Friday, January 28, 2011

Food for Thought: A Conference Center’s Corporate Social Responsibility

Most conference attendees and meeting goers may not recognize healthy food options as part of a company’s corporate social responsibility. Hospitality leaders such as The National Conference Center participate in “Food for Thought,” a program in which meal and snack options are given a hard consideration before serving. Similar to starting your day with a balanced breakfast, certain foods are believed to help your brain absorb the most information – making the most productive meeting possible.


What are Food for Thought items?

• Fruits, vegetables, and snacks that are known for increasing blood flow, cognitive memory, and alertness – also known as a healthy afternoon boost and a meeting planner’s dream.

How is Food for Thought done?

• By sourcing the best products from local vendors, conference centers can ensure they’re receiving foods with the most nutritional value.

• Once you receive the product, it’s about how you treat the product, if you’re taking care of it, and how you’re storing it.

• If the item requires further preparation, cooking for shorter periods of time allows the vegetable or fruit to maintain the most nutrients possible.

What results do guests see?

• Prior to the program, guests felt afternoon fatigue and sleepy during their meetings. Now with food for thought, guests maintain a mid to high energy level based on the lunch meals and break station snack options.

To learn more about food for thought, The National Conference Center’s Executive Chef Craig Mason shares food for thought tips, recipes, and more on the Conference Center Blog.

Written By:
Sarah Vining
Marketing Assistant
The National Conference Center

Monday, January 24, 2011

I’m Being Audited – so now what?!?!

IACC by-laws state that all active member facilities are to be reviewed and audited at least once every four years to determine their level of compliance with the Universal Criteria. IACC Audits are not just a one-sided test-results process provided by the auditors. Ok… so I’m being audited, now what?!
The first questions to many managers new to the audit process are a) what exactly is the audit? B) how does this work? It is quite simple: 
  • Compliance Audits are evaluations that IACC requires to ensure continuous conformity for members.
  • Locations are to be divided into four evaluation groups and one group will be evaluated per year. IACC notifies members in January with an intro letter which will include all pre-audit paperwork.
  • The audit provider will make contact with each member to collect location information as well as explain to you the audit process and what will be expected of you and your staff during the audit.
  • Each audit will take approximately 3-4 hours. A “home base” work area will need to be provided for each auditor.
  • Each auditor is trained to accommodate the property as much as possible, and work around groups as needed. So putting off the audit for a “less busy” time is not needed.
  • Each auditor has a list of questions they need to complete as well as do facility testing.
  • Auditor recap and that is it!

Sounds simple! Ok, so what exactly is expected of you?! In order to ensure that everyone is on board with the understanding that this is a partnership, many things will need to come into play in order to have a successful and smooth audit. Below is a summary of what is to be expected of each manager:

  • Setting aside a 3-4 hour window to be of assistance to the auditor while they are onsite. This includes making sure their “home base” area is adequate, pre-audit questions are answered and your availability is not an issue when it comes time to site inspections and tests.
  • All pre-audit paperwork that has been supplied to you prior is filled out in its entirety and ready to be given to the auditor upon request at the start of the audit.
  • Each manager is required to participate in light and sound measurements as well as taking of pictures in three dedicated conference rooms.
  • The auditor will need some time to prior to and following the debriefing to complete the on-line portion of the survey. It is requested that you stay within the facility and be available for additional questions should they arise.
  • Final recap: (almost done!) You will meet with the audit at the end of the process to discuss any unanswered questions, any question marked as NO and to receive any final location manager comments.
  • The results will be available to the property however, the auditor is not permitted to discuss “passed” or “failed” audits with you.

The intent of this blog is ensure that members are prepared for their audits with the realization that the process is a partnership to ensure full member compliance across all conference centers. Congratulations! You just successfully completed your IACC Audit!

IACC Audits

IACC by-laws state the all active member facilities are to be reviewed and audited at least once every four years to determine their level of compliance with the Universal Criteria. BARE Associates International has been designated as the provider of audit services for IACC to ensure continuous compliance for members. In order for members to be better informed about the reasons and expectations for the audits, BARE has assembled a pre-audit power point for member review. The intent of this document is to ensure that members are prepared for their audits with the realization that the process is a partnership to ensure full member compliance across all conference centers. This document will be sent along with the confirmation of the scheduled audits to help members re-fresh their memory of the process and ensure swift completion.




Monday, January 10, 2011


...and the winner is...Jason Weaver, Executive Chef, La Torretta Resort & Conference Center.  Check out the blog entry of a Columbus, Ohio native

Congratualtions Chef Jason!

Friday, January 7, 2011

11 Food Trends for 2011

Looking for some new ideas to freshen up your food and beverage offerings?  Read through the following trends that can help you make a lasting impact on your conference center guests.


1. Local Meats, Eggs, and Seafood-- More and more consumers want to know where their meats, eggs, and seafood choices come from, and they even want the opportunity to visit those farms.  Local food benefits the community, the diners, and also the business.  Make it part of your property's CSR strategy and contract with local farmers to get the freshest products available.

