Hospitality Hive

Updates, opinions, and news for anyone working in Orlando's Hospitality community

They Came. They Saw. They Chainsawed.

Oh yes they did! Hard to believe it was already one year ago when I attended the first of these events, and now I’m so excited it’s coming back for round two on December 16.  What I’m referring to is Rosen Plaza’s Iced Out holiday event wherein local top chefs put their chainsaw skills to the test, battling each other (not to mention the Florida weather. . .) by creating amazing sculptures out of huge blocks of ice.  With a chainsaw.  Poolside, at the Rosen Plaza.  Now you see why the weather plays a part in this?  Even on a cool night carving an ice sculpture outside can be tricky!

Hard to believe these guys have to wear a jacket while creating a poolside masterpiece but after all, it is ICE! Only in Florida!

Hard to believe these guys have to wear a jacket while creating a poolside masterpiece but after all, it is ICE.  Only in Florida!


Tools of the trade. The ice carving trade, that is.

Tools of the trade. The ice carving trade, that is.











If you look closely you can see Chef with a chainsaw working away on this beauty from behind.

If you look closely you can see Chef with a chainsaw working away on this beauty from behind.

And yes, it would normally be a total disaster having chainsaws suddenly appear poolside at a tourist hotel  – yikes!  But this event is safe and fun, entertaining, and very, very family friendly.  Plus it’s free, as in FREE.

Yup.  Free, as in no admission charge, and even self parking is complimentary.  Of course, there will be festive food and beverages offered at individual pricing, but seriously if you just want to sit poolside and enjoy both the chainsaw action and the “chill” music, by all means park yourself on a lounge chair and pretend like you’re close to the North Pole – only you’re wearing flip plops and shorts – while the guys on the other side of the pool are using chainsaws to make beautiful artwork out of seriously big chunks of ice.  By the way, each ice block weighs around 200 pounds at the start, and due to those consistent Florida temps, the Chefs have about 4 hours from start to finish before that ice goes bye-bye (and possibly ends up in one giant Frosty the Snowman slushy?)

December 16, 2018, 6-8PMRosen Plaza Hotel, International Drive.  Be there for all the chainsaw action!

Frozen Fish, anyone?

Frozen Fish, anyone?

I think I saw an Angel from the North Pole!

I think I saw an Angel from the North Pole!











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Do You Have an “Alive Date”?

With grateful thanks to all members of our Armed Forces, past and present, alive and deceased,

this is my humble salute to Veteran’s Day.


In 2011, 21 year old Marine Corps Sgt. Mike Nicholson was down and out.  Wounded while on foot patrol in Kajaki, a village in southern Afghanistan, when he was hit with a 40 pound bomb hidden in the roadside he was patrolling.

Oh, did I say wounded?

I meant maimed.  Severely, as in lost not one but both legs and part of his left arm.  The marine cry of “oorah” took on a new meaning for him.  Anger, depression, drinking followed because hey, wouldn’t you?  But the obvious difference between Sgt. Nicholson and most of the rest of us is that he bounced back. Big time.  Watch this amazing come back in the ABC Nightly News video clip made just two months ago back in September while Mike was competing at the 2017 Invictus Games, the only international sporting event for wounded, injured, and sick servicemen and women:

ABC Breaking News | Latest News Videos

So, did you catch the part about him winning 5 medals that included both gold and silver in track and the others from competing in wheelchair basketball, swimming, and golf?  Yeah, well, I guess you could call that a comeback, right?  Somehow he found the strength, courage, and determination to keep going and apparently decided not to stop.

That was one big OORAH! 

Anyway, I chose to write about Sgt. Nicholson today because he also has an Orlando connection.  Mike came here right after completing that grueling competition schedule at the September Invictus Games to race alongside our local crowd of heroes participating in the T2T 5K that took place at Crane’s Roost in Altamonte Springs, something I’ve posted about several times on this blog site.  As a recipient of a smart home, which is one of the many charities supported by funds raised via T2T activities, Mike will be forever grateful to those that support the cause.

Mike racing alongside Orlando's first responders at the 2017 T2T race held at Crane's Roost, Altamonte Springs. Many rescue squads run in full gear.

Mike racing alongside Orlando’s first responders at the 2017 T2T race held at Crane’s Roost, Altamonte Springs. Many rescue squads run in full gear.

