People are craving a sense of place and authenticity so much that it’s become a booming trend: Go local. Keep it local. Leveraging local. Shopping centers all look alike; housing developments have little character; chain restaurants are lined up one after the other. Regional culture is often lost in a stream of mass production with all-too-familiar brand names.
The terminology has become a din in our industry in the last few years. Connect Director of Meetings and Events Angie Ahrens writes in her column “Hosting Locavore Events,” page 29, that nearly every day she hears the phrase “go local” both personally and professionally.
Don’t we all yearn for breakout sessions and opening-night conference dinners in an unfamiliar city to be something special? We want a destination to reveal itself throughout our meeting—perhaps displayed in mini-cactus centerpieces from the Las Vegas desert, a night-hike teambuilding activity among Arizona rock formations or room drops of homemade Montana huckleberry honey. We dream of visiting somewhere wholly different and homespun—but only if there’s a Starbucks nearby.
We want experiences that satisfy our sophisticated palates blended with local culture. Even Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, recognizes this duality of our nature: He knows you want the convenience of his delicious roast without feeling as if you’re selling out the townie-owned coffee shop. As Starbucks prepares to launch the first of a series of luxury Reserve stores (Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room opened in Seattle in December 2014, shown), it’s promoting them as “specialized formats” and “specific places.” Whether that means a New England Starbucks will have fireplaces and the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson lying about or everyone who works at one of these new stores will be required to have a regional accent is unclear.
What Schultz wants is what we all want. He wants his customers to have an emotional connection to his coffee. He’s hoping to do that by embracing the locavore trend wholeheartedly. Take a cue from this successful entrepreneur. In this issue’s cover story, you’ll find plenty of ways to go local with your events.