Mr. Fears

Group Meetings

You Are What You 'Meet:' Attending Business Conferences Shouldn't Have to Mean a Break from Healthy

By Bruce Fears, President, ARAMARK Harrison Lodging

Up until recently, attending a business conference may have also meant long sedentary periods of physical inactivity-sitting in airports, sitting on planes and even more sitting in conference room meetings. The dining experience, often didn't work to enhance healthfulness, consisting of high-calorie snacks and meals that may have sustained participants' energy levels, but didn't necessarily sustain their waist lines.

The recent trend toward the greening of the conference center and hotel industry has also come to include the 'greening of guests.' Conference centers are taking a holistic approach to sustaining the environment that not only involves incorporating environmentally friendly paper products, building and cleaning materials, and lighting and landscaping, but also a commitment to providing the highest quality foods that sustain a healthy lifestyle and help the planet.

Minimizing our Impact

During the last 10 years, Aramark Harrison Lodging (AHL) has worked to develop its Planet EVERgreen official "greening" program. As AHL's vice president of sustainability and environmental education, Karen Wittig's goal is to communicate a mission of sound environmental practices and healthy living that guests will take home with them.

"In our conference centers, we continue to develop our sustainable cuisine program that serves only seafood species not currently under threat of extinction and produce and foods grown and raised without pesticides or chemical fertilizers," Wittig said. "By purchasing organic and sustainable products, the program minimizes waste and the impact on the environment."

Last year, The Rainbow Room at Lake Powell Resorts and Marina, located on the Utah/Arizona border, introduced a prix-fixe sustainable menu. It serves guests seafood chosen from Monterey Bay's "best choice" National Seafood Guide, including farm-raised striped bass and blue cornmeal dusted farm-raised trout, as well as Hearst Ranch grass-fed beef.

"We are committed to increasing the use of organic, heirloom fruits and vegetables grown locally whenever possible, as well as eliminating the use of trans-fats and incorporating dairy products that are free of added bovine growth hormones (BGH)," said Cathy McKeever, director of sales and marketing, Lake Powell Resorts & Marinas.

The dining rooms at Kalaloch Lodge and Lake Quinault Lodge located at Olympic National Park & Forest in Washington state serve seafood chosen from Monterey Bay's "best choice" National Seafood Guide, as well as Hearst grass-fed beef. In addition, Kalaloch lodge serves fresh Alaskan Wild King Salmon and cr`eme brulee, which is made with BGH-free milk.

Other AHL managed restaurants located on national parks that are implementing sustainable cuisine programs available for meeting and conference events include Mesa Verde National Park, Shenandoah National Park, Denali National Park & Preserve and Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve.

Planning Healthy Menus

There are a number of resources available to help meeting planners plan menus that will provide guests with more opportunities to make healthy eating decisions.

The publication, "Eat Smart North Carolina: Guidelines for Health Foods and Beverages at Meetings, Gatherings and Events," issues practical guidelines for anyone in charge of food served at events, helping them choose lower-fat and lower-calorie foods and drinks. The guide can be used in working with sales staff and chefs to plan delicious, nutritious meals and breaks for event attendees.

The Department of Health in New York state also issued some general guidelines that include the following:

General Guidelines:

Unhealthy snacking at break times can produce just as many pitfalls as larger main meals. According to Brian Stapleton, corporate executive chef at AHL, gone are the days of providing just three or four package menus of snack options. With so many people making special requests for gluten-free, peanut free and other dietary restricted items, meeting planners are now offering an overall list of options with a per person price attached, so attendees can customize options to meet their needs.

"While nacho cheese and chocolate chip cookies are still in high demand, we're seeing more and more requests for energy bars, whole grain bars and low fat chocolate as ingredients," Stapleton said. "People still want flavor; so we try and get creative by offering dried fruit dipped in chocolate or gourmet potato chips cooked in olive oil, flavored with rosemary."

Stapleton says it's all about offering something healthy, but with a special flair that adds flavor. Other popular requests off the menu include sushi stations or gourmet dips, such as red pepper hummus served with flat bread made with organic flower and herb spices.

Additional suggestions for health breaks offered by the New York Department of Health include the following:

Food Suggestions for Breaks (a.m. & p.m.):

Active Bodies Produce Active Minds

In addition to food choices, the role of physical activity is becoming more apparent in the prevention of obesity that can lead to chronic and debilitating diseases. More meeting planners are looking for ways to incorporate physical activity breaks at longer meetings, which also serve to improve attendees' concentration and their ability to participate in important tasks at hand. It also can help them get a better night's sleep.

Planning a meeting at one of AHL's national park settings can make a number of outdoor recreational activities readily accessible to conference attendees. These can also, in turn, serve as employee bonding activities.

For example at Lake Quinault Lodge at Olympic National Park and Forest attendees can spend an afternoon fishing off the docks for steelhead or salmon. Smaller board retreats can get away on a luxurious houseboat at Lake Powell that may include a dive into the lake.