And about that ‘alive date’.  It’s a military reference to the day a soldier survives catastrophic wounds.  For Mike Nicholson, his alive date is July 6, 2011.  And while there are millions of vets’ stories to write about when paying homage to Veteran’s Day, I’m glad I chose Mike and am able to educate others about both his incredible journey and his alive date because there’s a definite happy ending to this Vet’s story that now even includes a loving wife, Katie, and two beautiful kids.

Yep, that's Prince Harry, founder of the Invictus Games, shaking hands with Mike after watching him shoot an amazing 150 yard swing on the golf course during the 2017 Invictus competitions.

Yep, that’s Prince Harry, founder of the Invictus Games, shaking hands with Mike after watching him shoot an amazing 150 yard drive on the golf course during the 2017 Invictus competitions.

Vets day thanks



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Discover Your Own New World at Adriatico Trattoria Italiana

I know what you’re thinking.  In a year where black is white and white is pink and kneeling is disrespectful – but not in church – and well, just about everything is contrary to what it was last year (pause while trying to remember if last year even happened and if it did, was it “normal?” and if it was, that’s actually a question better discussed during happy hour and not in a blog post), sigh, you’re probably wondering why I still have “the nerve” to write about an Italian restaurant on, mio Dio!, Columbus Day.   So let me be clear about my motive for this post because trust me, there is no political message involved here.

I just happen to like Italian food.

Meatballs.  Pasta.  Crusty bread smothered in olive oil and garlic.  Chunks of hard Parmigiana Reggiano. Pizza Marguerita.  Did I mention pasta fatta in casa (home made)?

And if you do, too, then make sure you add this local gem, Adriatico Trattoria Italiana (College Park) to your list of go-to restaurants when you are craving the good stuff, the autentico versions of all things Italian because this place is the real deal.  In fact, don’t even try to talk to Chef Marco Cudazzo who hails from Ortona, Italy, located on the Adriatic Sea, unless you know your virgin olive oils from your extra virgin.  Same goes for his charming wife and restaurant partner, Rosetta, a native of Sicily.  Together, they manage this restaurant like any that you’d find back in the old country meaning fatto con amore in cucina and served with respect to both the customer and the whole Italian experience of eating.  By all means if you are blessed to still have your own Italian Nonna around feel free to take her with you because she would definitely approve of this local trattoria.  Yes, it’s that good.

So good, in fact, they’ve been awarded a very prestigious honor, that of Ospitalitá Italiana which is given out by the Italy-America Chamber of Commerce to select Italian restaurants in America that offer autentico food and service.  And yes, Italians are kind of particular when they use that word authentic.  Adriatico Trattoria Italiana is the first and only Central Florida restaurant to receive this seal of Italian quality and approval.  If you’re like me and have never heard of this, watch this short video clip filmed at a South Florida restaurant when they received the same designation as it provides a great explanation to the importance of this honorary title.  

If that isn’t enough to convince you about how great this restaurant is, how about this:  Chef Cudazzo carries the honor of being awarded one of the Best Chefs in America designation which is given to an exclusive group of peer nominated Chefs who lead and inspire their kitchens to consistently create excellent food, strive to innovate with their dishes and service, and are respected by their peers.


But I realize that awards still mean nothing to some people.  I get that, really I do.  So I encourage you to go for yourself and taste the, well, just about anything on the menu ‘cuz it’s all good stuff!

You could start with this Burrata:


Hand made mozzarrella filled with stracciatela and cream over organic spring mix and cherry tomatoes, tossed with red wine vinegar and EVOO.

Then for your pasta course, try this:


Bucatini pasta tossed with wild mushrooms, pancetta, fresh peas, and a light sauce.

Moving on to your Secondi Piatti, how about Scalloppine Pizzaiola:

tender veal medallions sautéed with shallots, capers, fresh oregano, in a light tomato sauce.

Tender veal medallions sautéed with shallots, capers, fresh oregano, in a light home made tomato sauce.

What might you end with?  During my recent visit, this was pretty amazing but then when it comes to desserts well, I’m easy to please:

Dessert Delicioso!

Dessert Delizioso!

