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SPRING

SUMMER

2021

The Lure of

LONG ISLAND DREAMY, BEACHY VENUES TEMPT PLANNERS IN NEW YORK

ON CENTER STAGE: CATERERS The struggles of Northeast businesses need to be addressed


State Theatre New Jersey


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Contents

16 On Center Stage: Caterers

Northeast caterers open up about their struggles that happened as a result of the pandemic.

In Every Issue //

4 Editor’s Note 12 Trend Report

Virtual team-building activities have become vital over the past year.

2 NEM+E » SPRING SUMMER 2021

14 Destination

Long Island is a dreamy getaway for summer meetings and events.

30 People Profile

Maria Moyano of the Museum of Ice Cream relates experience design to event planning.

Meeting Notes //

8 CVB Spotlight

The Jersey Shore has several desirable locales for summer gatherings.

10 Signature Drink

The French Kiss is a Provencal-inspired combination of vodka, rosé and St. Germain.

11 It’s Your Biz

Know the pros and cons of different

contact tracing methodologies for your next in-person meeting.

MEETINGSMAGS.COM

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SPRING

SUMMER

2021

The Lure of

LONG ISLAND DREAMY, BEACHY VENUES TEMPT PLANNERS IN NEW YORK

Industry Update //

24 Infographic

An informed outlook on the future of hotels and hospitality.

26 Regional News

What’s happening in the local community.

ON CENTER STAGE: CATERERS The struggles of Northeast businesses need to be addressed

On the Cover Gurney’s Montauk offers breezy, seaside venues for private events.

PHOTO COURTESY OF DISCOVER LONG ISLAND

P H O T O S : A D AY O F B L I S S P H O T O G R A P H Y, I N C . / D I S C O V E R L O N G I S L A N D

Feature //

S PRIN G S U MM ER 2 02 1


SPRING SUMMER 2021

ne.meetingsmags.com

EDITOR LAUREN PAHMEIER MANAGING EDITOR LAUREN PAHMEIER COPYEDITOR SHERRI HILDEBRANDT CONTRIBUTING WRITERS KEITH LORIA

ART DIRECTOR TRACI ZELLMANN

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MEETINGS WITH A SIDE OF VITAMIN SEA

ACCOUNTS PAYABLE / ACCOUNTS RECEIVABLE SPECIALIST ALYZABETH OUTCELT CREDIT MANAGER APRIL MCCAULEY CONTROLLER BILL NELSON

ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER – NATIONAL SALES LAURIE BURGER 586.416.4195 | LAURIEBURGER@COMCAST.NET

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For address changes, ordering single copies, cancellations, or general questions about your subscription please contact customer service at 1.800.637.033 or customerservice@tigeroak.com Northeast Meetings + Events accepts no responsibility for unsolicited manuscripts or artwork; they will not be returned unless accompanied by a stamped, self-addressed envelope.

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From corporate retreats to big time concerts to antique car shows, and everything in between, it’s no wonder year after year meeting and event planners choose the Wildwoods Convention Center! • 75K square foot exhibit arena, a 12K square foot Ballroom and 10-Meeting Rooms

• Adjacent to the world-famous Wildwoods Boardwalk and 5 miles of FREE white sand beaches

• 380 – 10’ x 10’ exhibit booth space or seating for up to 7,500

• On-site parking for over 700 vehicles

• Modern amenities / State-ofthe-art communication systems

• 30K square feet of pre-function space

• Full in-house Catering/ Concession services

• Free Wi-Fi for attendees

Northeast Meetings + Events is published semi-annually © 2021 Tiger Oak Media. All rights reserved. PRINTED IN THE U.S.A.

To schedule your next meeting or event,

800-992-9732 | WildwoodsCC.com

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E DITOR ’ S N OTE

Full Circle

ne.meetingsmags.com nemeetingsmags @nemeetingsmags @meetingseventsmags

» STAFFING CHANGES have been just one side effect of the pandemic, accompanying so many others. The Meetings + Events team here at Tiger Oak Media hasn’t been an exception, making me your new editor for Northeast Meetings + Events. I’ve had various roles within the Meetings + Events magazines, including my firstever editorial internship back in 2017. When I started, I was grateful for the opportunity to write about a topic I was deeply interested in, and I’m still grateful for that now. I love that I get to talk with venues, caterers, planners and vendors of all kinds for each story, and learn about the time, planning, knowledge and effort that make successful gatherings possible. I picked up this love for hospitality from my mom. Growing up, everyone knew my mom to be a hostess extraordinaire: planning and putting on elaborate annual ice cream socials, Superbowl parties, holiday get-togethers and more. I usually preferred to work with her on the food, collecting experience planning social gatherings and instilling a love and appreciation for the work behind the scenes. These experiences with planning, prepping and serving food made me especially excited to work on the feature for this issue, where several Northeast catering companies share how they’ve fared throughout the pandemic. I’m sure it was tough for them to be vulnerable, and to let on that business is anything less than booming—but they were open and honest anyway. Event planners, venues, hotels, vendors, caterers and more in the Northeast have had quite a tough time with restrictions, but still have managed to band together and work toward progress. As things gradually open up, I’m looking forward to witnessing how you—the industry—continue to push forward, no matter what obstacles are thrown your way.

LAUREN PAHMEIER

P H O T O : K AYC E G O E N

Editor lauren.pahmeier@tigeroak.com

4 NEM+E » SPRING SUMMER 2021


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M E E TI NG NOTE S Products, Places & Inspiration

From Rendering to Reality » WORKING FROM HOME has been something

BY LAUREN PAHMEIER PHOTO BY 360 HOME PHOTOGRAPHY

that many professionals have had to embrace this past year, whether they liked the concept or not. After a forced test run during the pandemic, many companies have found success in remote working and are changing their policies permanently. However, this means that many professionals will need to prepare a permanent workspace within their homes, if they haven’t already, as working on the couch indefinitely isn’t ideal. “If you’re going to be working, you might as well be in an environment that you really enjoy and that’s pleasant to you,” says Y.J. Kim, co-founder of Vancouver-based Bella Staging, a virtual staging company. However, some people don’t have an eye for design, or don’t know where to find help. As Bella Staging

6 NEM+E » SPRING SUMMER 2021

provides virtual services, work-from-home employees don’t need to worry about leaving the house to get the design process started and the job done. By sending in a well-lit photo of the space they want to rethink, the team of interior designers will edit out unwanted furniture and decorations and replace them with renderings of real-life furnishings. This way, clients can envision what their space could look like from a professional designer’s point of view, and purchase the exact furnishings if they desire. The first phototurned-rendering is free, so professionals can get a taste of Bella Staging and a better workspace without hesitation. bellastaging.ca |

bella_virtual_staging

P H OTO : (O P P O S I T E ) W H OT E L P H I L A D E L P H I A

Virtual staging services help work-from-home professionals revitalize their office space without leaving the house.


« W Philadelphia

from conference to classroom to theater. Each space has floor-to-ceiling windows and state-of-the-art technology, making events in the complex both easy for planners and full of daylight for attendees.

