The idea of turning water into wine is about transforming something good into something exceptional; it is about creating an experience of food and beverage in events and maximizing the bang for your buck.

Recently I had the great pleasure to work on the launch of a hybrid product. It was a private event for 550 business owners to experience, understand and develop their strategies to sell this new product.

As the Food and Beverage Creative Director, my role was to work as the conduit between the event company and the venues to get the best from the budget, for the theme and the event. So what value did I add?

Over the years I have developed five must-haves for excellence in managing food and beverage at events, which have now become the backbone for what I can bring to an event. This is how I applied them to the hybrid launch.

I work to ensure that everyone involved in the event understands the demographic of the audience well. The VIP guests in this case hailed from urban and rural areas. They are a group who understand and appreciate service; just like their businesses dictates.

It is interesting, when I talk with venues about the client needs, the budget, the wines and menus, invariably it takes some time and discussion to get them to realise that the event is not about what they offer or want to offer. My job is to get the best reward for everyone, the venue must make money, the client must be impressed and the punters need a memorable experience.

Events are never the same, nor are the crowd and the need for fluidity and flexibility in everyone’s processes and approach is paramount.

I worked closely with two venues to deliver an event idea, which went outside their normal packages.

The chef and I debated what a ‘hybrid meal’ would look like for the gala dinner. My brief was something along the lines of ½ chicken and ½ duck or ½ fish and ½ prawn. He consequently came up with a range of six dishes including vegetarian options for us to select two from for an alternate drop, with the exception of the eight head tables.

Another part of this event was ‘The Salon’; this involved six areas each representing a major sales message related to the new vehicle. We matched the food to the areas: For technology, handmade sushi made on site by our sushi chef; for marketing, a gelato bar scooped to order; for safety, fish and chips.

I always aim to develop an experience with the venues and clients that will leave an impression. In this case we did it through the relevance of the hybrid meal, interactive food and beverage experiences at the Salon and wine from the reserve list. I work with the venue – not on cost – on the management of consumption, bottle opening, consolidation and waste to ensure we can have the best wines. At this event we had Mumm NV, Penfolds 389, Dog Point Chardonnay and Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc for 550 guests.

Food and beverage are only two ingredients to a great food and beverage delivery – experiences are imperative to create memorable events.

If there is a theme or a message of the event, it is vital to get that message across in an obvious and easily understood fashion – that works. For example, if the theme is red, don’t ever do red food, use red platters or plates or even glasses.

In this way, food was not just something found on the plates while the event was taking place, instead it was part of the event itself. The five must-haves go to the heart of what food and beverage management is all about. It is a real opportunity to bring clarity to the way an event is communicated through planning, creativity and messaging. And even though food and wine is the definition of my life – being a Food and Beverage Creative Director is more than that.