Earlier this week, I celebrated Bastille Day with a Bloody Mary toast followed by brunch at The St. Regis San Francisco. The Five-Star hotel’s new Executive Chef Olivier Belliard served up California fare with a French twist, which seemed appropriate, being that it was Bastille Day and he is, in fact, from Normandy, France. The food was delicious—watermelon and goat cheese salad, chorizo-stuffed halibut and peach tart—and would be a perfect summer menu for a high-end meeting or event. But just because meeting planners want high-end F&B doesn’t mean they need to go way over budget. After brunch, I sat down with Executive Chef Belliard and Gena Chen, the property’s director of catering and event management, who gave tips on how they work with meeting planners to serve attendees high-end fare—within budget.
Serve up family-style fare. Chen says that more and more meeting planners are wanting meals family-style because, similar to a buffet, they don’t have to order as much food as they would a plated meal. Plus, because comfort food has become trendy again, it’s easy to offer, say, a traditional chicken dinner while still dressing it up and making it appeal to attendees.
Use fewer ingredients. Chef Belliard likes to highlight the taste of each ingredient in the dish by keeping his dishes simple. While this helps with taste, it also helps cut down on costs because less ingredients are purchased. “I think it’s nice when you can eat something and you can actually describe it,” says Belliard. “It’s important that you can recognize what you eat.”
Make F&B interactive. Chen says that the property has hosted competitions in which groups create their own F&B. This can help cut costs in two ways. First, meeting planners don’t have to plan an offsite team building activity for the group. Plus, the attendees end up making their own meal, therefore cutting down on production and staffing costs, making it a win-win.
Create a signature cocktail. The St. Regis is celebrating the 80th anniversary of the Bloody Mary, which was first crafted at a St. Regis property in New York. As such, meeting planners can tie in that St. Regis tradition by offering a signature drink at an event. Plus, offering a signature cocktail, as opposed to an open bar, will help keep the beverage side of the budget under control. A signature cocktail is also a good way to do some branding at an event.