How This Food Event Eliminated All Lines

The Rammys, a restaurant industry award show, rethought its event to keep guests happy and well-fed.

By D. Channing Muller June 30, 2014, 7:51 AM EDT

The event's footprint grew from a 28,000-square-foot hotel ballroom in 2013 to the 43,000-square-foot space at the convention center. 

Photo: Tony Brown/imijphoto.com for BizBash

Planners of the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington’s annual Rammy award gala accomplished what all planners hope for at their food-focused events: no lines at any food station. Following complaints from attendees last year of excessive lines, event director Roger Whyte realized the 1,900-person soiree had outgrown the 28,000-square-foot ballroom at the Marriott Wardman Park.

Organization president Kathy Hollinger moved the June 22 event to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, adding 15,000 square feet to the footprint and tripling the number of four-sided food pavilions.

“The one issue we always had, and always knew, was the number of people we had attend and the format with the few different food pavilions led to a large amount of lines,” Whyte said. “The square footage [at the convention center] allowed us to add a ton more food and drink options and locations to lead to pretty much zero lines.”

Planners used the space to add more food pavilions and encourage sponsors to increase their square footage. The larger food pavilions were sponsored by foreign embassies, tourism boards, airlines, and organizations representing food and wine purveyors who come together to represent a nation. Chile and Australia each had three food pavilions compared to just one last year. Peru and Argentina also expanded to two pavilions each, one on either end of the ballroom serving the same dishes, cutting down the lines at each and saving guests from having to trek across the vast space. Top sponsors Events DC and Citi Open tennis tournament each had a single pavilion as well as lounge areas on opposite sides of the ballroom.

Since the price of these pavilion sponsorships did not increase, three new levels of sponsorships of $1,500, $7,500, and $20,000 added to a 20 percent increase overall in revenue to cover the costs of the expansion. Additionally, table sponsorships sold out two weeks prior to the event.

In addition to the larger layout, the move to the convention center reflected a partnership between the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington and sponsor Events DC, the city's convention and sports authority, to highlight the Washington area's restaurant industry through cross promoting conventions, special events, and the local dining scene.

Check out how it all came together.

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