If you had a choice and money was not a concern, which would you prefer? A fine dining five course dinner or an all-you-can-eat smorgasbord buffet?
I prefer a fine dining five course meal anytime.
Smorgasbord All-You-Can-Eat Buffet
Smorgasbord buffets are usually prepared fast, easily and inexpensively. They are a popular method for feeding a large number of people with minimal staff and effort. The food is displayed in a public area where diners serve themselves. The consumer chooses from a variety of options.
Customers pay a fixed fee and can eat as much food as they want during that single meal. They are most popular in hotels and restaurants like the well known Sizzler or Golden Corral.
Owners of smorgasbord buffets give most of their attention to the buffet, not the restaurant’s environment, atmosphere, quality or customer’s experience. It’s all about offering a lot of choices at low costs to attract a lot of people. Money is made on volume sales.
In my opinion, many all-you-can-eat buffets are watered-down food experiences. Often the food is stale and unhealthy. Frequently the food looks like it has been sitting under hot lights for hours.
Typically patrons that visit all-you-can-eat buffets are more concerned with price than food quality. It’s about instant gratification, bowing to the immediate cravings of the stomach. It’s not about having a memorable experience…unless the food causes nightmares and frequent visits to the bathroom.
The Conference Smorgasbord Experience
Many conferences today have become nothing more than the all-you-can-eat smorgasbord buffet of education offerings. The focus is on offering a wide variety of content choices to a large number of people with minimal effort and staff. Quality is minimal. Little attention is given to the attendee’s experience or learning.
The smorgasbord buffet conference experience tries to be all things to all people. It’s about getting as many people in and out of rooms as quickly and efficiently as possible. The goal is minimal satisfaction.
The experience is quickly forgotten and often seen as the cheap, warehouse department store discount. It’s provides some instant gratification but rarely has any long-lasting affect.
Fine Dining Five Course Meal
Fine dining restaurants are full service restaurants with specific dedicated meal courses. The restaurateur works with designers to create the right atmosphere for the experience. The environment features higher quality materials dedicated to an overarching theme. Chefs and wait staff have more experience and training.
Most multicourse meals follow a pre-determined sequence. Each course is designed with a specific size and genre that is appropriate for its place in the sequence. Food and drinks are chosen intentionally to feature particular flavors and spices. The entire experience threads a unique storyline and theme.
Often a five course meal starts with a small serving called an entree or appetizer. Sometimes this may be a soup, bisque, consommés, salad or antipasto. (In the US, we often substitute the word appetizer for entree as entree may refer to the main course.)
Following the entree is a light dish, sometimes a fish, usually served with vegetables. Next is the main course which is the most important dish. It contains a larger portion than the other dishes. Dessert is the fourth course followed by a cheese or nut selection accompanied by an appropriate selection of wine.
The entire event unfolds intentionally, layer upon layer, precept upon precept, line upon line. It is unique and memorable. It moves at a slower pace than an all-you-can eat buffet, allowing customers time to digest and enjoy the experience.
The Fine Dining Conference Experience
Conferences that intentionally offer attendees a threaded experience are memorable, unique and rare.
The fine dining conference experience does not try to be all things to all people. Instead it follows specific dedicated sequence that relates to an overarching theme.
A limited number of education offerings are intentionally chosen and paired together for the customer. The content is chosen to attract specific audience segments, not the general public. Each part of the experience is designed for its appropriate place in the overarching narrative and storyline. It unfolds layer upon layer, precept upon precept, line upon line.
Attendees are seen as participants, adding to the experience. They are given time to digest and process the experience. They discuss the content with great vigor and passion. They share their own knowledge and understanding adding more depth to the conference.
So which would you prefer, the smorgasbord, all-you-can-eat buffet conference experience or the fine dining conference experience and why? Which experience is more likely to be remembered and why?