Why This Food Festival Reinvented its V.I.P. Experience

Organizers of Taste of the Nation in New York tested out a more crowd-friendly approach for its high-end patrons.

By Michele Laufik May 4, 2016, 7:15 AM EDT

The new V.I.P. cabanas allowed larger groups to eat, entertain, and mingle at the tasting event.

Photo: Ashley Sears

New York's Taste of the Nation for No Kid Hungry 2016
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Food festivals—big and small—have become a staple of the event industry, with guests, patrons, and nonprofits developing a growing appetite for more. New York City’s Taste of the Nation for No Kid Hungry, an annual tasting event that also takes place in other cities around the U.S., helped satisfy that craving by serving small bites, desserts, and cocktails from the city’s top chefs, restaurateurs, sommeliers, and mixologists on April 25 at 225 Liberty Street in Battery Park.

New this year, organizers set up V.I.P. cabanas, which featured a private butler who was on hand to serve food and drink from the on-site vendors as well as special “Shack Pack” service from Shake Shack. Stationed at the perimeter of the 43rd-floor space, the cabanas offered customizable features such as branded coffee tables; patrons were also allowed to connect two or three of the indoor tents to create one large cabana.

Priced at $10,000 each, the sold-out cabanas “were created to give groups an elevated experience at the tasting event—one where you can attend with 10 people yet also be together in one place enjoying the food,” explained Moira Sedgwick, senior manager of culinary events at Share Our Strength. “Typically with a walk-around tasting, you might go in a group of two or three, but otherwise these events are hard to maneuver with a larger group.”

To make the option more approachable for patrons, the new cabanas were less expensive than last year's V.I.P. areas—which cost $25,000—and were designed for those who were looking to entertain such as for a company outing or for clients.

Sedgwick added that she tries to “always look at the event from the guest perspective. I like to think creatively and ask myself, what can I deliver that they haven’t experienced before? What is going on in the food pop culture world that I can bring to life? How can I add to the conversation and make this event relevant, all while telling the story of No Kid Hungry?”

For all attendees, several new designated areas were introduced this year in addition to traditional tasting stations: the Sundae Parlor featuring frozen treats from Oddfellows, Morgenstern's Finest Ice Cream, and Sherry B Dessert Studio; the Donut Derby featuring sweets from Root & Bone, Underwest Donuts, and Maya; a Passover Round-Up featuring dishes from Mile End Deli, Shelsky's, and Tolache; and a walk-around Rosé Garden featuring over 10 different rosé wines.

The event raised about $160,000, with proceeds benefiting No Kid Hungry’s work to end childhood hunger in America.

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