The Seventh Annual Pebble Beach Food & Wine festival is soon to kickoff this April in Pebble Beach, Calif., where 250 wineries and 100 celebrity chefs will gather to provide wine tastings, cooking demos and other culinary experiences. Over the past few years, the festival has hosted top sales execs and VIPS from a number of companies, making the foodie weekend an already-planned group incentive experience.
Prevue spoke with James Velarde, vice president of brand relations for Coastal Luxury Management, the company that runs the festival, about how meeting planners can capitalize on this unique incentive option.
Would you say that food and wine festivals are becoming more popular in the incentive market than in the past?
Velarde: I think it’s becoming more prevalent because there are more and more festivals in the marketplace. When we started doing Pebble Beach Food & Wine, there had only been ones in Aspen and South Beach. I think the genre is seeing an uptick in general. It’s also trending from an entertainment standpoint. The old school way to entertain was to go buy box seats at an arena, but what if the client wasn’t into sports or they don’t like a certain team? A lot of companies are finding that [food and wine festivals] get more broad reach to a consumer. It’s universal; eating well and drinking well is a universal pleasure.
How do you work with meeting planners to create incentive options for groups?
We talk with them to figure out the profile for the group they’re bringing. Once that’s identified, we figure out what they’ve done in the past and find ways within Pebble Beach Food & Wine to up the ante or create unique experiences. The profile is that the attendees are usually highly successful people that want a good experience and good takeaways. Those can be a cooking demo where you learn ways of cooking to take back to your next dinner party. Or the wine makers are there, and you have a chance to learn a little more about the vineyard as opposed to a little tasting in a store. We have high-level principals from a chef standpoint and wine standpoint, and you get the chance to rub elbows with them for the weekend, which is pretty special. We also work with the planners to determine the agenda. There will be times when the group is doing stuff collectively on their own and then coming back into the festival. We’ve done private lunches or private dinners that are exclusive to the meeting planner’s guests.
What companies took advantage of the opportunity in the past and how did they benefit from it?
A few years back, we worked with McIlhenny Company, which creates Tabasco products. They did a board retreat. They’re in the food service industry themselves, so it made sense for them to come out and pursue their passions as well.
How does Pebble Beach Food & Wine standout compared to other festivals in the nation?
The location is amazing — the backdrop of the Monterey peninsula. Pebble Beach is a location whose brand is known worldwide. From an attendee standpoint, the chefs are actually cooking for you. It’s a unique opportunity to say Thomas Keller and Tom Colicchio, for example, cooked for me, as opposed to saying that you’ve eaten at their restaurants independently.
What other customized packages has Coastal Luxury Management offered meeting planners?
What’s great from a meeting planner standpoint is we’ve taken a lot of the work out. If you tried to get all these wineries or chefs to come to your event, it would be a complicated task. We can work out what attendees are eating and drinking, and it’s going to be made by some of the most respected people in their respective fields. We’ve done groups as small as 20 to as high as 150.