December 18th, 2019
For more than 10 years now, the Very Important Beverage Executive (VIBE) Conference has brought together corporate level beverage buyers, chain decision-makers, owners, operators, beverage directors, marketing executives and F&B executives of national account restaurant chains, plus their counterparts from, hotel, casino, cruise-line and contract foodservice businesses. Joined by industry suppliers and beverage alcohol distributors, it’s become the key meeting each year for decision makers looking to keep on top of trends.
While the next event is still in the final planning stages, details of the seminars, panels and presentations have taken form. Moving up the coast from its recent home in San Diego, next year’s conference lands at the Omni La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad, California, with its award-winning spa and eight swimming pools.
The conference kicks off Tuesday morning, February 25, with research firm Datassential’s “Getting their Attention,” a tour of the hottest adult beverage trends, led by Jack Li And Colleen McClellan. Then, research firm Technomic presents “The Frequency Factor: Driving Traffic and Sales,” led by company principals Donna Hood Crecca and Dave Henkes. Concerning the adult beverage sales challenge in an environment where strong growth in patron traffic is lacking, the pair will address market forces influencing traffic, the role of adult beverages in driving traffic, and how repeat visits are crucial to increasing sales.
Right after the Technomic seminar comes “Click Here to Download: What You Need to Know About Technology,” a panel discussion led by Matt Durbin of Durbin Consulting Group. Endless waves of new technologies are coming at an accelerated pace, and the goal of this session is to highlight the most practical and useful tech tools and services available. Panelists Nikhil Kundra CEO, Partender; Sherif Mityas, Chief Experience Officer, TGI Fridays; Kelli Valade, President & CEO, TDn2K; and Shane Wheatland, Chief Marketing Officer, Omnivore bring a unique perspective and real-world examples that impact both internal operations and the guest experience.
Lunch and table discussions are next, followed by a workshop series. Sessions include “Me and My Negroni … Which Gin is Right for You?” led by bartender extraordinaire Tony Abou-Ganim, who explores the Italian aperitivo beverage that has become a cocktail category all its own. At the same time, workshop #2 features Colleen McClellan of Datassential with a look at how to menu wines to sell. This hands-on workshop focuses on how to lower the barrier to trial for a glass of wine new to a menu.
Also up at 1:30 will be the annual VIBE On-premise Beverage Consumer Trend Study led by Mike Ginley of First Choice Brands, with several new topics on actionable beer, wine and spirit cocktail trends to help build better beverage programs. Fielded exclusively for the VIBE Beverage Conference, it includes fresh questions supplied by past conference attendees and is fielded right before the conference with 1,000+ participants who are on-premise national chain beverage consumers.
Workshop #4 is “Refining Your Drinks Program Based on Global and Local Trends,” with Scott Elliott and Matthew Crompton, Nielsen CGA, who will dive into exclusive on-premise data to reveal the essential drink trends across Europe and the U.S. Combining a variety of Nielsen CGA’s research products, this session highlights key dynamics around concept supply, consumer drivers and the influence of bartenders, as well as local POS sales and price performance.
Two sessions will end Day One. First, “Retail Disruption and What it Means for the Foodservice Industry” will be presented by David Portalatin, NPD Group. In this session, he examines how the retail landscape continues to undergo significant change as shifting consumer spending patterns and encroaching commerce alter the way consumers shop. Then “Hotel F&B —Trends in a Growth Segment” with Dave Henkes taking the lead with panelists including Devin Burns of Omni Hotels & Resorts, will examine opportunities, looking through the lens of the consumer, to understand drivers for beverage consumption and evaluating best-in-class operator programs. The VIBE Opening Night starts at 5 p.m.for Pinnacle sponsors and operators and runs 5:30 – 7:00 for all others, with multiple sponsor evening events open to operators.
That’s it until Wednesday, February 26, when the conference kicks off with “Cannabis Hospitality: Now & Next,” with Donna Hood Crecca of Technomic and Freddie Wyatt of Munch and Company. From legal recreational marijuana to CBD products, the cannabis market is exploding, as is an emerging cannabis hospitality scene. The session will focus on how consumers are responding, where threats and opportunities exist and what operators need to do. Hint: You need a cannabis plan.
Then, another set of four workshops will be offered, including a repeat of Tuesday’s VIBE On-premise Beverage Consumer Trend Study, as well as “A Rosé for All Seasons” with Master Sommelier Rebecca Fineman. In this seminar,Rebecca will select a lineup of pink wines and speak to their applications beyond being a hot day’s refresher.
What’s next for the changing status of beer? Stephen Beaumont of Beaumont Drinks will chart how the beer market is changing all the time, with panelists including Nate Grover, Director of Bar & Beverage, Applebee’s, and Brian Lebredo, Beverage Director, Texas Roadhouse, in the third workshop, and in the fourth session, the effervescent Kathy Casey of Liquid Kitchen will focus on “New Horizons in Non-Alcoholic.” From NAB bars and pop-ups to new products and delivery, a panel of industry experts will share what they’ve seen, and what the future holds in this ever-growing category.
The final late morning workshop series will include a repeat of “Refining Your Drinks Program Based on Global and Local Trends” with the wise men from Nielsen CGA, along with “Growing Green —Responsible Grape Farming” with Bob Bath of the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone. That session will focus on responsible farming techniques, which are quickly becoming the norm in the wine industry, a philosophy that aligns exactly with current consumer preferences, particularly millennials. Also, “Leading by Styles: Unlocking Growth in the Beer Category”will feature Sara Hillstrom of Anheuser-Busch exploring the breadth of beer styles available and mapping them to the right consumer taste preferences and occasions, in order to unlock growth for the beer category and uncover trade-up opportunities through the occasion-based, lead-by-style viewpoint. One more workshop rounds out this group: “Making Use of Secondary Ingredients” with David Commer, Commer Beverage Consulting, and Brian Bell, Abuelo’s. Finding additional uses for items already in your pantry is a winning strategy, and the pair share and taste through some ideas and strategies for making use of secondary ingredients.