at your conference is either really good or really bad, people will talk about it. Have you ever heard a spirited conversation about a painfully predictable lunch?
And if all else fails, M&Ms (or jelly beans) usually make everyone happy.