Meetings

Why Event Planners Need to Adjust to Americans' Changing Palates

By / Aug 21, 2015

A new study finds that tastes are changing, which means event planners need to catch up with the latest culinary trends.

As federal meeting planners have recognized, the trend for organizations to offer a meal as part of their events has become a good way to attract new members and increase participation.

Though a traditional sandwich buffet—or a selection of chicken, fish, and vegetarian entrees—have their appeal, a new study shows it may be time for organizations to spice things up a bit.

Two-thirds of consumers eat a wider variety of ethnic cuisines now than they did five years ago, according to a new National Restaurant Association (NRA) survey.

Italian, Mexican, and Chinese cuisine emerged as the most favored choices, with roughly nine out of 10 adults reporting that they have tried them at least once.

This statistic has remained roughly the same since 1999, according to the association.

But other ethnic foods like Mediterranean, Thai, and Middle Eastern dishes are becoming increasingly popular.

“Americans generally are more willing to try new food than they were only a decade or so ago,” said Annika Stensson, NRA’s director of research communications, in the report. “The typical consumer today is becoming more adventurous and sophisticated when it comes to different cuisines and flavors.”

New Flavors for Associations

This increase in adventurous eating may not be surprising to some, since conference food trends are pointing toward consumers demanding more options and having higher food IQs.

But NRA’s insights could be extremely beneficial to associations looking to appeal to younger members, who dominate that adventurous consumer group.

Twice as many people between the ages of 18 and 44 reported eating ethnic food at least four times a month compared with those 65 and older.

For associations looking to take advantage of this new trend, food trucks could be an optimal option, with 65 percent of consumers agreeing that they are a great way to explore ethnic cuisines.

Similarly, 85 percent of survey respondents prefer to eat ethnic food from a restaurant that specializes in that cuisine, which is a common practice for food trucks.

The study, conducted by ORC International, surveyed 1,011 U.S. adults via an online form.

For more information about NRA’s study, you can purchase the full report here.

Eli Zimmerman

Eli is studying Journalism at the University of Maryland. When not studying, he likes to relax with a nice book or a couple rounds at the local boxing gym. More »

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