Meetings for the Future: Focus on Venue’s Food and Beverage Offerings

August 08, 2023

As the global meetings industry faces mounting environmental and social pressures, details as seemingly mundane as a venue’s food and beverage offerings are increasingly part of the conversation for planners of tomorrow’s meetings.

The latest edition of Meeting Room of the Future, conducted by Development Counsellors International in partnership with the International Association of Conference Centers (IACC) provides insight into the ways in which environmental, social and corporate governance issues are impacting the roles of meeting planners from around the world as the industry reaches a full recovery.

Business travel can impact attendees, local communities, and the environment in many significant ways. It is the role of businesses, meeting planners and destination marketing organizations alike to ensure they are a net positive force for the world, even when it comes to smaller details regarding sustainability, like a venue’s food and beverage offerings.

Focus on Sustainability – The Reality
Planners agree that venues’ ethical operations and sustainable practices are set to rise in importance in the upcoming three years. While some American meeting planners anticipate an “increase in selecting venues based on their social/environmental policies and practices,” others agree there will be “increase in visible sustainability, not just lip service.”
With temperatures continuing to rise and extreme weather events becoming increasingly common, environmental sustainability will continue to gain a larger share of consideration in the meeting planning process.
This said, meeting planners from the Americas generally placed less importance on environmental sustainability than their global counterparts. While half of planners from Europe request the carbon footprint for their meetings in their evaluation of venues, only 14% of those from the Americas do.

Does your evaluation of venues include a request for the carbon footprint measurement for your meeting at their venue?

Food and Beverage for Events
When it comes to more specific elements of sustainability, like a venue’s food and beverage offering, there was also division across regions. Among European planners, 75% consider a venue’s credentials when it comes to sourcing sustainable foods in their site selection process. This compares to 39% of respondents from the Americas.
Food and beverage offerings, even for smaller boutique venues, can have a major impact on the environment. Sebastian Tarkowski of Fagerudd Konferens, a conference venue in Sweden, decided to serve vegetarian lunches as standard to all attendees at his venue, noting the food industry accounts for more than a quarter of all carbon emissions worldwide. The initiative has been a major success for the venue.
“Our chefs had to develop an entirely new repertoire. The key has been to serve food that does not only taste great, but it also has to look and feel great, offering a variety of flavors, colors and textures,” Tarkowski said. He added that the vast majority of planners and young companies appreciate vegetarian options, with fewer opting for animal-based meals, with eight out of ten guests choosing vegetarian lunches.
“Last year we served 12,000 lunches, out of which 80% were vegetarian with an average 2kr lower carbon footprint. That equals savings of 19 tons of greenhouse gas emissions. That’s a huge number for a small conferencing facility,” Tarkowski added.

The Appeal of Sustainable Solutions
Finding innovative and sustainable solutions to a venue’s food and beverage offerings is beneficial not only environmentally but can add to a venue’s appeal, especially as attendances are increasingly made up by the younger generations. They can also benefit meetings economically.

“Food and beverage is the highest expense on an event budget. Do planners appreciate how much of that budget is thrown away? Typically 30-40%. Giving more focus to menu planning could not only reduce food waste, but save money,” said Tracy Stuckrath, Founder & Chief Connecting Officer of thrive! Meetings & Events.
With meaningful travel a core component of post-pandemic meetings, promoting sustainability at an event can align ethical, environmental and business interests.
“There is a greater focus on meeting and event spaces that proactively align business activities, products and services to attain ISO 20121 Sustainable Event Management Standard, Net Zero Carbon Events and circular business model ambitions. Meaningful/purposeful meeting and event experiences are the future,” a meeting planner from Oman said.
For venues and planners alike, by seeking sustainable solutions for meetings, not only can the industry hit environmental targets and promote a better future for the planet, it can boost the attractiveness of events, create meaningful experiences for attendees, and help to reduce costs at the same time.
A venue’s food and beverage offerings are just one part of the equation. For destination organizations, partnering with and showcasing local venues and operators with strong sustainability credentials, highlighting accessible infrastructure that can reduce emissions, or access to clean energy are just some ways to appeal to decision makers hoping to go green with their conferences. Together, the industry can ensure that the meeting room of the future is also for the future.

To download the report, visit their site here.

About IACC: Founded in 1981, IACC is a not-for-profit association dedicated to promoting understanding and awareness of the meetings venue industry and to giving member properties the tools necessary to provide an exceptional IACC meeting experience. Active members meet a set of stringent Quality Standards and agree to a Code of Ethics. Currently, the association includes approximately 400 members around the world.

Looking to boost your destination’s meetings profile? Get in touch with Robyn Domber at [email protected] to learn how DCI can help research new paths to success to achieve your meeting and event goals.

Written by

Pamela Laite

Director, Business Events