Blogger: Barry Siskind, author of Powerful Exhibit Marketing

Organizers worry about everything. They worry, regardless of how inconsequential the details, because they know from experience that one seemingly small mistake can have very large consequences.

One issue, that in the past has been relatively straight forward, is food. What to we feed those vast numbers of visitors who come from all corners of the world. Past choices were based on a few essential criteria such as culture, religion, tradition, local flavours and theme.

The change we are beginning to notice is that visitors have much greater expectations of the foods they consume. The gastronomic vocabulary is now filled with a new words and expressions: Paleo, vegan, vegetarian, raw food,  low carb, low fat, gluten free, Duken, Aitkens, low cholesterol, salt free, protein power, Mediterranean, Glycemic indexed, macrobiotic, flexitarian, anti-inflammatory, diets to gain weight and those to lose it, building strength and allergy sensitive – the list goes on.

Food is not just an individual choice, countries are getting involved. Recently China released its new guidelines that recommended a upper limit on an individuals daily intake of meat, poultry and fish.

Will visitors attend an exhibition if the food isn’t exactly to their needs? Probably. But as the world becomes more aware of the health and environmental affects of what we consume there is a greater pressure on organizers to accommodate the growing numbers of dietary variations. It’s not as simple as catering to the lowest common denominator, rather it motivates us to start at the beginning and mine visitors data for dietary preferences and then work with local catering contractors to develop offerings that  provide visitors a better experience while keeping them healthy.

It’s not inconceivable that with the proper planning that we can create individual, customized, pre-packaged meals, for each individual visitor.

Does this idea sound like a logistical nightmare? Does catering to individual diets create a undue drain on profits? If visitors aren’t asking for dietary differentiation is it an issue worth addressing now?

If you haven’t already begun a new catering initiative, I suggest it is worth exploring.  Visitors won’t automatically let you know what they want until someone else gives it to them. That’s the risk we face. Former Apple CEO Steve Jobs said it best when he wrote, “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”