New Hotel Roundup //

POPPING UP IN PENNSYLVANIA BY LAUREN PAHMEIER

Despite an overall crushing year for the hospitality industry in Pennsylvania, some seeds of hope have been planted and are finally sprouting in the form of new hotel openings. These new properties on the horizon have ample meeting and event space up for grabs, all within close proximity of each other. As capacities allowances increase, check out the new real estate for meetings and events at the following hotels. THE W PHILADELPHIA & THE ELEMENT PHILADELPHIA Opening June 2021 on Chestnut Street are the W Philadelphia and the Element Philadelphia, both by Marriott. While each has its own design style and price points, they share several amenities between the two. One is Dolce, an Italian restaurant with

cuisine inspired by 1960s Rome, but the expansive, three-story meeting and event complex with 46,000 square feet of space is the main highlight. “The shared complex of W and Element is a unique offer for Philadelphia,” says Ed Baten, complex general manager. “Planners will have the opportunity to book room blocks across both properties, which will allow for flexibility with budgets. The combination of scale and luxury will be a strong point of differentiation for both the local market and the entire northeast corridor.” The complex will have 37 event rooms across the three stories, including 27 breakout rooms. The largest space, Great Room 1 & 2, holds 550 people reception-style, while the rest of the spaces can accommodate a multitude of capacities in any seating style,

marriott.com/hotels/travel/phlwh-w-philadelphia | @wphiladelphia marriott.com/hotels/travel/phlel-element-philadelphia | @elementphiladelphia hyattcentricphiladelphiacentercity.com | @hyattcentricphiladelphia

HYATT CENTRIC CENTER CITY PHILADELPHIA The Hyatt Centric Center City Philadelphia also has new meeting space options for planners in Philadelphia since its opening in October 2020. “What differentiates us from our competitors is Hyatt’s technology enabling the ease of booking, planning, and hosting safe meetings and events,” says Brian Lang, the area director of sales, marketing and events for Hyatt. “We are excited to offer a fully contactless conference package which enables a planner to book and plan a meeting online, offers direct to room capabilities via smartphone, and a meeting planner app where all requests can be made via the Wi-Fi that is included in our meeting packages.” Within city regulations, planners also have the option for traditional meetings if they desire within the 5,000+ square feet of space at the Hyatt Centric. The Alexander Ballroom is the largest space, holding 210 attendees reception-style, with its own private bathrooms. Each of the seven spaces is named after a prominent Philadelphian, as the design for the hotel is inspired by the region’s heritage and Quaker roots. The Hyatt Centric is located in the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood, located just a few blocks from the W and the Element. “Rittenhouse Square offers verdant treefilled parks, revered architecture, lauded dining, boutique shopping, and a lively nightlife,” says Lang. “The neighborhood has been described as fashionable, posh, and tony but beyond the elegant apartment buildings and chic restaurants is this feeling of true Philadelphia. The area has an approachable sophistication that is the perfect blend of high society and the determined spirit of Philadelphia.”

NE.MEETINGSMAGS.COM 7


ME ETI N G N OTES Products, Places & Inspiration

The New Jersey Shore

Summertime gatherings on the Shore can turn meetings into vacations. BY KEITH LORIA » THE JERSEY SHORE encompasses approximately 130 miles of oceanfront bordering the Atlantic Ocean, and is a favorite spot for planners hosting meetings and events in the summer. ATLANTIC CITY Atlantic City is dubbed “America’s Playground,” which is fitting since there’s a myriad of fun things for people to do. Those planning meetings and conventions appreciate that about the New Jersey hot spot. “When you hold your event in Atlantic City, you’ll experience world-class accommodations, critically acclaimed dining, taxfree shopping, exciting entertainment, great sports, spectacular attractions, our worldfamous Boardwalk and beautiful pristine

8 NEM+E » SPRING SUMMER 2021

beaches,” says Larry Sieg, president and CEO of Meet AC. Some of the city’s top attractions for attendees during after-work hours include the Steel Pier, the Tanger Outlets, Little Water Distillery, and the Absecon Lighthouse. Leading the way with sustainable and energy efficient efforts, the Atlantic City Convention Center provides 486,600 contiguous square feet of exhibit space. Other great places to host meetings include the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, the Ocean Casino Resort, Tropicana and Harrah’s. OCEAN CITY A top family resort destination, Ocean City offers a string of beaches and a boardwalk with plenty of shops, eateries and

amusement parks. “We’re in such a great location, and people can fly into Atlantic City or Philadelphia and get here easily,” says Michele Gillian, executive director of the Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce. “We have eight miles of beaches, a 2.5-mile boardwalk and our back bay is second to none. We also have a quaint downtown with about 100 boutique stores. It’s a relaxing environment and perfect for meeting guests.” Gillian notes there are plenty of great spots to hold meetings, including the historic Flanders Hotel, which offers three meeting rooms that can hold up to 1,000 people; the Ocean City Tabernacle, which has an 8,000-square-foot sanctuary; and the Ocean City Music Pier, which has a community center with breakout rooms. CAPE MAY Cape May distinguishes herself in many ways with pristine beaches, the promenade, and all the amenities that make any seashore town worth visiting—and ideal

P H OTO S : M E E T AC ; T H E W I L DWO O D S

CVB Spotlight //


Cool Idea //

SERVING UP VIRTUAL LAUGHS

for hosting meetings. Jessica Leeburg, creative director for CapeMay.com, notes the area offers Victorian architecture, seafood, shopping, and world-class birding within a couple of miles. “For those who want to travel with families, Cape May is a resort town, so you can turn a meeting into a vacation,” she says. “We’re only an hour and a half from Philadelphia. And maybe it goes without saying, but hearing the ocean can provide some much-needed stress relief.” Cape May is a popular wedding destination, so many of its hotels are used to coordinate events, and many welcome meetings and workshops as well. For large groups, locations like the Grand Hotel, Southern Mansion, Chalfonte, La Mer, and Congress Hall are ideal, while mid-size groups might want to consider a location like the Carroll Villa Hotel. For a tiny group, renting a private beach house serves as a great option. meetac.com |

CapeMay.com |

THE WILDWOODS Known for its white sandy beaches, meeting planners flock to The Wildwoods every summer, most taking advantage of the award-winning Wildwoods Convention Center. “The Convention Center’s magnificent floor-to-ceiling windows and Teflon coated translucent fabric roof allow the entire building to be flooded in natural sunlight during the day,” says Cassidy Walsh, a public relations spokesperson for Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement & Development Authority. The venue offers 260,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, including a 75,000-square-foot, unobstructed exhibit hall with 30-foot-tall ceilings. Its prime location adjacent to the boardwalk is centrally positioned to over 8,000 hotel/motel rooms and 3,000 vacation rentals on the 5-mile island.