So even though this post is coming at you on a controversial Columbus Day, don’t let that keep you away from opening up a new window to the sheer gioia of eccellente Italian food which is what Adriatico Trattoria Italiana did for me!  With so many local Italian restaurants to chose from, this was such a refreshingly authentic find that I really did feel like I was transported to a bistro in any number of places I’ve visited in Italy. Saluto! 

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This and That – Notes on Orlando Hospitality

Sometimes life needs updating.  With sooooo much going on recently, here-there-everywhere, I wanted to provide some updates on a few things I’ve written about (or, intended to write about. . .?) in the past.  In no particular order:

T2T Run – I posted about this worthwhile 5K back in August because the event was supposed to take place last month.  Well, thanks to Irma, that never happened.  But the run has been rescheduled to take place on Sunday, October 15.  You can still register and get updated information here.

And this next item may be one of those things  I “intended”  to write about last month and didn’t get to, but oh well.  Thanks to Irma’s mayhem,  our friends at Visit Orlando have extended the dates of their annual Magical Dining Month The extension now gives us until October 12th to enjoy great meal deals ($35 MDM specials), both rates and specially curated menus, at a huge variety of restaurants that you might be curious about but have never yet visited. Have you seen the paella bar and Flamenco dancers at Tapa Toro?  Curious to discover for yourself why everyone raves about The Ravenous Pig?  Are you looking for fantastic seafood served in a very romantic setting at Hemingway’s?   Well now is the time, so search that MDM website, find a new place to go, and get moving!

While on the subject of great dining, let’s add adult beverages to the chat because who doesn’t like that combination?  If you like BEER you’ll love this upcoming offering from our friends at Rosen Centre who have partnered with Florida’s own Funky Buddha Brewery pairing brews with a multicourse meal on October 20th. Yep.  Just like a fancy wine pairing dinner experience only using great brews.  So it’s less expensive, more fun, and wow, who knew there could be so much complexity with beer brews and menu match ups?  Check out this cool video they produced while getting ready for this upcoming special event.

Finally, I do want to mention what great support the local hospitality industry has garnered in so many areas due to all the recent mayhem, here, there, everywhere.  Where does one start?  Many hotels, attractions, restaurants, and venues have held fundraisers of all different sizes and shapes.  So many, in fact, I can’t possibly list them all here.  But as usual, a big shout out to Harris Rosen for not only offering incredibly low rates at all Rosen properties both pre/post hurricanes due to Floridians forced to seek shelter, but now he has also held a collection drive, last week at Rosen Plaza, for supplies going direct to Puerto Rico.

And this weekend, right across the street from Rosen Plaza in the Pointe Orlando complex, Cuba Libre is hosting a dine out for Puerto Rico This Saturday, October 7.

Cuba Libre for PREnjoy a great meal @ $35, with proceeds going direct to the United for Puerto Rico fund, and then stay for more sass and salsa on the dance floor!


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What’s the Buzz about The Alfond Inn?

Tired of hearing about hurricanes?  Me too.  With sympathy to those who may not yet be able to move on, if you’re looking for a Hive post about escapism, this read is for you.

One of our local gems, the Alfond Inn at Rollins, has been singled out as one of the Top 100 Hotels in the World by readers of Travel & Leisure in the poll known as World’s Best Awards 2017.  Pretty impressive, right?  Well, I’d have to agree, and here are just some of the reasons why I, too, love this little boutique property that is owned by Rollins College and found right here in our own posh backyard, aka Winter Park.

  1. It’s accessible – both easy to get to and easy to park in/at/around.  Access to the Alfond Inn is off New England Avenue, valet is quick & friendly and, best of all, validated if you eat or dine there, even without checking in or staying the night.
  2. It also has world class accessible artwork almost everywhere you look.  The Alfond Collection of Contemporary Art is part of the Cornell Fine Arts Museum and includes sculptures, paintings, thought provoking photos and unique discussion pieces.  You’ll find artwork everywhere, tucked into nooks, crannies, and outdoor space. Art that makes you think.  But here’s the best part:  they offer free guided tours every Sunday at 1PM led by museum staff  to discover, observe, and learn more about the current displays which change frequently.  I can’t tell you how many hotels I’ve been in and viewed beautiful pieces of art that had not even one explanation or title or description by it, so this is really a unique offering.  Plus, did I mention this service is free?
  3. It’s dog friendly – woof, woof!  We all know that Winter Park is already a great place to parade your pooch around, but the Alfond Inn really welcomes them.  Check out this video about Fido checking in:

