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Food Matters: A Recipe for a Successful Event

As Maslow’s Hierarchy teaches us, food is about as basic a need as exists for humans. It’s something we seek in order to meet the physical needs of our body, without which we cannot go out and succeed in the life challenges everyone faces.

Yet as research increasingly suggests, food can generate even more sophisticated benefits, far beyond the physiological basics. Some of these benefits are showing up where food is used in business settings. For example, a study published in 2017 showed that eating the same foods together enhanced trust and cooperation between study participants.

It’s clear that people sharing food can have a strategic value. But it’s not as easy as just pushing food in front of people at a business meeting. There are some additional considerations when choosing snacks and meals, choices that speak again to the complexities of the relationship between humans and food.

If you talk to Kristin Bishop, Director of Sales at Civic Hotel, she’ll tell you that the pleasure (or displeasure) associated with the food guests eat plays a significant role in their perceptions of the memorability or success of the event. Having spent close to fifteen years in the hospitality industry, much of dealing with people, food and beverages, she says it even affects their narrative, or how they talk about it.

“I would say food is probably the number one thing that can make or break the success of an event. When we ask people how the event, seminar or workshop was, the first thing they’ll talk about is the food. So it’s absolutely critical to get it right.” This is just one facet of her considerable understanding of people and food that stands to make Civic Hotel an unsurpassed regional business venue.

Local Food and Flavours Deliver

Working together, Bishop and the head chef at the Civic Hotel assembled a catering menu designed to help event planners deliver the best tasting experience possible to guests while also harnessing current trends and local themes in food preparation, wherever possible.

At its core, the menu offers a wide-ranging, customizable selection of options that cater to every taste and budget, covering everything from breakfast and snacks to gala dinners and gatherings upon the Hotel’s rooftop event space.

While international in scope, the menu reflects the growing desire to “eat from your own backyard” by featuring food and wine produced in BC, whenever possible. Not only does this embrace the growing trend towards locally sourced product, but it reflects Civic Hotel’s ‘celebrate BC’ theme.

“It’s important to all of us who are part of this project to support local producers,” says Bishop. “We want to help them become more viable and sustainable through partnerships with venues like ours. So our chef is taking every opportunity source food locally.”

Made-in-BC items featured on the catering menu include Fraser Valley goat cheese used in a vegetarian appetizer and Fraser Valley chicken roasted with tomatoes, capers and olives. Apples from the Okanagan Valley are used in an apple-potato salad with chive mayo. And all are complemented with a VQA wine list compiled exclusively from BC’s world-renowned vineyards.

While celebrating BC ingredients is a key theme of Civic Hotel and its food and beverage service, so is diversity, which reflects one of the defining characteristics of the community neighbouring the hotel. Surrey is one of the youngest, most multicultural communities in Canada.

The catering menu highlights some of the amazing flavours and colours of the cuisines reflecting the Asian and European roots of many of its local citizens. These include South Asian favourites like tikka masala and lamb biryani, as well as iconic Italian classics like antipasto platters and osso bucco.

Pumping It Up a Notch

While following food trends can appeal to event attendees, trying something they might not otherwise eat can also enhance a guest’s experience. In fact, Bishop sees events or meetings as an opportunity to refresh and even challenge guests’ traditional notions of culinary fare. “If we can surprise and delight people a little bit, so when they expect soup and sandwiches and they discover there’s actually an Indian buffet waiting for them, that becomes a memorable experience. It becomes the story of the event.“

She encourages event planners to take some chances. “It’s important to think outside the box, be willing to do something that may be unexpected and trust that it’s going to work.” Most important, however, is that planners and staff feel empowered and trust that Civic Hotel staff will serve delicious food that makes their event one to talk about and remember.

Whatever the reason for sharing food, the value of doing so is indisputable. “So many of the connections we form with other people happen over food and beverage,” she says. “The table is just a natural gathering space for people.”