Stacy Fantauzzi is an account manager, event services with metroConnections since June 2007. Fantauzzi has unique expertise in designing and executing complete event concepts including décor and onsite management of vendors and suppliers. A member of Minnesota Meeting Professionals International, she serves on the Education Committee and has held other responsibilities for the organization. Since 1984, metroConnections has provided complete conference, event, stage production and transportation services for meeting and event planners nationwide. Contact metroConnections at 612-333-8687 or visit www.metroconnections.com.
Finding a new twist for an event in the insurance or financial services industry can be a challenge, especially when it seems as if you’ve tried everything. One proven idea that continues to gain in popularity is the use of food trucks. Incorporating these mobile eateries in your next event can create a fun, relaxed experience for attendees, while also showcasing local color and cuisine. From corporate luncheons to full-scale events, the possibilities are endless.
One of the major advantages of using food trucks is getting attendees out of the meeting rooms following hours of sessions and presentations. No matter how exciting the projections are for next year, as meeting planners, we know the importance of getting attendees to move around and engage, and a change of venue is often the answer.
For example, for an industry event recently held in downtown Los Angeles at the LA Live/Staples Center, the use of a food truck at lunch enabled attendees a chance to get out of the hotel and meeting space, while also experiencing a bit of local cuisine. Attendees were able to bask in the sun, enjoy the great weather and see the local area, while experiencing a variety of different cuisine options.
By adding a little flair, you can easily increase overall morale, attendee satisfaction and create a great environment that is conducive for attendee engagement. Further, the use of food trucks shows your guests that a lot of thought went into creating the event for them instead of the same-old buffet or plated lunch that they have come to expect. What a great way to kick-off an incentive trip for an insurance company or a national conference with hungry travelers!
Food trucks were an integral part of the closing event for an annual employee training event for more than 500 attendees that metroConnections arranged. The evening reception represented the client’s brand with color tones, logos, custom-built décor and lighting. The theme revolved around an urban outdoor experience, as the company wanted their team to freely move around the room and not be confined to banquet tables and buffets. They knew their staff had worked hard all year and wanted to treat them to a fun experience. In addition to miniature golf, cocktails around a bar built to represent a rooftop garden oasis, and a memorable photo takeaway experience, food trucks from the city were staged around the perimeter of the conference ballroom. The food trucks were chosen for the variety of cuisine they offered — from locally sourced and organic burgers, to spicy Indian dishes and savory dessert options. The choices created an environment that allowed attendees to sample or splurge on whatever they desired.
Another great benefit of food trucks is their ability to offer a variety of food options. This is especially important when planning your menu for a group with varying food allergies and preferences. Contrary to popular belief, there are many options for healthful, vegan and vegetarian cuisine, as well as the more traditional choices such as tacos, sliders and french fries. Think outside of the box — or as in this case, outside of the standard menu.
Also, most food trucks can provide a menu for all hours of the day — breakfast, lunch or dinner. For instance, at a recent event in Minneapolis, food trucks were used inside the venue during the evening cocktail reception. This unique approach created an interactive element to the event.
However, If there are restrictions to using food trucks indoors, or there isn’t enough space, placing the trucks just outside the venue can be a great way to expand the space, include outdoor elements and increase venue capacity for guests.
Despite their appeal, many planners get stuck as they attempt to figure out how to integrate a food truck into their event. Start the process by answering these questions:
Identify the type of food the truck will feature: breakfast, lunch or a dessert?
How and when will the trucks be used? For an afternoon conference break, a fun midday corporate lunch, or as the showpiece of the event?
Where will the trucks will be used? Inside or outside? Public space or private property?
Once the initial questions are answered, the next step is to coordinate the details. Be sure to work with an experienced event management team or planner who not only understands the logistics of the actual truck — cooking equipment, space requirements and power — but also the coordination of permits, venue/hotel regulations, city ordinances and contracts. Understanding how to navigate these details is key to the success of your event.
For example, some conference centers or venues may have restrictions or additional fees related to bringing in outside catering companies (either they provide catering themselves, or there is liability in bringing in outside food vendors due to food safety, etc.) Furthermore, venues might not allow propane tanks or other equipment such as fryers indoors that might be considered a fire hazard. In such cases, food trucks would have to be located outside.
The venue should be able to help you as the meeting planner understand other safety regulations that need to be followed including any city or other jurisdictional ordinances such as where vendors can park on roads or open spaces. Knowing these regulations and permit requirements is essential in pulling off the food truck flair to an event. All of these items should be considered before signing a contract.
While it requires some prep work, food trucks are the perfect addition to an upbeat event for our industry. The accessibility, theme and uniqueness of each type of food truck adds pizzazz and most important, will create a lasting and memorable impression on your attendees. I&FMM