wildwoodsnj.com |

oceancityvacation.com

Kevin Hubschmann is a New Jersey-based comedian who has been making people laugh for most of his life. But after not finding as many opportunities to perform live even before the pandemic, he started hosting popup comedy shows in New York City in 2019 under the business name Laugh.Events (pronounced Laugh Dot Events). “I honestly was just looking for more stage time and to be a part of good shows,” Hubschmann says. “I served as host, so I could do as much time as I wanted, plus I could make sure the show was full of great comics that I knew.” When the pandemic hit, he decided to take his business virtual, so he could continue performing, although he had to make some adjustments. “Virtual comedy can be tough because it doesn’t have that comedy club vibe. So instead of a normal show, we decided to do shows for corporate audiences,” Hubschmann says. “This turned out to be the perfect experience, because we are able to hand-select the comics based on the groups. We can personalize it a bit, and we know the audience is not going to act inappropriately and heckle the comics because it’s a work environment.” Suddenly, there was a great deal of demand for a Laugh.Events show, as companies were looking for interesting ways to connect with their workforce while most were working from home. Plus, bigger comics were now available and were looking for opportunities to perform. Over the past year, Laugh.Events has put on private personalized comedy shows for big companies like IBM, Dell, Spotify and more. Once things start to get back to normal, Hubschmann plans to continue doing these virtual shows, but he’ll also return to pop-up live shows for corporate and noncorporate audiences. He sees no reason why both can’t be successful. “We want to come back even stronger when we go back live,” he says. “We’re excited about the future, because we think virtual comedy in the corporate space will continue to be robust, and we’re also going to bring really great comics to the stage.” –Keith Loria laugh.events |

@laugh.events

NE.MEETINGSMAGS.COM 9


ME ETI N G N OTES Products, Places & Inspiration

Signature Drink //

THE FRENCH KISS The spirit of the French Riviera has found a home in the Rockaways. At Bar Marseille, French bistro classics, Provencal cocktails and plenty of seafood pair with views of the ocean, emulating the Mediterranean port city that the establishment was named after. After a long year of lockdowns, planners looking to treat their attendees to a venue that doesn’t feel like New York can book one of several spaces at Bar Marseille. Semi-private cocktail hours of up to 50 people can be held at the bar, while on the patio or rooftop, private standing gatherings can accommodate 60 or 150, respectively. For the largest groups, restaurant buyouts can hold up to 60 seated and 250 standing; including the rooftop, 160 seated and 350 standing. Get a taste of Bar Marseille by creating one of its inspired cocktails, the French Kiss. This light, summery cocktail is perfect for pretending you’re basking in the French sun.

DIRECTIONS Shake and strain into a Collins glass over fresh ice, and top with prosecco. Garnish with a grapefruit slice, thyme sprig and a slice of fennel bulb. barmarseille.com |

@barmarseille

10 NEM+E » SPRING SUMMER 2021

P H OTO : B A R M A R S I E L L E

INGREDIENTS —1 oz. Belvedere Vodka —1 oz. Lillet Rosé —.5 oz. Fresh grapefruit juice —.25 oz. St. Germain —Splash of lime juice —Thyme sprig —Grapefruit slice —Slice of fennel bulb


It’s Your Biz //

To Track or Not to Track

Employing contact tracing methodologies can help planners facilitate in-person meetings. BY JULIE ANN SCHMIDT » THE CDC DEFINES close contact as within 6 feet or less, for 15 minutes or more with someone who tests positive for COVID-19. At gatherings of many kinds, contact tracing is used to trace the people with whom someone has come into contact with, before they learn that they have tested positive. This allows the people with whom the sick person has come into contact to be aware of the situation, and to make health-informed choices. So, the initial answer is yes—you should do contact tracing at your meeting. There are two different methods you can use. Here are the high-level pros and cons of each. METHOD 1: MANUAL CONTACT TRACING Pros: By checking in on people upon arrival and generating your own list of attendees, there are no new upfront costs. There is nothing new for you or your team to learn, and there is no change in the meeting for your guests—besides masking and social distancing. Cons: If an attendee tests positive after the meeting, you as the planner have to inform everyone that they may have had a direct exposure to COVID-19. It takes more time on the back side to inform everyone, and that can have a cost to your organization. It can also undermine the trust your attendees have in you to be told they may have had contact, even though it’s not the planner’s fault. There can also be a negative reaction in the public relations realm, or bad press if you do not have precise data on exposure. Ideal events for manual tracking: If your event is small, or for a

short period of time, a tracking technology might be overkill. If you have no room in your budget to add tracking technology, and if your audience is opposed to the idea of wearing a tracking device, then using your list might be the best, or only option.

everyone at the meeting. Most technologies can pull up this data in a matter of minutes. In a public relations sense, you as the planner will look more proactive when you can say you used a contact tracing technology. Finally, your guests might feel safer attending knowing that they will get more precise information on potential exposure. Cons: There are new upfront costs—anywhere from $5-$10 per person per day for a phone app, or $10-$15 per person per day for BLE Bluetooth Technology. Although the technology is pretty plug-and-play, you still have an extra step at check-in and something new to teach your team. And, there are people who are opposed to wearing a device, plain and simple. Ideal events for using tracking technology: If your event is large, or for multiple days,

the odds go up that you will have someone report sick post-event, so having technology to help in the reporting becomes more valuable and cost effective. Every meeting, budget, and audience is different and will have different needs. No one option is right for everyone, and for some, using your check-in list will be enough.

Julie Ann Schmidt (CMP, CMM, & MNM+E Hall of Fame) is president of Lithium Logistics Group, a full-service MICE agency. Schmidt recently became a certified COVID19 compliance officer and has served on national and federal COVID19 task forces. She currently trains planners on how to get back to live meetings and other COVIDrelated topics. lilogisticsreg. voicehive.com.

METHOD 2: TRACKING TECHNOLOGY Pros: If someone tests positive, you are only informing the people who you know had close contact with the sick person instead of

NE.MEETINGSMAGS.COM 11


T REN D R EP ORT Virtual Team-Building

In Vogue: Virtual Team-Building

Within the past year, more people than ever before have worked from home. As a result, team-building events have become increasingly important—and popular. BY KEITH LORIA

» TEAM-BUILDING EVENTS have always been important for companies and corporations, as it’s a way to get people away from the work environment and to improve morale, team bonding and communication in a fun and exciting way. When the pandemic hit, in-person team building events were cancelled—but that didn’t mean the concept had to end. Companies specializing in team building started coming up with innovative virtual team-building exercises, and that has been a great way to provide some relief for those workers who are tired of working from home and losing out on their work interactions. Will Leggett, owner and president of

12 NEM+E » SPRING SUMMER 2021

United EVENTures, based in Oradell, N.J., notes team morale is the biggest reason to host a virtual team-building event in 2021. “A lot of corporations still have their employees working from home, most with no end date in sight,” he says. “People are not feeling the human interaction with their colleagues they crave, so by hosting a virtual event we can provide a platform for them to stop thinking about work and the stress of what is happening around them and just have fun with one another.” One of the most popular in-person events held by United EVENTures is its geo-trekking adventure, a tech-driven scavenger hunt that maximizes team efficiency and collabo-

ration while workers compete in a series of mini challenges and trivia along the way. “Since moving to a virtual world, we shifted this event to a good ol’ fashioned scavenger hunt where participants need to find an array of household items as a team as well as solve trivia questions, riddles and puzzles along the way,” Leggett says. “We use the Zoom platform and breakout rooms to separate the group into teams before coming back together as one.”  Other popular offerings from the company include a cocktail hour, where people learn how to make new fun cocktails with a live bartender; a cheese & charcuterie board workshop; and music video bingo.

