The Secret Ingredients to Planning a Unique Event Dining Experience

Leverage the dining opportunities in your host city to give your attendees an experience they’ll savor.

Dining options play a key role in a group’s destination decision. Providing your attendees with a unique dining experience while at your event is an easy and effective way to elevate their experience.

During events, food offers a convenient opportunity for attendees to either meet for the first time to network or connect with familiar peers in a comfortable setting. 

Also, the food and beverage can often be a driver in attracting people to the event so it’s imperative during the planning phase to select the savory cuisines that will whet the appetite of all who plan to attend. For tips on how to bring memorable dining experiences into your next event, we turned to the pros in Orlando where the culinary landscape is adding zest to meetings and events.

Seeing Stars

Ever watch a culinary show and wish you could taste the award-winning cuisine that is being featured on the broadcast? Well, Casandra Matej, president & CEO, Visit Orlando, says dining in eateries established by some of those award-winning chefs can help grant that wish for your attendees.

In recent years, the popularity of televised reality cooking competitions has led to a rise in the genre’s fans to dine at restaurants run by celebrity chefs. 

These restaurants can be an unforgettable experience for attendees as these dining spots may not be in their hometowns Matej advised.

“When the entertainment aspect of a celebrity chef is part of the experience, dining can create the type of memorable adventure for meeting attendees usually found at some more traditional entertainment experiences such as a theme park,” Matej said. “In Orlando, you don’t have to look far to find a star-studded kitchen.”

Several of these celebrity chef-led restaurants can be found at Disney Springs including José Andrés’ JALEO and Pepe, Masaharu Morimoto’s Morimoto Asia, Art Smith’s Homecomin’ Florida Kitchen, Guy Fieri at Planet Hollywood and Chicken Guy!, Rick Bayless’ Frontera Cocina, and Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill.

Minutes from Disney Springs, you can experience Four Flamingos, A Richard Blais Florida Kitchen at Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress and Todd English’s bluezoo at Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort. 

Nearby the Orange County Convention Center, you’ll find Primo by Melissa Kelly at JW Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes, and Top Chef’s John Tesar’s Knife & Spoon at The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes.

At ICON Park, Gordon Ramsay Fish & Chip offers attendees a take on the classic English street food that promises an excellent fast-casual meal.

Award-Winning Dining

“The true foodies in your group will be thrilled to check out local options for dining at award-winning restaurants where they can experience fresh culinary takes they may have only seen in books, on TV or in magazines,” Matej said.

In Orlando, attendees can enjoy dining at any of the city’s four Michelin star winning restaurants—Capa Steakhouse & Bar at the Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort, Soseki Modern Omaske, Knife & Spoon at The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes, or Kadence.

In fact, in addition to the four starred venues, Michelin recognized seven Bib Gourmands and 22 recommended Orlando restaurants for a total of 33 honored establishments.

Neighborhood Eateries

While it’s convenient to look for dining options within walking distance of your meeting venue, planning events at area neighborhood gems can give your attendees the opportunity to experience your destination city in a new way.

Matej suggests connecting with the local Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) or Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) at your destination to identify restaurants you may not already be familiar with in the area.

Restaurants unique to Orlando include The Monroe in downtown Orlando’s Creative Village, which boasts 3,000 square feet of interior restaurant space, and 1,500 square feet in a backyard patio, nearby Maxine’s on Shine, and The Ravenous Pig Brewing Co., Foxtail Coffee Co. and Kelly’s Homemade Ice Cream in The Milk District.

Also in the Milk District, you’ll find Se7en Bites and Trina Gregory-Propst, who has been making a name for herself on Food Network. Gregory-Propst was featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and competed—and won—on Guy’s Grocery Games. 

“Ensuring your agenda includes memorable dining experiences will set your event apart in the minds of attendees,” Matej said. “Make sure to leverage the resources of your local CVB or DMO to find out what dining opportunities are available in your host city.”

(Handout photo)