Food and beverage have long been a critical element in events. It’s a rare event that doesn’t factor catering in some way. In fact, for most events, it’s a major portion of the event budget. But today’s event attendees are looking for more than standard “conference or event” chicken. Plus, they not only care about the food you serve at your event but also the opportunities they’ll have outside of the venue for additional culinary exploration.
If you want to appeal to the ever-growing number of foodies on your invite list, you want to select a destination that is equipped to quite literally “wine and dine” your attendees. Top foodie destinations have certain offerings in common, ones that savvy event planners look for. This checklist shares the essential clues to finding a food-lovers paradise when selecting an event destination.
Dining Establishment and Cultural Options To Offer Variety and Ambience
Foodies want more than good food. They want options. This means options in the type of restaurants (from bistros to food markets, gastropubs to late-night coffee and dessert houses) as well as ethnic variety. Variety really is the spice of life for foodies.
Foodies also long for memorable food experiences. They get that from the atmosphere of the dining establishment as well as the food that is served. They’re looking for exciting pairings, fusion dishes, and other unparalleled taste sensations.
A good example of a city that offers intense variety and multiple palate pleasers is Québec City. Restaurants and bistros such as Chez Boulay tantalize diners with Nordic cuisine that changes with the seasons. Foodies enjoy the wide variety and exotic touches including dishes with elk, elderberry flower, and cranberry seed oil.
Ambiance is also important to foodies and Québec has many outdoor dining options that allow visitors to take in the excitement and history during their meal. The trendy dining room of Le Toast in the Hotel Priori is popular, as is their indoor garden courtyard.
Fun National and Regional Options To Get Excited About
In addition to creative and ethnic dishes, a glorious food destination will include a chance to try local favorites. Foodies often want the education behind what they’re eating. Is it locally sourced? Can they taste the “earth” of the region in each dish? This is more than just an interest in the local economy or a lesson in sustainability. Many foodies believe that areas have distinct tastes, outside of regional spices. They believe the ground in which the produce grows affects the taste and thus when traveling and sampling local food, they want to experience the goodness of the local farm culture.
In addition to the taste of the earth, foodies want to enjoy regional specials cooked in traditional ways and also fun fusion dishes that begin with the traditional recipe and then alter it to today’s palates. The more unusual the better.
Canada’s National dish is poutine, a heart-warming comfort food. The dish begins with a generous helping of french fries and cheese curds drenched in a savory brown gravy. Many visitors insist on trying this food when they visit Québec and if they don’t, someone will suggest it.
Tours and Discoveries for Greater Food Appreciation
Foodies love to eat food but they want more. They want to learn about local farm to table enterprises, artisan beverages and brews, and other interesting facts about what they’re consuming.
A top foodie destination will offer things like brewery, distillery, or vineyard tours; tasting tours or moveable feasts; and/or cooking classes to help visitors have a greater appreciation for the local customs and dishes.
Food tours are also a way for visitors with limited schedules (like conference attendees) to experience a lot of the destination and food options in minimal time. It’s not uncommon for foodies in a great food town to wish they had more meals to experience more of the culture. Those most serious about their self-donned “foodie” title will want to see and taste it all. Taking part in a tour that moves to different restaurants and settings for different tastings is a great way to pack more in.
Look for cities that offer a variety of food tours. There are walking, sampling tours of neighborhoods, as well as food-specific types of tours like dessert tastings. Some incorporate biking, walking, or bus travel. This agribusiness-focused tour offers a little something for everyone including chocolate and cheese, not to mention a trip to an ancestral farm to learn the process of tapping the maples and making maple syrup.
Want something really different? Many tour companies can customize an outing that fits the interests of your group.
Delicious Food to Fit all Budgets and Keep Attendees Happy
Most people seem to think foodies carry around platinum credit cards. But there are budget foodies as well. Some event planners may negate the need to consider foodies because they think their audience is more frugal than that. These are all misconceptions.
A true foodie city can satiate any palate or budget with mouth-watering options at all price point. And you can have foodies in even a frugal crowd. Look for a city that offers the fun and budget-friendliness of food trucks and pop-up restaurants along with diamond, Zagat, and Michelin-rated restaurants.
While most attendees have access to travel and map apps that tell them the closest restaurants and what they cost, some event planners still add this information to their event websites, check-in packages, or make sure the info is provided in the hotel room. If you choose not to provide a list of restaurants, you may want to consider giving them a few hyperlinks (such as the local convention and visitors bureau) where they can find options for dining.
Québec is different from many cities in that some of its dining and drinking establishments allow you to bring in outside food or beverages. For instance, La Barberie, a brewing cooperative, allows people to bring their own lunch and enjoy it on their urban garden terrace.
Exciting Event Options and Top Catering Teams within your Venue
But what about those conferences where every meal is provided and attendees are at the convention center or hotel all day? True foodie cities have excellent hotel, conference, and convention center food. Look for places that can accommodate your dietary needs and provide delicious local choices, beautifully presented.