P H OTO S : U N I T E D E V E N T U R E S

A virtual beer and cheese happy hour brings together a remote team over food and libations.


“I think people need to have fun together as there is so much uncertainty in the world today,” Leggett says. “A good laugh and story to tell later is what we all are craving.” David Goldstein, creator of opportunities for TeamBonding, which regularly runs virtual events in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, says companies need to continue to recognize, maintain, reward and motivate their teams, and virtual team building events are bridging these gaps for remote employees and their teams. Many of TeamBonding’s live events were designed to engage, entertain and build morale, and the company was able to quickly pivot those events to use the technology, the breakout rooms and the design to do more than put teams in a virtual room together.  “There are two types of events that companies choose, starting with group engagement events such as happy hours, chocolate, wine, and cheese tastings and other events that allow people to connect socially; and team building events that mirror in-person events that challenge and encourage teams to work together, to accomplish something and to compete,” Goldstein says. “Both are important to do on a regular basis.” One of its most popular virtual team bonding events is based on the TV show Jeopardy. “Pre-pandemic, we obtained the rights to the official Jeopardy game to do for live events,” Goldstein says. “We were excited to bring the official game show to meetings and conferences as it has a celebrity feel to see the graphics, to hear the Jeopardy music, and play the game they see on TV. Little did we know that the side-benefit of this license was the ability to do this as a virtual, facilitated event.” Outback Team Building & Training, with operations throughout the country, offers more than 60 different virtual, in-person, and self-hosted team-building activities, with virtual options including scavenger hunts, code breaking and office Olympics. Tiff Daniels, vice president of sales for the company, notes one of its most popular options is the Virtual Clue Murder Mystery, an online activity  designed spe-

A ring light is a necessary tool for a bartender at a virtual cocktail class.

cifically for remote teams. “Using video conferencing software, we will  split groups into teams,  examine clues,  review case files and  channel their inner detectives as they race against the clock to  solve the mystery  of who had the means, motive and opportunity to murder Neil Davidson,” he says. “It allows teams to tap into their problem-solving skills, think analytically, collaborate closely and communicate effectively in order to successfully solve the case.” At this point, many people haven’t been in the office for more than a year and relationships have to be nurtured, employees need to be valued and attention needs to be paid to onboarding new staff and having fun as a team. Bottom line, everything that companies used team-building for prior to COVID-19 is as important—if not more important—to keep their productivity and interest recognized and rewarded.

teamUE.com UnitedEVENTures @unitedeventures TeamBonding.com TeamBonding @teambonding outbackteambuilding.com outbackteams @outbackteams

NE.MEETINGSMAGS.COM 13


DE STI NATION Long Island

The Lure of Long Island

The beauty, peace and quiet of the Hamptons and Shelter Island draws in planners, celebrities and tourists alike. BY KEITH LORIA

» EVERYONE KNOWS about the worldfamous Hamptons from seeing them on TV, or hearing that it’s where some of the rich and famous vacation. That’s part of the reason why it’s such a big attraction for meetings, corporate outings and events. “Depending on the time of year, there is plenty to do in the Hamptons,” says Jennifer Rothman, international, domestic & sports sales manager for Discover Long Island. “In summer, enjoy the beach, walk up to the Montauk Lighthouse, horseback ride on the beach, play golf at one of the many golf courses that professionals have played at, visit museums, go whale watching, dine at world famous chef restaurants, or just take in its beauty.” Some of the best places to host meetings include the Southampton Inn, which boasts a 7,000-square-foot space; Gurney’s Hotel & Marina, which is home to a theater and breakout rooms for as many as 100; and the RoundTree Amagansett, which offers a 20-person conference room. Additionally, Shou Sugi Ban House is a great new spot for health and wellness retreats.  “The Hamptons offers quiet, beauty, and is just different from a typical venue or area,” Rothman says. “People love coming here for

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Gurney’s Resort can host private events that overlook the ocean.


P H OTO S : D I S COV E R LO N G I S L A N D

The Montauk Lighthouse is a destination for tourists in the Hamptons.

a vacation or just the day. There’s so much to do and so much to enjoy.” Nearby, Shelter Island is a secluded, 8,000-acre island on the eastern end of Long Island  that is about a 5-minute ride from the Hamptons. “What makes Shelter Island such a great place is that it’s so pristine in many respects,” says Art Williams, secretary and treasurer of the Shelter Island Chamber of Commerce. “The island has not been reshaped by commercialism or development, so there’s a tremendous amount of natural beauty.” Being right on the water, that opens up plenty of boating, fishing and water sports activities, which visitors can take full advantage of, and there are numerous companies offering these activities that you can sign up for while there. Larger groups can plan boating outings or larger fishing trips. While large meetings don’t have a lot to choose from, smaller corporate meetings

can find several places to host their days. For instance, Dering Harbor is a 7-acre property which comfortably accommodates a variety of private occasions throughout the year and welcomes meetings both inside and outside. The Rams Head Inn has two meeting rooms that can accommodate up to 50 guests. Not that large meetings are shut out—the Island Boat Yard can accommodate up to 150 people and is a favorite place among planners. When the meetings are over, there’s plenty of fun things to do. “One of our big attractions is the Mashomack Reserve, which is part of the Nature Conservatory, and they have fantastic trails on almost 2,100 acres,” Williams says. “There’s diverse habitats, tons of different plant life and animals, and someone can walk all day if they wanted to.” Another site that meeting attendees

should check out is the Shelter Island History Center, which has been recently renovated and is home to the historical society. “It’s one of the nicest history centers anywhere,” Williams says. Shelter Island also boasts the Sylvester Manor Educational Farm, which was the original homestead plantation founded in 1652 and today serves as an organic farm and historic manor. “There’s a reason when people come here, they don’t want to go home,” Williams says.

discoverlongisland.com discoverlongisland @discoverlongisland shelterislandchamber.org SIChamberofCommerce @visitshelterisland

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ON C E N T E R S TA G E :

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CATERERS The specific struggles of caterer s have existed just outside the limelight throughout the entire pandemic—and it’s time to change that. BY LAUREN PAHMEIER

