THE INTERNATIONAL Caterers Association Annual Conference, held March 23-27 in New Orleans, drew close to 400 catering professionals, according to ICA director of communications Diane Welland.
Out of a range of educational offerings including design, operations management and menu development, marketing was the hot topic of the weekend, Welland said. With a general slackness in the economy, caterers are “looking for new creative ways to get business,” she explained. A course that focused on using charity events effectively to market services and network with potential clients was among the most popular courses, she said.
Programs that offered versatile design concepts also drew large numbers, according to Welland. She cited the Statement Tables Theme Spectacular, which featured buffet stations caterers “could upscale or down-scale for any price point,” as well as a seminar entitled Lighten Up, which offered information on inexpensive lighting techniques and tips on how to up-sell with lighting.
Highlights of the five-day conference included the Voodoo Vamps and Vittles opening night event, which featured Southern seafood specialties aboard a Mississippi riverboat. Also a success, Welland added, was the Bacchanalian Gala, catered by Atlanta-based Distinctive Design Events. Guests sat on pillows at a long, low buffet, she said, describing the event as “very lavish, very sensual and tactile.” The evening's climactic moment came when toga-clad Debra Lykkemark, owner of Vancouver-based Culinary Capers Catering, was carried in by costumed “subjects” to assume the presidency of ICA.
CONTACT International Caterers Association 1200 17th St. N.W., Washington, DC 20036; 888/604-5844,202/973-5371; www.icacater.org