2. Half Portions -- Offering half-portions of salads, sandwiches, and entrees can be a great win-win for both diners and businesses.  Some pros of this strategy include diners eating more reasonably-sized meals (can help lead to healthier weights) and less food goes to waste.  A creative marketing blitz showcasing smaller portions could lead to great business.

3.  Mini Desserts -- I personally have received many requests for mini desserts and cookies at various events and receptions.  It seems that guests would rather have a little sample of multiple types of desserts rather than a bigger portion of one type of sweet.

4. Great Grains -- Break out of the basmati and brown rice mindsets and provide more varied grains as side items.  Quinoa, Asian noodles (such as soba or rice noodles), and farro are all interesting and healthy items that can catch diners' eyes.

5.  Food Truck and "Street Food" Appetizers -- By this, I mean more casual and ethnic-themed appetizer options.  What do you see offerred on the streets of NYC?  Falafel, kabobs, tacos, Korean barbecue.  Food truck popularity has also risen magnanimously in the past year.  Use the energy behind that trend and try to incorporate classic food truck or street food appetizers into your menus.

6.  Superfoods -- Acai, blueberries, and goji berries have all been labeled "superfoods" or "superfruits" in the past.  Diners like seeing them because they offer an immediate association with health, vitality, and vitamins. 

7.  Local, Artisinal Cheeses -- Check out your local farmers market to see what specialties small farms have.  You may discover some fabulous goat cheeses (even a goat gouda!), and can then sell a locally-sourced cheese plate as an appetizer.

8.  Creative Vegetarian/Vegan Entrees -- Grilled portabello mushrooms get boring after awhile.  Try to surprise and elate vegetarians (or those that just wish to eat less meat) by offering unique vegetarian and/or vegan entree options.  There are many amazing cookbooks available that may be useful to chefs with limited experience in these realms, such as Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan

9.  Nutiritous Options for Children -- Startling research about childhood obesity and Mrs. Obama's campaign to combat the disease will continue to affect food and beverage operations nationwide in 2011.  Make sure to stay on top of this trend by offering whole grains, fruits and vegetables as side items for children's meals.  Also, think about offering special salad entrees for children. 

10. Beer and Food Pairings -- If you already offer wine-and-food pairing dinners a few times a year, think about supplementing with beer-and-food pairings.  The market for craft beers has exploded in the past couple years, so you have a good chance of finding a local brand of beers to provide alongside locally sourced dishes.  There's even an iPhone app to help you Find Craft Beer!

11.  Gluten-Free Options -- Providing a gluten-free menu or a list of meal choices that are conscious of food allergies will impress and relieve guests that worry about what to eat when they go to conferences.  Celiac disease affects more than 3 million Americans (1 out of 133 people), meaning you will probably have guests with celiac disease or gluten-sensitivities stay at your property.  Even Subway is testing two gluten-free products at some restaurants.

Written by:
Meghan Bollenback
Food & Beverage Manager
R. David Thomas Executive Conference Center

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year, New Trends

Here is a list of trends that will carryover into the meetings industry for the new year as listed by PRWeb.  This list came out in September, but I think all of these categories will definitely be significant in 2011.  After each category title, I included a brief explanation but refer to the original article for more insight.

1. Customizable Mobile Apps - Mobile apps will continue to grow in importance to the meetings world in that they make the lives of event organizers and attendees easier.  Some apps serve as a mobile checkpoint for attendees needing to learn the newest updates on their meetings.  Other apps encourage participation during meetings by involving audiences in presentations. 

2.  Hybrid Meetings - The mixing of virtual and live meetings will continue to grow this year as this trend tends to lead to cost savings.  The best way to adapt to this trend?  Learn how face-to-face meetings can be enhanced through digital means and how it benefits your customers.

3.  Comprehensive "Green" Meetings - This means that multiple or all aspects of the meeting planning and execution are eco-conscious.  This includes everything from the type of travel to and from airports to the type of notepads used in the conference room.

4.  Social Media Interaction - Interaction of meeting participants will grow through social media outlets (such as through Twitter streams during conferences or Facebook pages created for special events). Social media will also help planners, clients, and customers communicate faster and more effectively.

5.  Corporate Social Responsibility - This is the "Grandaddy" of the above trends.  How do you use your company's resources to better your community, the environment, and the lives of your stakeholders (including your employees, customers, and clients)?  More teambuilding projects with a CSR focus may be seen in 2011, such as having a volunteer outing during one day of a conference.

6.  Luxury Meetings Return - Do you agree or disagree with this trend?  I think the industry will see an increase on spending in 2011, but am not certain that resort-type destinations will see much benefit of that.  I do believe that more money will be spent on certain "luxuries" that have been absent at many meetings during the past couple of years (such as VIP amenities).

Written by:
Meghan Bollenback
Food & Beverage Manager
R. David Thomas Executive Conference Center