16 NEM+E » SPRING SUMMER 2021


J

ust like the rest of the world, the hospitality and travel industries slammed to a halt when the pandemic hit last March. Some sectors within them had built-in solutions to focus on, such as hotels limiting capacities and restaurants focusing on takeout and delivery. But for many businesses within the related meetings and events realm, there were no natural alternatives to turn to. Caterers specifically had to reinvent the wheel just to stay above water. At first, meetings and events were cancelled, or postponed to a future date—so promised revenue was swept out from under their feet. Next, the majority of offices started working from home, which resulted in some caterers losing a large portion of their business for the foreseeable future. Eventually, some social events came back, like outdoor weddings in the summer and select small indoor gatherings, but capacities were so limited that revenues could never reach pre-pandemic heights. Even at the few events still happening, communal dining such as family-style meals, buffets and food displays were typically out of the picture, so some caterers still had to rethink their typical serving styles—another added obstacle during a time full of enough hurdles. All of these individual changes contributed to an overall recipe for disaster for caterers, although the pandemic has written a different story for each one. A few commonalities across companies include the essential death of corporate catering, and the constant adaptations to ever-changing restrictions. But other than that? The only thing all caterers have in

common is universal change. Northeast Meetings + Events spoke with caterers across New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut in order to get a better sense of the full impact. “SAVE YOUR FAVORITE RESTAURANTS” While restaurants—similar to caterers in the fact that they both serve food—had the obvious solution of switching to takeout when the pandemic hit, they also had the support of a collective rallying from their communities in support, and a fan base dedicated to keeping them alive by visiting regularly. “When all of this happened, there was a lot of talk… ‘Save your favorite restaurant, save your local restaurants,’” says Dan Biagioni, owner of Spice Catering Group near New Haven, Connecticut. “And a lot of us, including me, started getting takeout from a lot of our local restaurants, trying to help them out a little bit. Well, no one thinks, ‘Save your favorite caterer,’” he laughs. Just like restaurants, some caterers began offering individually packaged meals to-go and family meal boxes, with varying results. But the comparison to restaurants reminded caterers of the ongoing, mismatched restrictions throughout the pandemic, although restaurants and caterers inherently have certain similarities. Domenick Savino, CEO and managing partner of The Drexelbrook in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania, has been especially frustrated by the differences. His company owns a hotel, two venues, catering services and a

NE.MEETINGSMAGS.COM 17


caterers had to find ways to accommodate them anyway. As mentioned, many companies began offering to-go meals for individuals, families and smaller groups for special occasions, holidays and virtual Zoom meetings. One company that took this approach is Constellation Culinary Group, a Philadelphia-based company that provides nationwide services, mostly via exclusive venue partnerships in New York, New Jersey, California, Florida and Washington, D.C. Constellation cre-

“One of the things we didn’t want to do is just say, ‘What can we do right now to make it through this?’ That’s not really our style. It’s, ‘What’s something that would work in a non-COVID world also?’ Because we’re all about longevity.” – MA X JANOF F, DI R ECTOR OF SALE S of CRYSTAL PL A Z A

15,000-square-foot space. “It just doesn’t seem equitable that you can have that many people in that space, and have so much fewer people in a bigger space,” he says. The Drexelbrook’s situation is just one example of the uneven restrictions that caterers arguably, have faced unfairly—and other professionals across the Northeast besides Savino have become frustrated with the lack of attention toward caterers and private events. JUST GETTING BY Although restrictions continued to be inconsistent,

18 NEM+E » SPRING SUMMER 2021

}

ated Prepped, a menu of individually packaged, room-temperature meals for attendees of virtual events and small, in-person social gatherings in the regions they serve. As the large catering company is accustomed to catering about 2,500 large, in-person events each year, they had to learn to adjust to smaller numbers all around. “Most of the events that we would cater previously were hundreds of guests, versus the bulk of events that we’re doing now virtually or in-person are less than 50 guests,” says Morgan Bedore, vice president of sales and creative of Constellation Culinary Group. “Obviously, that value in volume

P H OTO : T H E D R E X E L B R O O K

restaurant under The Drexelbrook. Throughout the pandemic, the company’s restaurant, Streetlight Kitchen & Bar, has been able to host similar capacities as their venues have, although the square footage is much, much smaller. “It’s ironic how my restaurant, which is one quarter of the size of my grand ballroom, can seat 104 people at 50 percent occupancy,” says Savino. At the same time, his ballroom was only allowed to hold 150—which is 10 percent occupancy for his


The Drexelbrook created Food for the Frontline , an initiative that served 7,000+ meals to frontline workers.

position doesn’t work in today’s world, so creating price points and minimums that allow profit is certainly a challenge right now, but we’ve worked really hard to put together a plan,” says Bedore. Reaching the point of breakeven, let alone profit, has been a struggle for other companies besides Constellation. In addition to catering some summer weddings, Spice Catering began selling charcuterie boxes around the holidays, but it wasn’t nearly enough to get by. “It was a shell of our business. For December as an example, our revenue was maybe 10 percent of what our normal revenue was, so literally we lost 90 percent,” says Biagioni. Other companies didn’t bother with switching to individual takeout meals or other temporary fixes,

and shifted their focus to permanent improvements to their business instead. In New Jersey, Crystal Plaza Group decided to direct all of their efforts last year to a remodel of their entire venue in Livingston. “One of the things we didn’t want to do is just say, ‘What can we do right now to make it through this?’ That’s not really our style,” says Max Janoff, director of sales of Crystal Plaza. “It’s, ‘What’s something that would work in a non-COVID world also?’ Because we’re all about longevity,” he says. Crystal Plaza’s remodel was already in the works before the pandemic began. But when mid-March hit, they decided to take this window of “opportunity” where restrictions reigned to channel their energy into speeding along the process—whereas

NE.MEETINGSMAGS.COM 19


a remodel in normal times would have meant balancing hosting events with ongoing construction in other parts of the building. And it paid off—as of March 2021, the remodel was five months ahead of schedule. Over in Pennsylvania, The Drexelbrook knew that its previously existing online storefront needed to become more integral to the catering side of its business during the pandemic. The company began offering family meals and Zoom happy hour packages for pickup or delivery in April 2020, and plan to keep the online storefront for these kinds of offerings open after the pandemic has run its course, too. However, a more major part of The Drexelbrook’s efforts to stay afloat included charity-focused initiatives. First, The Drexelbrook started Food for the Frontline, a program where a $10 donation served a high-protein meal to a frontline worker at a local hospital. Eventually, this morphed into a more industry-related initiative called Delco Feeds Delco, where donations provide a meal and a local grocery store gift card to unemployed hospitality workers and their families. The catering company served over 200 family meals for Delco Feeds Delco, and 7,000 meals through Food for the Frontline—all with a staff of nine, as compared to their normal 165 full- and part-time employees. ADVOCATES OF THE INDUSTRY While all caterers were determining and implementing alternate ways of business to handle the pandemic, some individuals decided to do something to advocate for the meetings and events and hospitality industries as a whole. Many states didn’t recognize the impact that these had on

20 NEM+E » SPRING SUMMER 2021

economies, and therefore set restrictions without it in mind. Plus, legislators were discounting the fact that professionally planned and managed private events are executed much differently in terms of safety than gatherings held in private residences, and hosted without professionals during the pandemic. “When you have an event that’s run by professionals, you’re taking yourself out of the realm of all the dangers that COVID may bring,” says Julia Jablonowski, director of marketing and communications for NACE Philadelphia/South Jersey/ Delaware and creative director of Eventricity, a luxury event planning, design, and floral arts company. “Versus when you’re shutting down to 10 or 15 percent capacity, people want to gather, and they’re going to gather in their homes where there aren’t rules. So, there’s nothing to check them, there’s nothing regulating,” says Jablonowski. Especially in Philadelphia, the government’s extremely low capacities and high restrictions caused people to host more events within their homes instead of hiring professional event planners and caterers at official venues. Therefore, there wasn’t much evidence specifically to show that professionally planned, private events were the culprit behind the spread of COVID-19. “For some reason, somewhere along the line, somebody decided that private events were going to be a major cause of the spread of COVID-19. Now, since we’ve been closed for a year, that theory just does not hold water, because there’s no data that supports that private events cause the spread of COVID-19—private events that are by professionally managed businesses,” says Savino.


