Modern-day meetings and events are more hands-on than ever before, especially during break time.
Just ask Kim Corcoran, CMP, president of Destination Michigan, who says that getting people involved in the experience, not just eating, has become the latest craze. “We don’t call the people who come to our meetings attendees; we call them participants, because they want to actively participate in everything, including the food,” she says.
For instance, Corcoran says a salsa-making challenge serves as a great reception and networking event when participants are divided into teams and answer trivia questions to earn ingredients for their salsa.
“They work as a team, because some want to answer the questions, others want to start slicing and dicing and making their salsa,” she says. “The teams each come up with a name for their salsa and a short commercial message that they share with the group. These are typically hilarious with people singing, making rhymes, dancing and more.”
Overall, she says: “Trends in break foods include healthy options, whole foods and locally sourced foods. When people come to a destination, they want to experience the local flavors and cuisine.”
Make ‘em Happy
According to Mandy Borsenik, marketing manager for Bavarian Inn Restaurant in Frankenmuth, pretzel-rolling groups are popular with everyone from Girl Scout troops to corporate team-building events.
The experience takes about an hour, which includes 25 minutes of making the shape while hearing the history of the pretzel. The rest of the time guests can shop, eat or explore while the staff handles the baking process.
Groups require a minimum of 20 people and they’ve had more than 100. Other options include make-your-own strudel, chocolatecovered pretzel or chocolate cluster.
At Apple Mountain in Freeland, the cider bar with donuts and hot and cold cider is a big hit, says Abbe Adair, director of business development. “Cider also makes for excellent hot toddies during a cocktail hour and who doesn’t like cinnamon and sugar cider donuts,” she adds.
Its nacho bar and hot pretzel station are also in demand, along with healthier fare. “One of the new trends in meetings is to offer a trail mix station where guests can walk around scooping all sorts of goodies together to make their own custom mix,” she says.
Kelsey Cheyne, director of sales and marketing for The Inn at Harbor Shores in St. Joseph, says different flavored Krispy Sweets or a Nacho Fiesta are fun. “Most weddings like to offer late-night treats that could be house-made pizzas or a popcorn bar with assorted chocolates and flavors.”
Team-building activities often involve a competition, such as salsa making where a chef shows guests how he prepares his salsa before setting up small teams with ingredients to create their own.
Sushi rolling is also on the rise. For this, the chefs create sushi and teach groups how to create their own special roll.
In addition, the Catch and Cook program works with local fishing charters to pick up guests in their marina and take them out on Lake Michigan to fish for salmon or trout. Afterward, the chef presents them with a family-style dinner featuring the fish they just caught with assorted sides.
Guests also love the s'more kits they can take to the outdoor fires on the harbor's edge. “It's a great opportunity for corporate guests to connect, wind down and relax,” she adds.
In Traverse City, there’s a continued focus on local as well as customization at Great Wolf Lodge, such as desserts with a company logo or a signature cocktail designed around an event, says Taryn Miracle, area director of sales.
“We are also seeing a trend with ‘build your own’ type breaks from trail mix to designyour-own cupcake and popcorn bars with a variety of toppings and seasonings. Donut walls are also popular at breakfast or on breaks,” she says.
Another crowd-pleaser is the milk and cookies break, especially when partnered with locally produced milk.
A cancer prevention group requested chef demonstrations on healthy appetizers with three ingredients or less during an evening reception. “We set up three different stations and each attendee walked away with the recipe,” she says. “They also had the opportunity to interact with the chefs and ask questions. All of their breaks had components of locally sourced, healthy food, such as local fruit paired with cheeses, smoothies and trail mix.”
Personalized requests such as these remain popular. “We recently acquired an ice cream bike and had one group request that we drive it around serving gelato during their outdoor Italian-themed reception,” adds Miracle.
At MGM Grand Detroit, assistant executive chef Alejandro Garza says breaks have always featured caffeine and sugar to keep guests awake along with small decadent bites to give them big flavor without being overly indulgent. Lately, there’s been a shift to a lighter selection. “For our 2018 menu we will feature healthy options that are great to eat and great to look at,” says Garza.
Its health-nut break contains granola and dried fruit instead of cookies and brownies. “We’ll also feature things like infused waters like watermelon-mint and cucumberbasil, exotic dried fruit like mango, kiwi and pineapple, and low-fat smoothies with nonfat yogurt, ice and fruit,” he says. Guests can select from healthy dips like hummus and baba ganoush with fresh vegetables along with build-your-own yogurt parfait and build-your-own trail mix options.
The big trend, Garza says, “is healthy, light, simple and beautiful” when it comes to break foods.