How the influence of the next generation is transforming food and drink at venues and events

Willows Food (2)

For baby boomers and before, the time and place for eating was fixed into the defined framework of the traditional working day. For the new generation, it is flexibly integrated into their day to day lives.

Just as they want and expect access to high-speed internet and to work, play or relax whenever they want 24/7, they also expect fast easy access to an extensive choice of fresh food and drink whenever they want it. They want to ‘Grab and Go’ any time that suits them. Street/ festival style food works well for them.

It’s also very important to them. In planning our recent £3m investment in transforming our event facility to become The Woodlands Event Centre we commissioned in-depth research among millennials meetings planners. Striking among its findings was that they expect venues to demonstrate excellence across three pillars; food, technology and sustainability.

The challenge for venues is to cater to both this new generation and those whose tastes and needs have not changed so much.

The solution for hotels and conference venues is to refine and update the lunch and dinner menus of traditional restaurants and coffee shops and supplement it with additional options.

For example, a Food Market providing a variety of international street food dishes can be added to the lunch options. Our stalls for events include Tex-Mex, Oriental, Carved Ham, Burgers, an Ice Cream machine and other Desserts.

Here, Cedar Bar offers a variety of light snacks such as sandwiches and paninis 24 hours a day. In addition, high street quality coffee and a wide range of drinks, pastries and snack is now always available right across the site from coffee artisans Paddy & Scott’s multiple refuelling stations and kiosks.

Paddy & Scott’s also reflects a further influence of the next generation’s attitudes on F&B; the hallmarks of the brand are authenticity and deep concern for sustainability. This also has to be reflected through the venue’s restaurants and bars. Our approach is to use locally sourced ingredients wherever possible.

Changing dietary requirements, especially of younger people, are having a significant on menus and restaurant preparation. 20 years ago there would be 10 vegetarians among 100 diners; today the vegetarians are now vegans and there are vegetarians as well. There are also more people with allergies to gluten, wheat, dairy and nuts.

Restaurant and function menus not only have to allow for all of these, but the quality and creativity must also be consistent, with delicious homemade foods given the same care and attention given to other guests.