LEESBURG, Va., March 3, 2016 – As one of the largest event venues in the nation, West Belmont Place at The National in Leesburg, Va. has hosted thousands of events in recent years. John Walsh, director of food and beverage at West Belmont Place and The National Conference Center, has extensive experience. Here are some trends that Walsh is seeing in 2016:
- Fresh-and-local continues to be highly sought after. “It may sound overused but the public wants fresh, local food. Our guests are delighted to learn that they’re not only getting healthy food but they’re also supporting local farms,” said Walsh. Healthy, simple, good food is always in style. It is sometimes a challenge since The National can serve upwards of 2,400 meals a day but Executive Chef Chris Ferrier rises to the challenge and sources from many local farms.
- Hand-made, hand-crafted is big. Hand-crafted cocktails, artisanal foods, handmade pastries and desserts are all part of the latest trend. Classic cocktails with a modern twist have become the rage.
- Small plates and small bites are popular. Guests prefer to try many small bites as opposed to one heavy, sit-down meal. Consider doing tapas types of food stations where guests can try a variety of different items. Be sure to include vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free choices as now requested by a growing number of people.
- Themes help to make it memorable. Event hosts should consider holding themed events that blend healthy, innovative and fun menus that reinforce the theme or messaging within the event.
- Drama contributes to the experience. West Belmont Place at The National has a special cocktail that appears to be smoking and receives rave reviews and lots of interest. The property has outdoor grilling locations so, if weather permits, your event could include a host of dramatic outdoor grilling items. Special events are also fun when you add a cooking segment. You could plan to have the West Belmont Place executive chef make a special dish for your guests and demonstrate how he makes it; or, have West Belmont Place’s award-winning sommelier conduct a wine tasting. All of this just adds to making the event memorable and the food and cocktails special.
- Guests want to connect over food. Make it interactive. Food stations; potato, pasta, salad (with exotic ingredients) and dessert bars; all of these get the guests interacting with the food station’s personnel, the chef and each other. West Belmont Place also has the capability of creating a chef’s table—a more intimate setting for smaller events.
- Guests want to be a part of the experience. Create opportunities to engage your team members in the cooking experience. Hold a cooking class, food or wine tasting. Break a larger group up into teams and have each team cook a dish.
- Tell a story. West Belmont Place sources from area farms and can tell the story of the food with information about the farm. Guests not only want to know where their food comes from but they like to know the story. Include information on farms sourced at food stations or on small table cards. And the story is not just about the source of the food but also about the chef, the sommelier and the people involved. It’s all about the experience—socialization, engagement, the food, the people, the setting.