4.  Sunday Brunch at Hamilton’s is exceptional, billed as “Southern fare with a modern twist” and I’d have to agree.  See for yourself with creative starters like grapefruit brulee ($5) and white cheddar bacon scones ($8) followed by an entrée like their Bacon Jam Burger ($15).  Or for dessert how about a serving of Macallan 12 year Butterscotch Pudding ($10) to pique your curiosity?  Plus it’s just a lovely atmosphere with seating both inside and out on their very pleasing-to-the-eye patio. Currently under the watchful eye of Executive Chef Jason Klingensmith it’s definitely worth a visit even if it’s not Sunday.

5. Rooftop pool?  Oh yes they do!  Well, technically, it’s only on the second level, but hey, that ranks as rooftop here even though parts of the hotel do go higher.  Confused?  Heck, just go and check it out for yourself.

trust me - it really is a rooftop pool!

trust me – it really is a rooftop pool!

6. They have a super cool website that actually provides great photos, answers to many standard questions, is interactive, and pleasant to look at.  Why do I mention this?  Um, if you have to look at as many hotel websites – searching, searching, and searching for things as simple as an address or direct phone number – as I do each and every day, you would rank this one top notch, too.  Sayin’, and sayin’ with authority!

7.  Outdoor fire pits, rocking chairs, gorgeous lawn and public space.  It’s just really special.

8.  Great. Lobby. Bar.  Daily happy hour plus curated specials inspired by The Alfond Collection of Contemporary Art served in all kinds of chic comfy nooks and crannies, inside/outside.  Your choice.  The bar menu also includes some great appetizers and noshes, and, gosh, who doesn’t love a fun and fabulous lobby bar?

The inviting lobby bar at the Alfond Inn

The inviting lobby bar at the Alfond Inn

Check it out for yourself.  It’s definitely NOT your average tourist hotel!

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Tunnel to Tower Run – Honoring Heroes Through Sports

What were you doing 16 years ago on September 11?

You can pick almost any other date on the calendar and most would be hard pressed to recall a daily digest from even one year past let alone 16 years.

But mention 9/11/01 and oh boy.

For those of us ‘of age’ we can remember – almost to the minute – what was going on in our lives when we heard ‘the’ news.  We can also remember how we heard about it, who told us and how long it took before we turned our TVs and radios on in disbelief because we just had to hear about it from another source.  Why?  Because it was that awful.  It was one of those moments in time when quite frankly we weren’t sure there would be another moment in time.  For any of us.  And then, slowly, painfully, as that awful day progressed we learned that for many 09/11/01 was indeed their last day on earth.  And then in the weeks and months and even years that followed many more lives would be lost, in so many different ways and in many, many different countries than our own.  All in the name of what is now simply referred to as 9/11.

And if you follow us here in the Hospitality Hive you know we tend not to dwell on ugly or depressing stories, as the word hospitality is well, rather happy and civil, right?  Heck yes.  So this is where we turn this particular blog post into something more positive and uplifting. Whew!  Today I’m reporting on a way that anyone reading this can involve themselves in honoring the sacrifices made, past and present, by our First Responders and Military Heroes by participating in the upcoming Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers 5K Run/Walk that will take place on Saturday, September 9 at Crane’s Roost Park in Altamonte Springs. For more on Stephen Siller, check this out but FULL DISCLOSURE:  You’ll probably want some tissues close by.  Sayin’.

So, as stories develop – and this is a good one about the T2TRun, as the annual race is now affectionately referred to –  and it’s kind of a story that’s been building itself out of ashes into sunlight with race locations all across the country at different times of the year culminating, of course, with the annual one in New York City.  Further, if you keep reading I can promise you there’s a potential happy ending. . .

But first, here’s a wonderful video explaining the rest of this story and how our local community gets involved each year:

And hey, did you catch a glimpse at those firefighters that actually run in full gear?  Yeah, try your next 5K strapping on 45 pounds or more and see how fast and how far you can go!  Many of our local guys do it in memory of 343, the number of firefighters that lost their lives on 9/11.