A stay at tranquil Deer Creek Resort and Conference Center in Columbus, Ohio offers hiking along the park's scenic woodland, meadows and shoreline, which might even include a glimpse at wildlife. The 18-hole championship 350-acre golf course also offers challenging and exciting games for golfers of all skill levels. In addition, Deer Creek State Park offers a 1.2 mile loop trail suitable for novice to intermediate cyclists.

Additional suggestions for incorporating physical activity at meetings include:

In conclusion, meetings clearly don't have to mean taking a break from the healthy habits practiced at home. Adding a bit of healthy culinary flair and a few fun physical activities can help generate more enthusiasm among attendees for the meeting's purpose and might even help to inspire those break-through, ah-ha ideas that will make the required bit of extra thought in the planning process worthwhile to your business's bottom line.

For a complete list of these and other health meeting tips, visit

To download a copy of "Eat Smart North Carolina: Guidelines for Health Foods and Beverages at Meetings, Gatherings and Events," visit:

As President, ARAMARK Harrison Lodging, Bruce Fears is responsible for operations at over 50 conference centers, corporate training centers and specialty hotels in educational environments, as well as 14 state parks and other resort operations. He assumed his current position following the integration of ARAMARKís conference center, corporate training business with its parks and resorts business. Mr. Fears received a BA from Bridgewater College and participated in programs at University of Londonís School of Economics and University of Floridaís School of Management. Mr. Fears can be contacted at 425-957-9708 or fears-bruce@aramark.com Extended Bio...

HotelExecutive.com retains the copyright to the articles published in the Hotel Business Review. Articles cannot be republished without prior written consent by HotelExecutive.com.

Receive our daily newsletter with the latest breaking news and hotel management best practices.
Hotel Business Review on Facebook
General Search:

NOVEMBER: Architecture & Design: Authentic, Interactive and Immersive

Eric Rahe

The advent of social media brought with it an important shift in the hospitality industry. Any guestís experience might be amplified to thousands of potential customers, and you want to be sure that your hotel stands out for the right reasons. Furthermore, technology has increased competition. According to Euromonitor International, the travel industry will have the highest online payment percentage of any industry by 2020, often occurring through third-party sites that display your competitors alongside you. As a result, many hoteliers are looking to stand out by engaging customers and the experience has become more interactive than ever. READ MORE

Pat Miller

Even the most luxurious hotel has a finite budget when it comes to the design or re-design of hotel spaces. The best designers prioritize expenses that have the biggest impact on guest perceptions, while minimizing or eliminating those that donít. This story will focus on three blockbuster areas Ė the entry experience, the guest room, and the public spaces. This article will focus on these three key areas and shed light on how the decision making process and design choices made with care and attention can create memorable, luxe experiences without breaking the bank. READ MORE

Patrick Burke

For over 35 years, American architect Patrick Burke, AIA has led Michael Graves Architecture & Design to create unique hospitality experiences for hotel operators and travelers around the globe, in Asia, Europe, the U.S. and the Middle East. As the hospitality industry has shifted from making travelers feel at home while away to providing more dynamic experiences, boutique hotels have evolved to create hyper local, immersive environments. Having witnessed and contributed to the movement, Burke discusses the value of authentic character that draws on physical and social context to create experiences that cannot be had anywhere else in the world. READ MORE

Alan Roberts

More than ever before, guests want and expect the design of a hotel to accurately reflect its location, regardless of whether they visit a property in an urban center, a historic neighborhood or a resort destination. They also seek this sense of place without wanting to sacrifice the level and consistency of service theyíve come to expect from a beloved hotel brand. A unique guest experience is now something expected not just desirable from any hotel wishing to compete in the world today. A hotelís distinctive design and execution goes a long way to attracting todays discerning customer. READ MORE

Coming Up In The December Online Hotel Business Review

Feature Focus
Hotel Law: Issues & Events
There is not a single area of a hotelís operation that isnít touched by some aspect of the law. Hotels and management companies employ an army of lawyers to advise and, if necessary, litigate issues which arise in the course of conducting their business. These lawyers typically specialize in specific areas of the law Ė real estate, construction, development, leasing, liability, franchising, food & beverage, human resources, environmental, insurance, taxes and more. In addition, issues and events can occur within the industry that have a major impact on the whole, and can spur further legal activity. One event which is certain to cause repercussions is Marriott Internationalís acquisition of Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide. This newly combined company is now the largest hotel company in the world, encompassing 30 hotel brands, 5,500 hotels under management, and 1.1 million hotel rooms worldwide. In the hospitality industry, scale is particularly important Ė the most profitable companies are those with the most rooms in the most locations. As a result, this mega- transaction is likely to provoke an increase in Mergers & Acquisitions industry-wide. Many experts believe other larger hotel companies will now join forces with smaller operators to avoid being outpaced in the market. Companies that had not previously considered consolidation are now more likely to do so. Another legal issue facing the industry is the regulation of alternative lodging companies such as Airbnb and other firms that offer private, short-term rentals. Cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles and Santa Monica are at the forefront of efforts to legalize and control short-term rentals. However, those cities are finding itís much easier to adopt regulations on short-term rentals than it is to actually enforce them. The December issue of Hotel Business Review will examine these and other critical issues pertaining to hotel law and how some companies are adapting to them.