May 8, 2019

Levy Gets Creative to Make Columbus Unforgettable

Interactive pastry bags. A draft cocktail cart. A brick-fired pizza oven. Ice cream trikes. 

Catering options at the Greater Columbus Convention Center are becoming much less ordinary and far more experiential for one big reason, according to Levy Restaurants, the Convention Center’s food and beverage partner: the desire to make Columbus unforgettable.

“We’ve made it a primary focus to take ordinary things, like a hummus platter that would normally be placed in bowls or plates,” says Levy General Manager Molly Dale, “and say ‘how can we still offer this same quality food in a way that has people talking about it long after they leave Columbus?’”

(How about a hummus serving station at which hanging pastry bags are filled with different colorful flavors of hummus, attached to a bungee cord?)

Levy caters not only sit-down meals during meetings and conferences but provides exhibitors with options to draw people toward their booths. 

Ice cream is another favorite, so why not park an ice cream trike beside your booth? Enter the Jeni’s Ice Cream Trike. It’s easy, it’s delicious and it’s decidedly Columbus.

“We feel it’s really important to showcase our efforts to remain sustainable through support of local vendors whenever possible to out-of-town guests,” Dale says. “Jeni’s is a local company and we wanted to have them participate in some way in what we’re doing here at the Convention Center, so trikes were an easy idea.” 

While draft beer has not proven popular as a draw for exhibition spaces, a draft cocktail cart is performing well. 

“At reception events, clients typically request wine or bottled beer due to limitations with service time, so our director of catering, Iris Baker, started tinkering with the idea of a draft cocktail cart,” Dale says. 

“The idea stemmed from really studying how we can enhance the guest experience while also improving efficiencies. With the draft cocktail cart they are serviced from a keg system, pre-batched, reducing service wait times and satisfying guest preferences. I think there are only two other places in Columbus that are offering a tap system like this.” 

Other innovative concepts in the works include a conveyer belt concept in which a wide variety of choices, from grab-and-go sandwiches and salads to small plates and tapas, can be served in a really fun modern, unexpected way. 

“The first conveyer should be here in June, and the first way we’re going to use it is for a food hall type of concept,” Dale said. “At the February 14 tasting for American Society of Association Executives, which is coming in August, we featured the conveyor concept as well as four additional concepts for them to choose from. The team was excited when they announced that the conveyor belt was one of their choices.“ 

“Our intention was to really showcase the culinary expertise that we have here at the Greater Columbus Convention Center,” she says, “so we took a lot of time and care in how we were going feature and tell our food story, through local ingredients and unexpected flavors.”

Dale says next steps will be for her team to begin mapping out its sustainability story in a way that will connect attendees with our local vendors to share how our partnerships impact them. 

“We want to share our Convention Center story in a way that it extends their visit long after ASAE has concluded,” Dale says. 

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