Let’s face it: Many event attendees live for the food breaks. And when a large-scale event group disperses for lunch or dinner without a scheduled meal as part of the program, a little planning and collaboration with the destination’s CVB can provide them with a better dining experience, particularly by circumventing long lines and wait times. It also allows attendees to soak up the local flavor so they get a genuine taste of the meeting destination.
Which is why when Drum Corps International and the Nike Mideast Qualifier volleyball tournament met in Indianapolis recently, their organizers worked closely with Visit Indy to arrange additional dining options for their 23,000 performers and 25,000 athletes, respectively. The solution? Visit Indy took care of the arrangements for food truck vendors to attend to their meals. Lining a three-block promenade adjacent to the Indiana Convention Center with food trucks is popular with groups using the facility’s 566,000 square feet of exhibit space. And Indy’s more than 80 food trucks — from barbeque and burgers to cupcakes and wine — have extensive experience catering to such major events.
Other large conventions like Fresenius Medical Care, LeadingAge, and the American Academy of Audiology, which all met in Indy in 2016, took full advantage of the city’s private dining scene, and worked with Visit Indy to avoid long waits, enhance attendee interactions, and enable them to experience the city’s robust culinary offerings. Some groups that meet in Indy assign chapters or organizational regions to certain restaurants, encouraging new connections and networking opportunities.
To assist planners, Visit Indy provides a resourceful Private Dining Guide, and local DMCs can arrange dining hosts and guides. With more than 250 restaurants in close range of the convention center, the hassle of transportation can be avoided in Indy’s walkable downtown, but a knowledgeable walking guide can be helpful.
“Because of Indy’s walkability and proximity to a variety of local dining options, dine arounds are popular and easy to manage,” said Lisa Wallace, senior communications manager at Visit Indy. “Attendees want to experience the local cuisine and local flavor of the city, from chefs to craft beer, and Indy makes it easy.”
With more than 400 restaurants citywide to choose from — 100 of which have opened in the past five years — it’s easy to see why dine arounds are popular in Indy. Its burgeoning food scene has landed the city on Zagat’s “Hottest Food Cities of 2016” list and given Indy the distinction of being named “The Most Underrated Food City in the U.S” by Condé Nast Traveler. Local chefs are constantly pushing the boundaries when it comes to concept-driven menus, with thriving foodie neighborhoods like Mass Ave, Fletcher Place, Fountain Square, and SoBro all prospering and providing ample venues for private groups to book.
During the day, exhibitors often seek out the quickest way back to the show floor when breaking for meals, and Indy strategically designed its convention package to meet this need. The Circle Centre Mall food court — connected to the Indiana Convention Center — provides an array of quick and convenient options, and it’s also ideal for large groups on a budget.
For events that run around the clock — like Gen Con, the nation’s largest hobby gaming convention that draws 62,000 attendees — official food-and-beverage partnerships keep attendees fueled up. Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse in downtown Indy, a partner of Gen Con’s annual event, offers a “steak break” grab-and-go option that can be pre-ordered online. HotBox Pizza, the official pizza of Gen Con, also ramps up delivery to 24 hours a day during the convention.
“Visit Indy works very closely with restaurant partners on behalf of the groups, to ensure they are prepared for the increase in patrons and what times to expect them,” Wallace said. “Partnering with the CVB can save planners time and ensure a successful outcome.” For more information, go to visitindy.com