In support of these sentiments, professionals across Pennsylvania came together to form the Private Event Professionals of Pennsylvania, or PEPP, to combat this feeling of helplessness within the industry. The organization even has a lobbyist whose goal is to show legislators that professionally planned, private events are not the problem, and that keeping capacities so low continually hurts the economy and the industry more than it prevents the spread. Savino says that event planners and PEPP have

ing capacities for restaurants just days before it goes into effect doesn’t prohibit them from doing business almost immediately, because guests can make same-day reservations. For caterers, clients book months in advance, and caterers will still have to take the months-long hit of little to no activity until they get up to speed with booked events. The longer a plan is not released, the longer it will take for caterers and private event professionals to bounce back, and more businesses could be lost. With Philadelphia’s strict restrictions especially,

“One of the biggest challenges besides reopening is that when we reopen, the pool of talent is getting smaller and smaller because so many places have lost employees to other industries.” — DOM E N ICK SAVI NO, CEO of TH E DR E XE LB ROOK

tried to showcase to legislators the cleaning and health protocols that they follow while hosting events, but legislators haven’t come to give them a chance at making their point. INDUSTRY IMPACTS What’s worse for PEPP is that not only are capacities alarmingly low, but the lack of a known, public exit strategy on how restrictions will gradually decrease makes it impossible for caterers, event planners and venues to anticipate and plan for any semblance of what the future may look like. Now knowing or planning for a potential future— even one that is dynamically changing—hurts caterers and the private event industry much more than other businesses. For example, announcing increas-

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another concern is that meetings and events are being surrendered to neighboring states with fewer restrictions, doubly damaging the economy. On top of this, by the time that reopening finally happens, many furloughed and laid-off hospitality industry workers may have migrated to more stable industries in search of a steadier flow of income. “One of the biggest challenges besides reopening is that when we reopen, the pool of talent is getting smaller and smaller because so many places have lost employees to other industries,” says Savino. It’s possible that some or all of those employees may never return, which puts more stress on the people who have stayed to push forward with less help. Perhaps caterers who typically serve more corporate clients than social ones may not be as over-

NE.MEETINGSMAGS.COM 21


MOVING FORWARD As the United States continues the process of exiting the pandemic, decreasing and ultimately eliminating restrictions, businesses have to continually keep up with changing rules by checking what’s shifted on a weekly, or even daily, basis. “Literally, you have to read the website every day,” says Bedore of Constellation. “Because we’ve got businesses across state lines, it’s really our responsibility to know exactly what the city and state restrictions are. I help guide our clients, because what is permissible today may not be tomorrow. So, we’re being forward-thinking with those clients and looking toward events that have been contracted for the spring, helping to guide them.” So, while business strategies have never been further from normal, this lack of clarity and everchanging protocols adds another task to the plate of caterers and event planners. Professionals are burnt out from constantly having to be on high alert for new rules. Of course, depending on the county or state, whiplash hasn’t been so bad—but attitudes vary depending on differing experiences.

22 NEM+E » SPRING SUMMER 2021

In Pennsylvania, where regulations are currently the strictest, Savino at The Drexelbrook doesn’t have full faith in seeing the light at the end of the tunnel as vaccination numbers increase across the country. “You hope it’s not the train coming the other way, right?” Whereas in New Jersey, Crystal Plaza’s Janoff has a much different outlook. “Our attitude is, ‘Let’s go, let’s rock.’ The attitude of clients has changed from, ‘I don’t want to do this. How do I postpone? Or what do I do from here?’ to ‘How do I make this happen? Let’s rock and roll.’ And it helps with everyone’s attitude in that sense.” No matter where in the Northeast, caterers are eager to get rolling again. Perhaps that means corporate events won’t be back regularly for years, or maybe plexiglass barriers will separate gorgeous cheese displays from guests for the foreseeable future—but slowly, and surely, events will come back. “We’re in the industry of human connection. That’s what we do, that’s what we strive for,” says Jablonowski. “I’m not just here to plan your event or design all of your floral or design the event as a whole for my own benefit, it’s because I love seeing other people get excited. I love seeing other people celebrate. I love seeing people share moments with each other. Our industry is based in human connection. We’re all really missing it right now.” P H OTO : I S TO C K .CO M / @ M I Z I N A

whelmed when things go back to “normal”—because some people believe that corporate catering will not bounce back. The success so many companies across the globe have found in working from home may result in working from home permanently, meaning there won’t be regular office lunches to serve, or nearly as many corporate events. But the loss of corporate clients for caterers will never be a good outcome, even if it provides a temporary reprieve in a surge back to business.


thedrexelbrook.com @drexelbrook drexelbrook

constellationculinary.com @byconstellation byconstellation

eventricity.net @eventricityllc eventricity

spicecateringgroup.com @spicecateringgroup spicect

crystalplazagroup.com @crystalplaza crystalplazacaterers

@nace_philly nacephilly

NE.MEETINGSMAGS.COM 23


I ND U STRY U PDATE Infographic

Clearer Skies Ahead Research courtesy of AHLA

N

O ONE COULD HAVE PREDICTED the quarantines, shutdowns, and travel restrictions that rocked the world in 2020. Although all industries were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, hotels were one of the sectors hit hardest, and will be one of the last to recover simply because they’re synonymous with travel.

