F&B at the Forefront

Delegates today are more selective about food than ever before, says IACC’s Mark Cooper, who has some suggestions on how to handle.

Mark Cooper

What are the key issues in the business events industry? One is personalisation of F&B at events, says Mark Cooper, CEO of IACC. Here he talks about that, shares his view of what corporate planners need from venues, and even offers advice for someone just starting out in the industry.

What’s the most important issue facing the business events industry?
When you look at many of the core issues the industry faces — health and well-being of delegates, corporate social responsibility, creativity, and engagement — good dietary management is a large part of the solution. The personalisation of the food and beverage offering at events has been around for a while, but never at the level it is today and never have delegates been as selective with food as they demonstrate now. It continues to be of paramount importance and it’s not going away.

A company organising a meeting may have up to 200 different types of dietary requests. These cover more than just allergies and intolerances; we’re looking at specific diets, personal preferences, and cultural, and religious requirements.

What steps can be taken?
Venues need to be able to quickly capture and process this dietary information from their clients’ guests and respond to the organiser with an event proposal that clearly explains which dietary requests can be met within budget, which will require cost supplements, and whether there are any that the venue simply cannot prepare on the day. This is about capturing information, processing it quickly, and turning it into meaningful output for venues and clients. This is an area we have identified as being critical for our members and we are in the process of developing an app they can use as a robust means to manage and fulfil clients ever-more complex dietary needs.

In your opinion, what are corporate planners in need of from venues?
Planners are looking for creativity from venues prepared to work in partnership with them. Organisers increasingly need to create memories and experiences that bring delegates together and keep them stimulated. Our Meeting Room of the Future research shows there is a relationship between stimulating environments and increased delegate creativity. Along with bringing in talent and activity providers to do this, they expect the venue to become part of the overall delegate experience. Venues can do this by creating inspiring environments and culinary experiences that help keep delegates engaged and energised.

What advice would you give someone starting out in the industry today?
“events industry” — as we call it — is, in reality, fractured along many lines, such as sporting events, festivals, live events, and concerts and, of course, meetings, conferences, and conventions. I caution young people entering the sector not to be dazzled by the “bright lights” of sports and live events, but to be open minded and look to the long-term opportunities. The meetings sector tends to be more stable, it can deliver amazing and rewarding experiences in locations across the world. And principally I say to them, don’t limit yourself to colleagues you meet in your current role, be ambitious and adventurous, build a professional network, and learn from the people and businesses you come across, no matter where you come across them.

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