I could go on about how our local police squads, firefighters, paramedics and first responders train to participate in this upcoming 5K but you’ve really got to see it to believe it.  Of course race organizers want more participants, but it’s also great just to see the spectators coming out to support the runners and walkers.

To sign up as a runner/walker or for more information, please go here.

Oh and lest you think this race is only about firefighters you should know that all proceeds will benefit the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, including our Building for America’s Bravest program which builds specially adapted, custom designed smart homes for our nation’s most catastrophically injured service members.

Now, about that happy ending, at least in Altamonte Springs on race day.  Let’s just say it involves the afterglow party at World of Beer right there where the race happens at Crane’s Roost Park in Altamonte Springs.  The party is for everyone – race participants, volunteers, spectators and American Idol participants – say what? Oh, did I forget to mention the part about Idol celeb, Jax, attending and singing at this year’s race? Well now you know.

So, one way or another, everyone really can still join in on some of the fun of honoring heroes through sports, and here at the Hive we think that’s a very good thing!


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Bragging Rights: Orlando Meetings Top the Chart

You already know that Orlando is the No. 1 most visited tourist destination on the planet, right?  But according to Cvent, Orlando has been named the No. 1 meetings destination in the country for the fifth time in six years.  That in itself may not shock anyone who has braved the traffic on International Drive during one of those monsters exhibit shows like, perhaps, PGA that averages between 35-40 thousand attendees each year.

But the real news here is probably not that we’re No. 1.  It’s that Cvent looked at bookings in over 5000 U.S. cities before proclaiming us the top dog.  Yeah, that kind of makes it a big deal, right?


How did we get there?  Consider this:

  • Orlando has almost 120,000 hotel rooms spread out over more than 450 hotels and resorts
  • Of the combined total of hotels and resorts, Orlando has more than 150 meetings-specific hotels which makes it the largest cluster of its kind in the East
  • the Orange County Convention Center is the second largest convention facility in the United States (Chicago’s McCormick Place still holds the top spot)
  • at least four major convention hotels located right here in Orlando made it into the top 25 list of Top Meeting Hotels in the US, and one, the Hyatt Regency Orlando, placed No. 9 on that prestigious list. Following closely behind were the Rosen Shingle Creek, Hilton Orlando, Hilton Bonnet Creek, and Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort Complex.  Then we had five more in the overall top 100 –  Gaylord Palms, JW Marriott, World Center Marriott, Loews Royal Pacific and Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress.

So now maybe you’re getting a little better picture of why we are top dawg in the meetings industry, too, right?  The stats are not just about bragging rights for a city’s convention center.  It’s about the overall amount of meeting space, hotel rooms, and venue options that planners have to research in order to find the right spot to host their conference or business meeting.

So, what is Cvent and why are they qualified to make these impressive claims?  This is a company founded in 1999 that is considered by most in the hospitality industry to be the global leader in meeting, event, and travel technology tools. Think things like on line registration formatting, management of venue selection, overall event management processes and so much more.  They also compile venue directories for just about any place you want to hold a meeting or event and have multiple global offices to support their worldwide network, so yeah, they’re kind of a big deal in this industry.

Beyond Orlando, some stats show that there are over 1.8 million meetings and events that occur in the United States each year, and by some estimates that brings in a combined total of over $393 Billion [direct and indirect] to the annual GDP which makes this industry big stuff everywhere, not just here in Orlando.

But since I’m concentrating on Orlando, let’s just get two more important stats out there:  we have also been named the 2nd most FUN city (losing only to Las Vegas, so read into that FUN word whatever you wish. . .), AND we have the most bars per 100,000 residents (estimated ratio at 215.81 bars/100K residents).  Now isn’t that something to be proud of?



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Earth Day and the Orlando Hospitality Industry

Do you think there’s any connection?

But, of course!  Even though some would think that the tourism and hospitality industry here in Central Florida causes only constant traffic congestion, major air pollution, and basic overall mind fog [and yes, I do realize that mind fog is only damaging to oneself, and not the earth in general.  Or, is it??] due to the sheer number of water parks, rides, and other brain-and-money-sucking tourist attractions we pride ourselves with [oopsie; did the Hive just admit to those sins???], I’m here to tell you that at least one local organization is a big – make that HUGE – player in the global landscape when in comes to decreasing the carbon footprint of our many central Florida hospitality blessings [there, wasn’t that a better way to refer to all those reasons we welcome tourists here?].