After record-setting lows throughout the unpredictable year, the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) gathered data from surveys of frequent business travelers, other samples of adults, and other research for their 2021 State of the Industry Report. The document gives insights as to how the hotel industry will make steps to recover throughout 2021 and beyond. Data from AHLA states that the industry is already improving–for example, hotel occupancies are expected to rise by 8 percent from 2020, and the number of hotel jobs to increase as well. “COVID-19 has wiped out 10 years of hotel job growth. Yet the hallmark of hospitality is endless optimism, and I am confident in the future of our industry,” said Chip Rogers, president and CEO of AHLA. With a forecast like this, we can count on the fact that the darkest days are behind us. ahla.com | facebook.com/hotelassociation » Download the full report at: ahla.com/sites/default/files/2021_state_of_the_industry_0.pdf

H OTE L I N D U STRY » Although hotels will add 200,000 jobs back in 2021, the employment level will still remain 500,000 below the pre-pandemic number of 2.3 million employees in the industry

Hotel occupancy hit a

H I S TO R I C LOW OF 24.5% IN APRIL OF 2020, ALTHOUGH THE YEAR AVERAGED AT 44%

» 34% of Americans are comfortable staying in a hotel as of January 2021, although 48% of them say their comfort is related to vaccination:

20%

will feel ready when the majority of the population has been vaccinated

2018

66%

2019

66%

2020

44%

2021

52%

2022

61%

Even by 2022, occupancies are not projected to be back to their pre-COVID levels

24 NEM+E » SPRING SUMMER 2021

17%

will feel comfortable after they personally have received the COVID-19 vaccine

11%

will feel ready when vaccines are available to the general public


CLE AN LI N E S S I N H OTE L S

TR AVE L I N D U STRY The travel industry is expected to return in three phases: leisure travel first, then small and medium events, and finally group and business travel. Full recovery is not anticipated until 2024.

Travelers value the cleanliness of the hotel the most out of all factors, rising by 24 percentage points since pre-COVID.

» 56% of Americans say that they will travel for leisure in 2021, compared to 58% in a regular year.

What steps can hotels take to make you more comfortable staying at a hotel?

» The impact of COVID-19 on the travel industry so far has been nine times that of 9/11.

ENHANCED CLEANING REGIMENS

52%

STAFF TO WEAR FACE MASKS

Business Travel » Frequent business travelers are more comfortable traveling than adults overall, for any reason. » 51% of frequent business travelers expect to travel more for business in 2021 compared to 2020 » Group travel demand is expected to stay below 85% lower than 2019 levels through April 2021 » but by May, demand for group travel will increase to 75% below 2019 levels

50%

GUESTS TO WEAR FACE MASKS

U.S. Anatomy of Travel Recovery 2020-2021

INITIAL PHASE BEGAN SUMMER 2020 » Domestic leisure driving » Domestic leisure flying

SANITIZING GEL OR WIPES THROUGHOUT THE HOTEL

49% 41%

ENFORCED SOCIAL DISTANCING

HOTEL BRAND CLEANLINESS STANDARD

SECONDARY PHASES BEGAN 2021 Q2

» By Q4 of 2021, demand for group travel will increase to 23% below 2019 levels

53%

» Essential meetings » Small and medium events » Regional international

37%

34%

DAILY STAFF HEALTH CHECKS

BEGINS 2021 Q3

33%

» Large events » Long-haul international

MEASURES IN PLACE TO PROMPT SOCIAL DISTANCING

VISITOR TEMPERATURE CHECKS

FINAL PHASE

SOURCE: STR 2020

30%

NE.MEETINGSMAGS.COM 25


IN DU STRY U PDAT E Regional News

Association News //

BETTER TOGETHER PCMA has acquired Corporate Event Marketing Association (CEMA), a premier community for event marketers, as a wholly owned division of PCMA. The deal between the two organizations was signed after members of CEMA voted overwhelmingly in favor of the acquisition by PCMA. Based in Sacramento, California, CEMA has 800-plus members, with participation from global brands, such as Cisco, Salesforce and Oracle. Members of both organizations will benefit from new professional development and networking programs, expertise and research, membership growth, and long-term stability and organizational expansion. CEMA and PCMA will crosspollinate peer-to-peer learning and idea exchange forums, and educational and experiential learning content. pcma.org

Education News //

Get your Northeast Meetings + Events news online!

Be sure to visit ne.meetingsmags.com for even more exclusive content, regional updates, national industry news and more.

26 NEM+E » SPRING SUMMER 2021

NEW UNDERGRADUATE DEGREE AT TEMPLE UNIVERSITY’S SCHOOL OF SPORT, TOURISM AND HOSPITALITY MANAGEMENT The COVID-19 pandemic has created a new, ongoing demand for hybrid and virtual events, and when in-person gatherings reach their previous levels again, the meetings and events industry may grow to be larger than ever before. Temple University has anticipated that growth by creating a new program within the School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management: a bachelor of science in event and entertainment management. “If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we all need to be agile and flexible, and that’s especially true for anyone who wants to work in the event or entertainment industries,” says Christine Cleaver in a press release, founder of the new program and an assistant professor in the school. “This new program will equip our students with the knowledge and skills needed, so they can become leaders

and adapt as these industries continue to evolve and grow.” Available for students beginning their studies this fall, the program will provide them with certifications in event software, a digital portfolio, industry-related hours and two required internships that will prepare them for the new industry—and overall a formal education that sets them apart from other planners that have had to tackle it on their own.

People News //

NEW HIRES/PROMOTIONS As of March, Karl Pietrzak is now the president and CEO of Destination Gettysburg. “Having grown up in Gettysburg and Adams County, the opportunity to lead the tourism promotion efforts in this special destination is a dream come true,” says Pietrzak in a press release. “I’m excited to build on the past successes at Destination Gettysburg and partner with the community to lead our tourism industry to new levels of success.” Pietrzak worked previously at Visit Pittsburgh as the vice president of convention sales, and took over for Norris Flowers, who retired after 15 years with the company and 50 years in the industry. Gustavo Rivas-Solis of ENroute Communications and Tami Sortman of the Philadelphia Gay Tourism Caucus were both elected as 2021 board members of the LGBT Meeting Professionals Association. According to their website, the association is the “first and only organization solely committed to connecting, advancing, and empowering LGBT+ meeting professionals.”


OUR E-NEWSLETTER

AT YOUR FINGERTIPS. + CALENDAR EVENTS + LATEST INDUSTRY NEWS + PEOPLE NEWS + BI-MONTHLY UPDATES

SUBSCRIBE for FREE at

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NE.MEETINGSMAGS.COM 27


IN DUSTRY U PDAT E Regional News

Awards and Accreditations //

CONNECTICUT CONVENTION & SPORTS BUREAU ANNOUNCES FIRST-ROUND HONOREES OF “HOSPITALITY HEROES” RECOGNITION PROGRAM The Connecticut Convention & Sports Bureau (CTCSB) announced the first round of honorees for their “Hospitality Heroes” program on March 9, including Mohegan Sun, the Omni New Haven Hotel at Yale, the Connecticut Event Industry Coalition, and the Max Cares Foundation. CTCSB chooses the winners

28 NEM+E » SPRING SUMMER 2021

CT Event Industry Coalition with U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal

of the Hospitality Heroes program for their “innovative business initiatives and community support over the past difficult year.” These winners are the first in many planned rounds of honorees. “We will present this ‘Connecticut Convention & Sports Bureau’s Hospitality Heroes Recognition’ to members and partners who have made a business or social responsibility impact in the meetings and hospitality industry, with their employees, their clients, or in their local communities,” explains Robert Murdock, president of the CTCSB. The honorees made significant contributions to their communities. Mohegan Sun served as host for “Reconvening for Recovery: Live!”, a hybrid event that helped businesses learn more about planning hybrid events in the pandemic. In addition, the casino resort hosted a large vaccination clinic in February with the help of Yale New Haven Health. Formed in 2020, the Connecticut Event

Industry Coalition was created to inform legislators about the economic value of events in Connecticut, and to help advocate for helpful legislative actions in the future for the meetings and events industry. The Max Cares Foundation by Max Restaurant group not only held a fundraiser to benefit its employees during a time of limited work, but also donated groceries to temporarily furloughed or laid off employees in the hospitality industry to ensure nutrition for people in the industry. The Omni New Haven Hotel at Yale participated in “Here Comes Omni: Road Ready” event, which collectively raised $51,000 to Omni’s “Say Goodbye to Hunger” initiative. The hotel also accepted nonperishable food donations in an event on October 5 and donated them to the Connecticut Food Bank—a program they’ve been supporting since 2016. For more information about the program, visit ctmeetings.org/hospitality-heroes.

