Monday, May 10, 2010

Generation-Based Catering

Having worked with multi-generational meeting planners and attendees I have noticed there are distinctive trends in their conference needs;

The Generation “Y” conferees :

• F&B - Healthy protein rich foods are a first priority for this generation. Power bars, fresh fruit and crisp greens keep these conferees satisfied and their mild appetites assist in maintaining a healthy food cost for proprietors. I mean come on they are really still on liquid diets (i.e. red bull, mountain dew, smoothies, starbucks and of course MGD or a good glass of vino)

• Internet & Technology - Internet access is a must! Generation “Y” conferees must have uninterrupted lightening speed access to fulfill their connection needs.

• Conference Start times– When hosting a generation “Y” conference be sure to schedule some conference staff late to host what we call the “Night Owls”. This generation likes to work late until their “juices” get flowing after they’ve rushed back to the center after cocktail hour. They treat set up like college finals and burn the midnight oil to be prepared for the next day’s events.

• Recycling – Meeting planners are extremely concerned with recycling programs for their conference. They require recycling stations conveniently located to their meeting and often request pitchers of water versus bottled.

• New on the forefront-“Edutainment”- Some of my Generation “Y” colleagues are even requiring that “entertainment” learning tools are placed at the break stations and on the tables next to the pens and mints. One meeting requested that we have silly putty on each table so that the participants could expand their thoughts.

The Baby Boomer conferees:

• F&B – Delicious comfort foods with elaborate presentations are often a requirement for this generation. Unlike Generation “Y” this group would be more satisfied with a lunch buffet to include pasta, fried chicken and sweet treats for dessert.

• Internet & Technology – While internet access has recently become a standard demand generally Baby Boomers still only need it at their breaks as 40 percent of them are checking “blackberries”. The other 60 percent are looking for bathrooms and really using the time to person to person connect.

• Conference Start times - This group prefers to have early set up times (and they pay for them) so that any additions or set ups can be correct by 6pm at the latest so that all is right in the world when they set foot on the conference floor at 6am SHARP!!!

• Recycling-While many in this generation started the movement many are still lukewarm to the cause. We see fewer requests for sustainable options. They are good with recycling bins, but there is still cache in having “bottled water” (especially if it’s sparkling) at the meeting sets. This is not to say that they are not excited when the salesperson walks them thru our “green” efforts.

Written by:
Mike Blackley
Banquet/Conference Center Manager
Hilton Washington D.C./Rockville Executive Meeting Center

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