Creating a Buzzy Breakfast at Conferences

Author: Curt Wagner       

Educon F&B

Jennifer A. Lichty, senior manager of curriculum and training programs at CASE, dishes up some breakfast at the diner counter.

Attendees at PCMA’s 2019 Education Conference stepped back into the 1950s for the event’s first networking breakfast at the JW Marriott Los Angeles LA LIVE.

The JW Marriott team transformed the Diamond Ballroom foyer into a 1950s-style diner — complete with red vinyl seats at booths, matching tables and chairs with formica tops and chrome legs, a retro counter with chrome stools, and plenty of signage greeting guests with “Come in, we’re open!” and “Hungry? Eat here!”

PCMA Director of Meetings Alison Milgram told Convene that she collaborated with Jeff Stutts, CMP, Marriott’s director of event management, on the menu. But, she said, Stutts and his team “made it shine” with the furniture and decor, which also included working old-school jukeboxes and a black-and-white checkered dance floor.


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The L.A. LIVE Hot Shoppe concept harkens back to Marriott’s origins as a root beer shop, Stutts told Convene. According to Marriott’s website, John Willard Marriott founded the company in 1927 when he and his wife, Alice Sheets Marriott, opened a nine-stool root beer stand in Washington, D.C., to give residents a place to escape the heat with a cold drink. That grew into the Hot Shoppes Restaurant chain, which evolved into the current Marriott International hotel company.

The hotel doesn’t offer the Hot Shoppe breakfast theme as one of its regular options, Stutts said, but it has used it “about four or five times” in the past few years. All the diner furniture and jukeboxes came from one of Marriott’s local partners, Sky Event Production.

“We have refined the look of this theme over the years and have gotten great feedback when we have implemented it,” he told Convene.


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With the diner booths and tables, attendees were able to sit together comfortably without having to balance cups and plates. The nostalgic theme also gave them an immediate talking point to begin conversations with people they had yet to meet.

The novelty continued later that day. Attendees lined up for dishes from 10 different food trucks parked bumper to bumper on the West Road outside the hotel. After mingling while standing in line, they were invited into the Gold Ballroom and foyer — transformed to fit the picnic-in-the-park theme — to have a seat and chat more.

Check out our gallery of photos from both F&B events and, if you have your own photos you’d like to share, post them on Instagram or Twitter with #pcmadventures and @pcmahq.

Curt Wagner is an associate editor at Convene.

Educon F&B

Educon attendees enjoy breakfast and conversation in a diner booth. (Jacob Slaton Photography)

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Signs beckon Educon attendees to the diner.

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Working jukeboxes add to the 1950s diner theme of the networking breakfast. (Jacob Slaton Photography)

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Retro tables and chairs add to the nostalgic atmosphere at the diner breakfast.

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Classic breakfast staples — scrambled eggs, potatoes, bacon and turkey maple sausage — are offered buffet style.

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Serves show off their 1950s diner garb.

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The JW Marriott's Diamond Level foyer goes retro with its diner look.

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Breakfast options include assorted fresh fruits and music. Other options included French toast, egg casseroles, oatmeal, bagels, and bakery items.

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She seems excited to grab her lunch from the Belly Bombz Kitchen food truck. (Jacob Slaton Photography)

Educon F&B

PCMA's Alison Milgram chose the 10 food truck vendors from a list supplied by JW Marriott, which partners with 3B Events to host three or four food truck events a year, said Jeff Stutts, Marriott’s director of event management.

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Educon attendees chat while waiting in line at one of 10 food trucks supplying Wednesday lunch. (Jacob Slaton Photography)

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The line for Dreamy Creations's cakes and cupcakes grows.

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A Palazzolo's employee hands over treats of gelato or sorbetta to an Educon attendee. (Jacob Slaton Photography)

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Educon attendees chat while eating lunch provided by local food trucks parked outside the JS Marriott Los Angeles. (Jacob Slaton Photography)

Educon F&B

Signs naming famous Los Angeles streets throughout the space further the picnic-in-the-park theme behind the food truck lunch.

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The food truck lunch gives attendees a chance to get to know each other. (Jacob Slaton Photography)

Educon F&B

Educon attendees chat while eating lunch provided by local food trucks parked outside the JS Marriott Los Angeles. (Jacob Slaton Photography)

Educon F&B

With its decor of checkered tablecloths, astro turf and patio umbrellas, the Gold Ballroom is transformed for the picnic-in-the-park theme.

Educon F&B

A three-piece band adds to the picnic-in-the-park dining theme behind the food truck lunch.

Educon F&B

Educon attendees chat while eating lunch provided by local food trucks parked outside the JS Marriott Los Angeles. (Jacob Slaton Photography)