No longer does the food and beverage concept at events simply involve a chef and a menu. MGM Resorts International is getting creative with food and beverage programs that build intrigue and engagement. A cooking competition, demonstrations on how to trim an artichoke or even nostalgic menus that conjure up images of Dr. Seuss are just a few ways the hotel group is turning up the F&B heat for meetings.
Meeting planners will get to experience this first-hand at the Meeting Planners Recipe Showdown, which will take place on the first day of IMEX America in Las Vegas this year. MGM Resorts International has spent the last month or so hosting various cook offs in 12 destinations across the United States and Canada, where meeting planners were asked to compete against each other using their own family recipes. Finalists from each of the 12 destinations will compete for prizes at IMEX America, where guest judges will determine the winner.
“We thought it was a really creative way to engage with the meeting planner community as well as become viral and social and create something that will last all-year long,” says Mike Dominguez, SVP of sales for MGM Resorts International.
Not only has the competition series allowed MGM to connect with meeting planners, it also helped them showcase the types of cook offs available for groups at participating MGM hotels. Bellagio Las Vegas, for instance, opened the 1,170-sf Tuscany Kitchen specifically for these types of events. The exhibition can also host a variety of cooking demonstrations — seasonal, themed or specialty — which can be coupled with a reception, formal dinner or tasting of food, wine or spirits. Groups of 15 to 100 can learn how to trim an artichoke or get professional training in Japanese, Italian or Chinese cooking.
“I don’t think there’s anything like getting everyone together in a kitchen,” says Dominguez. “If you think about your own experiences, we spend a lot of time in our kitchens today. If you bring that into a team event, it makes it feel more like family.”
Creative menus also bring intrigue to an event. Pantry, a 149-seat restaurant that opened at The Mirage Hotel & Casino earlier this month, serves up its own take on classic menu items such as green eggs and ham, milk chocolate pancakes, fried chicken and house-made donuts. The Yummy Little Mason Jars dessert offers a three-in-one taste of nostalgia with chocolate ganache, strawberry shortcake and banana cream pie served in mason jars.
The Chocolate Bar at New York-New York Las Vegas Hotel & Casino opened earlier this month to coincide with Hershey’s Chocolate World Las Vegas, which debuted in June. The bar, located on the casino level next to the chocolate retail store, mixes up specialty chocolate drinks such as a chocolate coconut martini or chocolate rouge wine. These drinks can be served in one of the many event spaces that Hershey’s Chocolate World has available for groups. At IMEX, for instance, the MGM Resorts party will be held on the second floor of the Hershey store.
“Meeting planners are really enjoying the novelty of [the Hershey store],” says Dominguez. “It really gives us the opportunity to do something unique.”