It’s called Clean the World, and wow, does it ever do a great job in that monumental task.  Founded in 2009 after Shawn Seipler, who was a frequent traveler for his tech company job, spent a lot of his travel time pondering where the half or barely used soap bars and bottles from his hotel rooms were going.  His investigation discovered that it was all going to landfill.  “Ugh!”  Well, I’m sure his exact words were more intelligent than that, but I think you’re getting the picture here, right?  One man.  One planet to save.  One ingenious and enormous idea.  Plus a whole lotta unused soap and shampoo from all the area hotel rooms.

soap bars

His mission?  Not only to recycle, thus saving the environment from unnecessary waste, but to also repurpose all those half used products.  You can read further about the amazing story and journey of Clean the World by visiting the link provided.  But in short, here is the Mission Statement of this incredible local not for profit:

1]  Collect and recycle soap and hygiene products discarded everyday by the hospitality industry and other sectors that generate environmental waste.

2]  Through the distribution of these and other donated products to impoverished people [all over the planet], prevent millions of hygiene related deaths each year, reduce the morbidity rate for hygiene related illnesses, and encourage vigorous childhood development.

Or in simpler terms, clean the world, save lives.  Give hope with soap.  Both tag lines taken from their own vision.

But we all know nothing is as simple as it sounds!  It takes a lot of commitment from hotels and other establishments just to participate starting with the housekeepers who have to gather the partially used products and get them to the proper recycling receptacles within their facilities.  Then said facility has to get the product to downtown Orlando where Clean the World accepts the products, sorts, recycles, sterilize, and repurpose it all.  Then there’s the packaging and distribution to all those needy areas around the world that are currently accepting said products.  So you get the picture here, right?  The cycle plays out on so many levels, and to date there are over 65 hotels just in Central Florida alone that participate, but multiply that by chain brands known around the world and you’ve got a starter-kit of how large this project has grown since its’ 2009 inception.

Here is a great example of how Hyatt Hotels participates on a global basis:

So, are you excited enough to want to help?  They list lots of easy ways on their website including the one that I’ve participated in which is to get thyself down to their headquarters and pitch in!  What better way to get involved in Earth Day 2017, or heck just any day of the year.

So, to borrow the excellent tag line you find on the Earth Day Network official website:

Stay connected.  The earth needs your help.



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Meetings Mean Business

I realize that may not be shocking news to anyone, especially those that follow me here in the Hospitality Hive where I discuss and diss about all aspects of the hospitality industry – many times from my perspective as a professional meeting planner.  But to further prove the economic impact of why meetings and events matter, let’s chew on a few of these recently released facts [2015 data from the US Travel Association]:

  • meetings and events is one of the largest sectors of the entire U.S. business travel industry, accounting for over 12.9% of all travel spending in the U.S. economy
  • there are over 1 million U.S. jobs connected to the meetings and events industry
  • those jobs result in an annual payroll topping $31.9 billion
  • most recent figures show attendees at meetings & events spending a whopping $121.9 billion dollars [out of a total of $296.3 billion spent overall on business travel], all going into the U.S. economy

Wow. That’s a whole lotta numbers. And if you’re like me, meaning you generally lose track of zeros once they surpass whatever is in your current [tiny] paycheck, then you might already be wondering why I’m bothering to make your head spin with all those stats.  Well, April 6 has been designated Global Meetings Industry Day, and that designation is not just here in the Hive territory of Central Florida, it’s everywhere.  Worldwide.  The entire planet, thus the inclusion of the adjective ‘Global’.

Yep, the biz of meetings is booming just about everywhere.  So much so that in 2009 the U.S. Travel Association finally got really serious about it (perhaps because the economy was tanking back then?) and created a coalition called, the MMBC – Meetings Mean Business Coalition – to showcase the value and impact the meetings industry has on businesses, economies, and communities. Whatever the reason for the birth of that coalition, it was about time.

Of course here in Orlando none of this is really news to us.  Even though we are oftentimes referred to as the family vacation capital of the world, we are also one of the most popular convention destinations, ranked consistently by meeting and convention planners in the top ten most desired cities to host a business program of any size or format.

