Hilton has widened its roll-out of a new, all-inclusive food and beverage product for its Meetings Simplified concept to 50 UK hotels, with dishes designed to boost delegates’ productivity. Molly Dyson samples the buffet at the Hilton London Tower Bridge
Meetings Simplified’s new all-day grazing offer provides corporates with a more flexible option, according to Anthony Worrall, senior regional director of F&B for the UK and Ireland at Hilton.
Showcasing the concept at the Hilton London Tower Bridge, Worrall said he based the concept on four ‘pillars’ of health and wellbeing based on customer research, which shows there was a desire for healthier food for meetings.
Rather than having set meal and break times, corporates are given access to a constantly-stocked communal food station throughout the day, allowing them to choose to break out from meetings earlier or later than planned depending on the flow of the discussion.
Hydration is one of the main ‘pillars’ of the concept, with Worral explaining: “I developed deep vein thrombosis once during a flight because I hadn’t hydrated properly during a business trip. We want to encourage delegates to think about their hydration – it’s so important to remaining productive during a meeting or conference.”
Juice, infused water, tea and bespoke Italian coffee are provided on tap to allow delegates to get a drink as and when they need it rather than waiting for set breaks. Plastic bottles have also been eliminated meeting rooms, with recyclable and resealable cans of still and sparkling water available instead. This fits with Hilton’s commitment to remove more than 5 million plastic straws and more than 20 million plastic bottles annually from its managed hotels.
To boost delegates’ brain power, Worrall and his team chose superfoods and ‘energisers’ as one of the four pillars. Food options are rich in protein and antioxidants, featuring ingredients such as onions, garlic, broccoli, quinoa, kale, salmon, nuts (clearly labelled for allergy sufferers), spinach, sardines and eggs.
A range of vegetarian dishes are also on offer throughout the day for meat-free delegates.
There is also a free-from pillar for those with special dietary requirements such as gluten or lactose intolerance and nut allergies. Foods are also free from additives – another plus for health-conscious eaters, according to Worrall.
Lastly, Worrall said he wanted to ensure delegates could still indulge with a selection of savoury and sweet treats under the ‘guilty pleasures’ pillar.
Cinzia Pezzolesi, chartered clinical psychologist, mindfulness teacher and VP of the Centre for Mindful Eating, explained at the showcase that sometimes satisfying our sweet tooth with cake or candy allows our mind to move on from its cravings to focus on meetings, so she encourages delegates to allow themselves a little bit of gratification.
She said: “Humans make around 200 choices around food every day, so it’s important to have a healthy relationship with food, whether that’s choosing healthier, more energising options or indulging now and then to satisfy cravings.”
The home-style food concept – which Worrall points out allows hotels’ chefs to experiment with the dishes they include within the parameters of the pillars – extends to the design of the break-out space in which the buffet is located.
Purpose-built spaces feature soft colours and comfortable furniture for a more ‘relaxed’ feel, according to Worrall. During the showcase, he showed BBT pictures of a recently refurbished space at the Hilton in Watford, which features wooden countertops more akin to a country home than a break-out space for meetings at a hotel.
Worrall explained that sustainability also played a big part in developing the concept. He explained that a shared buffet creates less food waste than making individual meals for each delegate and also encourages networking among delegates from different companies utilising the space at the same time.
He said: “Of course the buffet option also helps Hilton’s bottom line because it means we don’t have to bring in dedicated staff to service each meeting room for lunches and break-outs, but it wasn’t a main focus when we were developing the concept. As an international brand, we have to lead the way and set an example when it comes to sustainability, so making smarter environmental choices also influenced our decision-making in the process.”
Worrall said the concept’s sustainability measures have already been demonstrated by a reduction in Hilton’s carbon footprint.
Worrall and his team spent much of the development process seeking partners with similar sustainability goals. Worrall said Hilton has leverage when it comes to influencing its suppliers to continue improvements in environmental practices and will often work with them to develop new initiatives.
Meetings Simplified is a bundled package including room hire, free wifi, a flip chart and markers, a plasma screen or a screen with a projector, and the new all-day grazing concept.
Although the package is currently only available at select UK properties, Worrall said he believes the concept could work in other markets across the EMEA region.
Worrall said: “At Hilton, innovation is in our DNA and our new dynamic meetings concept demonstrates our commitment to remaining at the forefront of new trends. It gives customers the flexibility, choice and control they need to ensure a successful and productive meeting. We have rolled this out across 50 hotels in the UK, with incredibly positive feedback already, and look forward to hosting many more delegates across the UK this year.”
In addition to the Hilton London Tower Bridge, Meetings Simplified is available at properties such as the Hilton London Metropole, Hilton Dublin and Hilton Manchester Deansgate, among others.