P H OTO S : CO N N E C T I C U T CO N V E N T I O N & S P O R T S B U R E AU ; (O P P O S I T E ) M O H E G A N S U N ; P H I L A D E L P H I A CO N V E N T I O N A N D V I S I TO R S B U R E AU

TRUDY SINGH RECOGNIZED WITH 2020 CHARLES H. WRIGHT SUPPLIER OF THE YEAR AWARD The National Coalition of Black Meeting Professionals (NCBMP) recognized Trudy Singh of NYC & Company with the 2020 Charles H. Wright Supplier of the Year award. The award recognizes her as a professional who “consistently demonstrates the qualities of integrity, professionalism, and dedication in her services to the profession.” The NCBMP recognized Singh on Nov. 20 at the virtual Evening of Empowerment event. “I am humbled and honored by this recognition. NCBMP has been the seminal leader in championing the efforts of diverse professionals in our industry and continues to be instrumental in my career,” says Singh in a press release. “Through my involvement with NCBMP, I have not only been able to work with wonderful clients but also to grow into my role as a leader in the tourism and hospitality community.”


MOHEGAN SUN AND OTHER VENUES BECOME SHARECARE VERIFIED WITH FORBES TRAVEL GUIDE Mohegan Sun was one of the first casino resorts in the world to become Sharecare Health Security Verified with Forbes Travel Guide, receiving its badge in January. Mohegan Sun joins many other hotels and casino resorts across the Northeast, including two dozen in New York, five in Pennsylvania, and one in New Jersey at the time of publication. The verification is the result of a collaboration between Forbes Travel Guide and Sharecare, a digital health company offering a plethora of services. The verification “helps ensure that guests and travel planners can book with confidence at properties that have appropriate health safety procedures in place.” In order for venues to achieve the verification, they have to complete and maintain global health security standards including ventilation, health safety communication, masks and PPE, cleaning products and procedures, health and hygiene protocols and more.

CVB News //

PHILADELPHIA CONVENTION AND VISITORS BUREAU LAUNCHES NEW ANIMATED SERIES After a year’s worth of virtual meetings and events, professionals everywhere have discovered both the charms and annoyances of Zoom and other virtual meeting software. Last December, the monotony of meeting from home made the team at the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau (PHLCVB) reflect on the quirks of in-person meetings, and the unexpected things that they have come to miss about them. “Nine months into a pandemic that has kept most of us at home, steeped in Zoom fatigue and physical distancing, we found ourselves waxing nostalgic about aspects of meetings and events that no one thought we would ever miss,” say Joe Heller, PHLCVB vice president of marketing and communications in a press release. “We are all looking forward to the day when we can connect face-to-face and be entertained by the small moments that permeate the in-person meeting experience.” Enter “What We Never Thought We’d Miss About Meetings,” an animated series created between PHLCVB and Motifmotion, an animated video production company based in the city. Each cheeky episode is about 30 to 40 seconds long, with each one providing another answer to the title of the series. Some examples include “All the Swag,” “The Close Talker,” “Empty Row Deception” and more. Watch all of the episodes for a laugh at discoverphl.com/meet/we-missmeetings.

NE.MEETINGSMAGS.COM 29


PE OPLE PROF I L E Maria Moyano

museumoficecream.com @museumoficecream

Experiences, Events, and Ice Cream

Maria Moyano of the Museum of Ice Cream creates unforgettable experiences that turn into vivid memories. BY LAUREN PAHMEIER

» EVENT PLANNING AND EXPERIENCE DESIGN go hand in hand. Just ask Maria Moyano, experience designer for the Museum of Ice Cream (MOIC), based in NYC. “I think that everything is an event. You can go have coffee, and that’s an event. Everything is also an experience. You feel happy, and that’s an experience. It’s about what you are trying to get out of the event—and then how does an experience elevate it,” says Moyano. While visiting MOIC is an event for a visitor, Moyano creates the elements that transform it into a memorable experience. Her designs include larger-than-life sculptures of ice cream cones, pits of “sprinkles” to jump into, pink, upside-down palm trees, hanging faux bananas, and more in the bright, colorful spaces that make the MOIC, the MOIC. Her favorite part about her job is “pushing people to really get out of their comfort zone and to just let their imagination run wild.” Moyano says, “I think we think that’s just for children, and as we grow older we forget to just be creative and imaginative. So I think the museum really, really does

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that for the older generation.” While meeting and event planners don’t typically get to implement elements like giant ice cream cones on a regular basis, they do need to focus on creating memorable experiences for attendees just as Moyano does. Because they’ve made impressions on everyone who visits the museum, Moyano’s innovative and playful designs have swept Instagram and social media. However, she advises planners against creating moments specifically for online coverage. “A lot of people see things online and then try to replicate those in person, but it falls really, really flat, although it looks cool in a digital screen. And yeah, that person is going to walk away with cool content, but they’re not going to walk away with a memory,” says Moyano. While the two-dimensional experience is still important, the four-dimensional experience is what attendees will remember about an event—even without a two-dimensional photo to jog their memories. During the pandemic, this four-dimensional experience is something that Moyano had to dial down, as most of the exhibits within MOIC were tactile and interactive—something that wasn’t permissible during the past year. So, she introduced scavenger hunts instead. “It’s unfortunate when all of our museum is known for being immersive and tactile. So, I had to rethink a way to still engage our consumer without them touching the space. It was a fun challenge,” says Moyano. “Before COVID, the team was always thinking ‘How much more can we touch? How much more can we smell? How much more can we feel?’ And then we had to quickly just drop all of that,” she says. Just like event planners having to rethink every aspect of gatherings during the pandemic, Moyano had to rethink the way her designs and experiences operated as well. But Moyano is confident that in-person experiences and events are absolutely vital, and will resurge someday. “If anything, it has shown us that humans are social creatures, and we will never be satisfied with just living in a digital world… You know, after months of being isolated, you start to realize how important social spaces are. So, I’m very confident that the career and the field will never die.”

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