So, what are we doing here in Orlando to celebrate GMID?  So glad you asked!  I’m very proud to be a founding member and two term Past President of the local chapter of Meeting Planners International, the premiere global association for meeting planners and suppliers worldwide.  This year our chapter is sponsoring a top notch educational program called Harnessing the Power of Partnerships.  MPI has, for years, been the affirmative voice of the industry, and our local chapter offers multiple programs on a monthly basis that educate members and newcomers to the industry on the business of meeting management.

And while we’re on the local topic, here’s another statistic that might blow your mind: according to the 2014-2015 Annual Report from our Orange County Convention Center, delegates attending conventions and trade shows hosted at the OCCC spent more than $2.2 billion in our local community during that fiscal year. 

So I thought it fitting that on this one day of the year devoted to Global Meetings I’d mention all this as my way of continuing the dialogue started by the U.S. Travel Association.  You can call this little education your entry level class to Meetings & Events, 101.  And if you’re interested in some of the global events taking place here is a link to many of those:

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Dietary Dilemmas

special diet pix

Are you currently dieting?  Have any food allergies?  Require special preparation for certain foods?  Do you need Kosher, Glatt Kosher, or Halal meals?  Are you a pescatarian, or perhaps just a picky eater?

special diet icons

Common food symbols used in the hospitality industry to indicate specific diets or meal requests; often found on meal tickets.

If you’ve registered to attend anything recently that includes a group meal function you’ve probably seen a question on the response form asking if you have any dietary concerns.  This is because it is now a serious offense to ignore some of these requests.  So serious, in fact, that people with specific food allergies are protected by law under the American’s With Disabilities Act, aka the ADA.

What’s that, you’re saying?  You thought that ADA stuff only applied to persons with actual physical disabilities? 

Wrong, my wheelchair-wheeling friends!

Some food allergies can be lethal, and anytime you use the words ‘lethal’ and ‘food’ in the same sentence, well, let’s just not go there, okay?  Anyway, this revelation has affected all kinds of activities in the hospitality industry from airline flights ( how many times have we already heard, “we’ll be serving no peanuts today as we have a passenger on board with a severe peanut allergy”) to menu selection and food preparation. And for those of us on the planning end for meetings and events, it seems there is no end to the dietary restrictions of our attendees.

Case in point.  During a recent program I managed for about 275 people, I received over ninety, as 90 (!), responses with special food requests! Granted, many of them fall under the same category such as vegetarian, gluten-free, Celiac, and Kosher. But even I was surprised at the detailed responses received from some in this group.  Here’s just a sample:

I eat no fatty foods, only high protein; please avoid mangos – I really don’t like them; also, no pineapples, please; low fiber; high fiber; I only eat shrimp and lobster for my protein; allergic to tree nuts; tomatoes make me ill; no meat, all fish; no seafood; diary free; vegan; Halal; only finned fish; nothing spicy; I don’t like blue cheese; mushrooms are icky; please make sure all potato chips are freshly made.


Oh. My!

So, what do we do?  For starters, we work very closely with our catering representatives and chefs to make sure everything is clearly labeled with all ingredients. We provide extensive buffets with plenty of variety, being careful not to place the pecan pie next to nut free brownies for fear of cross-contamination. Many times we provide special meal tickets so attendees with the most critical needs can be identified by waiters and correctly served their specially-ordered meals, often delivered with white glove service. Another trick is to leave high-caloric sauces on the side so they are used as options.  So yes, there are plenty of things we meeting planners are doing to accommodate special requests.  After all, we’re the ones that in effect ‘opened the oven door’ and started asking the question on our registration forms.


Do these chefs look dizzy? It’s because they can’t keep up with all the special request meals!

And I want to be clear that I am in no way poking fun at people with legitimate food allergies – no way, no how!  I have nothing but respect and sympathy for anyone that has to live a life without shrimp cocktail, peanut butter, or cheese dropped on just about anything.  In fact, I really appreciate the education I’m currently receiving as it’s making me a better planner, not to mention more appreciative of my own healthy choices.

big 8 allergens

Oh, and because  I like to share, here are a couple of new-to-me special diets that I’m guessing might also be new-to-you:

Ovo-Lacto Vegetarian:  eats plant food plus eggs and milk products

Fruitarian:  similar to vegan but eats only foods that don’t kill the plant (e.g. apples-yes, carrots-no)



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