Managing Food & Beverage at MPI’s World Education Congress (WEC)
Eating at a Meeting Podcast Episode 151
WEC hosts more than 2,000 attendees; 35% have dietary needs
What does it take to manage food and beverage for one of the meetings industry’s largest association conventions?
Listen as Tracy talks with Tanya Philyaw, Senior Event Planner and Annette Gregg, Chief Revenue Officer for Meeting Professionals International about the organization’s 2022 World Education Conference (WEC).
They chat about how to use food to build community, what they are still learning about meal planning, how attendee dietary needs affects what they choose to serve the thousands of event participants, and pet peeves with food and beverage planning.
Tanya Philyaw (pronounced “Feel Y’all”), Senior Meeting Planner at MPI
Annette is Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) at MPI, the world’s largest association for meeting and event professionals. She has an extensive background in the meeting and hospitality industry, serving in executive level positions for corporations, associations and non-profits.
What do safe, inclusive & sustainable food and beverage experiences look like to you?
Tanya: Where all measures are taken to accommodate each attendees dietary needs and/or requirements. As much information as possible is provided to attendees before they depart for the meeting/conference/event. Reusable, compostable or recyclable items are used based on the needs of the event.
Annette: Foods from a variety of environments, capitalizing on the local uniqueness.
Do you have an example of a situation that negatively effected you and/or other individuals or groups’ food and beverage experience?
Tanya: Anytime that dietary considerations are not taken into consideration at an event that is held in conjunction with MPI events. The assumption is made that MPI is planning all of the events and unfortunately that isn’t the case.
Annette: In general just coffee breaks with too much sugar
What do you wish people knew about what you do?
Tanya: I specifically don’t serve heavy break items with loads of sugar that will distract you during education or carb-heavy lunch items that will put you to sleep in the afternoon. Every food item at each event is carefully thought thru.
Annette: We lead the world in professional development that advances the meeting and event industry—and the careers of the people in it. We connect the connectors so they can produce experiences that inspire, educate and energize. Because when people meet, they can think in ways previously unthought. Because when people meet, they can break barriers. Because when people meet, they can change the world.
What is a best practice you use/or have seen to create safe and inclusive F&B experiences?
Tanya: My goal each year for WEC is to have menus set by the end of March. I begin pulling the WEC dietary/allergy restrictions as well as physical disabilities and/or special requests prior to confirming menus and monthly until final guarantees are due. GF, VG, Veg, DF, Nut Friendly are always at the forefront when planning menus. If anyone indicates specific items that might not be covered within the menus, I email the menus to them for review and make special arrangements as needed. i.e. we had an attendee that indicated that they were allergic to romaine & iceberg lettuce and the IMEX luncheon featured different types of salads, I emailed the menus to that attendee and they confirmed that they could be accommodated within the selection.
Annette: Recently at Moscone Center for our annual conference, a variety of salad bowls with customizing options of protein.
Just for fun…What are your favorite food and drink?
Tanya: I love to try the signature martini (made with vodka) on a menu and can’t resist a chef’s specialty!
Annette: Really good dark chocolate, and a nice martini!