Instagram-worthy Food and Beverage Experiences are on the Rise
Have you ever photographed your food? Since Instagram, the phenomenon of documenting and sharing what we’re eating has exploded. While presentation has always been important — we eat with our eyes first — people now choose restaurants specifically for their “Instagrammability.”
In an Instagram world, restaurant chefs aren’t the only ones adapting their menus to maximize visual appeal — corporate event planners are also getting in on the action. One of the biggest trends in event food and beverage right now is visual impact.
Amy Conrad, operations manager at Enclave in Las Vegas, says Instagrammable items are a catering trend that is here to stay.
“Everyone is looking for the next Instagram-worthy element to post on their feed,” she said. “Keep sensory dishes and cocktails in mind and include imaginative and artful visuals that would be ideal for social media when menu planning.”
Designing Instagram-worthy food experiences can be achieved through activities that engage attendees in the food preparation process, creative presentation or unusual menu options.
Conrad says live action stations are the new buffet.
“Guests are always looking for something different, and live action stations provide a unique experience with chefs preparing customs menus right in front of your guests’ eyes,” she explained.
Action stations can work for events of all sizes. Chef Chris Martin, CEO at Digest The Passion, set up a live action station to celebrate a new corporate office opening in St. Paul, Minn.
He noted, “The attendees were all really excited because they actually had a say in what they wanted since it was a ‘you-call-it’-style action station.
“The benefit to using personal chefs is that they can make a menu that satisfies the majority of the group as opposed to being just good enough,” he added.
Holly Swanzy, senior program manager at Brightspot Incentives & Events, recommends creating unique events around food that encourage people to share their food experience on social media. There are many possible food experiences for attendees to actively participate in.
“Food and wine pairings, craft beer tastings, charcuterie or butchering classes, dine-arounds having shared meals in people’s homes instead of going to restaurants, street foods, educational chef food stations, food trucks, vertical rotisseries, frozen wine or savory desserts,” she listed.
Presentation of food and beverages in unusual or unexpected ways also maximizes social media sharing.
Lynda Simonetta, restaurant event manager at Conrad Chicago & Waldorf Astoria Chicago, says that to encourage and capitalize on social media sharing, she offers sensory options as a part of the dining experience.
“Programming with our mixologist is always a hit, we've done everything from tableside cocktails that involve scented smoke, dry ice and interesting preparations,” she shared. “We've also introduced a virtual reality cocktail experience that plays on all of the senses and transports guests with the use of Oculus goggles."
Conrad agrees, saying presentation is anything but ordinary these days.
“Hosts want to wow their guests while also matching their brand,” she said.
Conrad continued, “Thinking in practical terms for presentation is definitely becoming more and important. For example, soup shooters and crudité in cups are perfect for receptions so attendees have their hands free to network and move around the room with ease.”
Swanzy says to encourage people to document their food experiences, corporate event planners must make food appear art-worthy with a colorful and beautiful buffet or plate presentations. Using unique or local menu items can add color and interest to an event.
“Alternative meats such as goat, venison, elk and bison or alternative cuts using snout to tail and specialty cuts are not as expensive as one may think,” she explained. “Also, ‘plant butchery’ which is meat-free but meat-like alternatives such as beet carpaccio and portobello mushroom steaks, is increasingly popular, and pasta alternatives such as spiralized zucchini and squash can add color.”
Alex Membrillo, CEO of Cardinal Digital Marketing, holds corporate events for both customer prospecting and retention. He recommends corporate event planners use local menu items.
“Our favorite option for drinks is using local growler companies or breweries,” he said. “Craft beer is extremely popular, so having a bar with local brewed drink options is always a hit.”
Instagram has changed our relationship with food, moving it to the forefront of our lives — and our events. Through creative presentation, unique ingredients and fun food activities, corporate event planners have raised the bar for group food and beverage and there’s no end in sight.
Image credit: Danalynne Menegus, "Make Your Own S'mores" station at Great Wolf Lodge, Grapevine TX, for SPINCon 2017