The best convention centers and hotels are no longer looking to rubber stamp meals with the easiest dish to cook for large numbers. Personalization in menus is becoming the norm. Attendees are requiring more specializing in the menus and the interest in food and growing number of self-proclaimed foodies has increased demand for above average culinary options. (You can also blame the popularity of cooking shows and travel shows geared around food.) Successful conference centers and hotel culinary staffs have increased their offerings and creativity to remain competitive.
Top chefs are heading up venue catering teams and raising the game in terms of group offerings. The Québec City Convention Centre catering team prides itself on being competitive with the fine dining establishments of the city that surround the venue. The team led by Jean-Pierre Cloutier customizes the menus of large groups from the largest kitchen in the region. They even offer a poutine bar.
Sustainability and Farmers Markets to Tell the Food Story
Foodies are as interested in the prep of the food as they are the actual tasting. It’s a farm to table experience for them. That’s why many foodies look to learn about the sustainability practices of the dining establishments they patronize.
Look for restaurants and/or food tours that offer behind-the-scenes insight into how the food is sourced. Some restaurants or food tours will give lucky diners the ability to see into their food selection process by hosting farmers market tours or tours of their garden or local farms. It’s a great way to get insight into local culture.
The Old Port Market in Québec offers a variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables, as well as baked goods, artisanal cheeses, and fine food items. Best of all, it’s open year round so visiting foodies can get a better look at Québec’s food producers at any time of year.
Professional Chefs Add the Seal of Approval
Another thing that Foodies will look for in a city is professional chef reviews of local restaurants. If anyone knows food, it’s the professionals behind crafting our favorite dishes. Their seal of approval means more than reviews from food critics or bloggers.
In addition to reviews from professional chefs, a discriminating foodie may also look to pay homage to a particular celebrity and/or award-winning chef. Just as some people may want to see a rock star or a celebrity in person, many foodies long for the time when they can have a meal prepared by their favorite chef.
Québec draws foodies from around the world with its list of well-known and distinguished chefs. They specialize in categories like locavore dining and paying tribute to the region’s culinary history. Diners in Québec can eat dishes created by French Master Chef Jean-Luc Boulay and Knight of the Ordre National du Mérite Agricole récipient Yvan Lebrun. These masters of meals and other equally famous chefs can be found at their own restaurants as well as some of Québec’s hotels, like Chateau Frontenac.
Culinary History and Historic Buildings to Give the Edge
Not every foodie is interested in the latest food trends. Some see visiting another city as a chance to soak in the history through their stomachs. They visit the older restaurants and look for places that serve up traditional regional cuisine.
Some of these spots have operated as restaurants since the city was founded, while others have used interesting or unusual historic buildings (like banks or police stations) and transformed them into today’s hottest dining spots. Finding gems like this can provide an amazing ambiance in a historic setting.
But these historic locations needn’t be stuffy. Buffet de l’Antiquaire is located at the Old Port of Québec and serves up traditional comfort food in a diner-style atmosphere. It’s an institution in the city and a beautiful area as well.
Food Truck Rallies and a Strong Street Food Scene Signify the Hippest Hotspots
Want a fun option for your event? Food truck rallies are the latest interest of foodies everywhere and savvy event planners are using the food truck scene to bring portable cuisine to their events.
There are multiple ways to use food trucks at your event. You can arrange to bring them in specifically for your crowd. Some convention centers can accommodate driving them onto the exhibit floor, while others will have a convenient spot in a courtyard or parking lot. Some cities have apps or maps (or apps with maps!) of where each truck is located on a given day and time so attendees can find their favorites as they explore the town. You can also find out if any of the neighborhoods or local organizations are hosting a food truck rally while you’re in town.
Foodies love a good street food scene because it allows for affordable sampling of local flavor and they can dine outside while enjoying the sounds and sites of the city. From artisanal burgers to duck drumsticks, food truck cuisine is inventive and accessible. And it doesn’t have to be a truck. Québec even has a food bike that provides a mouthwatering, vegan BBQ sandwich!
High Levels of Food Porn on Social Media
Instagram owes its life to foodies. In the early days of that social media platform, it was pictures of “food porn” that kept it alive. Gorgeous streams of colorful sauces, tantalizing sprinkles of spice, mounds of succulent meat. They were all there to be devoured on each and every stream.
Today, foodies still love their food porn but it’s been overshadowed by everyone else’s picture of rainbows, sunsets, and duck faces. Still, a foodie looks for that exquisite Instagram-worthy restaurant experience that will make them the envy of all of their followers.
Seek destinations with restaurants that make the presentation as essential as good taste. Delicious surroundings and unusual dining experiences also create the ultimate image to share on social media. “Wow” moments in meals that delight the diner are bound to make the foodie bucket list.
Event planners are concerned about more than just the food they’re serving at their events these days. Many understand that food tourism is a growing interest among attendees. If you have foodies on your invite list (and it’s likely you do), consider the foodie rating of your destination city before making a final selection.