Allen Plante is the director of banquets at the award-winning Radisson Blu Mall of America. With more than 25 years of event management experience, Plante and his team strive for innovation, creativity and readiness for each hosted event. Whether working on a high-profile event for Super Bowl LII or the Ryder Cup, or crafting an intimate, private celebration, Plante’s enthusiasm and expertise ensure each event is memorable and unique.
The Science of Making F&B Experiences Memorable—Focus on the Five Senses
The meeting and events industry has seen a boom in requests to create memorable moments to celebrate being together again. As in-person events come back in a major way, we’ve found there are groups that have been saving up and now have large budgets to spend on over-the-top celebrations, and there are still many that have conservative budgets. Yet, they all have the same goal: to create something that is unique and feels luxurious. How do you do that? Focus on the power of all five senses.
Tapping into the senses means going beyond thinking about the food and beverage choices you offer. Consider how the event elements can work together to stimulate all of your guests’ senses.
At the heart of most gatherings is food. Push yourself to find new ways to allow guests to experience flavor. This could be taking a standard meal and having every element feature unique local flavors, or creating an experience where guests can learn about the foods they’re tasting by adding an educational component.
We have a break option called “The Spreads,” which treats guests to a variety of local jams, jellies, marmalades and preserves while providing an opportunity to learn what makes them all different. The educational piece immerses guests in the taste experience by allowing them to understand the flavors and textures they are enjoying in a memorable way.
Touch can be one of the most impactful ways to make a gathering feel high-end. Thinking through the vessels for your food and beverage and how they’ll feel in guests’ hands can elevate any menu. For our popular “Gut Health Breaks,” centered on the trending theme of foods to promote gut health and immunity, we use paper, wood, garden glass and cast iron vessels to stimulate the touch sense and present a natural, earthy feel that closely relates to the idea of health.
When I smell cookies baking in the oven, it takes me back to my grandma’s kitchen. With such a powerful ability to immediately trigger a detailed memory or intense emotion, smell is an important piece of the puzzle for menu creation. What feelings do we hope to evoke? How can we spark curiosity among guests? And, most importantly, how can we use aroma to get guests excited about the food—and hopefully solidify a memory in the process?
Stimulating the sense of smell can even be done for breaks or meals where there isn’t something being served that provides a distinctive smell. For example, for the “Gut Health Break,” we serve items such as kombucha, yogurts, berries, nuts and avocado spread—items that don’t have an inherent aroma. For this option, we add touches of lemongrass and other fragrant herbs to incorporate an aromatic element that gives the sensation of being outdoors and in nature.
How things look is another essential event element. Paying special attention to the details creates an exciting atmosphere for guests and Instagram-worthy displays.
Think outside the box to create a stunning visual experience. This could be something like our “Torched in the Morning” oatmeal brulee station that features chefs adorned with face shields and butcher-like aprons using flames (very visual!) to create oatmeal dishes, all with a graffiti backdrop. These elements make the moment feel trendy and urban, crafting an experience you wouldn’t necessarily expect at breakfast.
The simple act of adding music and sound can bring soul to your event and round out the experience for guests. This could be a garden playlist for a healthy snack break, or urban, street music for something like our “Torched in the Morning” breakfast offering. And, it’s even better if you can find music that directly plays into the theme. One of our favorites is “Don’t Sweat the Technique,” which we play during our torched breakfast. It’s fun, clever and immerses guests in the moment.
Keeping all five senses in mind when thinking about how to present your food and beverage options can take your events to the next level and deliver memorable moments—every time, on every budget.