Crunched, munched and delivered fresh: Big data for the food industry

Food Genius Reports Crunched, munched and delivered fresh: Big data for the food industryPhoto taken from

Big data.

One of the biggest buzz words in marketing and one of the most effective ways to analyze consumer and commercial behavior.

The question in today’s business world isn’t whether we can gather a large amount of information, but how we present it and what we do with it afterward.

The new buzz word: Instantaneous marketing. And luckily for the restaurant world, big data and the food industry are on it.

Food Genius–once a simple restaurant finder tool for foodies–transformed itself into the analyzer of all big data for the United States food industry. Food Genius has grown up to be a data-driven restaurant menu trends machine. Food baby turned food monster. In a good way.

The best part? You choose what you want to know about, input your specifics into the site and they collect all the data and analyze it for you–instantly.

Want to find out about quinoa? Food Genius tells you who is serving it, how many restaurants (and regions) are using it and what dishes are utilizing the ingredient.

Information includes everything from menu pricing to consumer behavior to which chef is using what ingredients where and, in spite of the many calculations needed for accurate statistics, the information is presented in a clean and precise manner.

It’s big data made user-friendly. Crunching numbers, skipping the spreadsheet and going right into presentation mode. The best of both worlds.

Does it come with a price? Yes… and it’s not exactly cheap (as low as $2,000 a month,) but considering how restaurants can instantly use the site as a research and marketing tool, it might be worth shelling out the extra dough.

Just some food for thought. (Yes… I went there.)

Event Industry News: The Oscars, a circus and the XBox 720

gettyimages 162549426 Event Industry News: The Oscars, a circus and the XBox 720

The Oscars: Last night the most influential, prestigious awards ceremony in the film industry left itself open to a flurry of mixed reactions.  A number of reviews have described this year’s ceremony as tasteless, boring and way too long. Others enjoyed the musical talent and Seth MacFarlane’s hosting skills.

“Argo” won Best Picture, Jennifer Lawrence received Best Actress (“Silver Linings Playbook”), Daniel Day Lewis claimed Best Actor (“Lincoln”) and “Life of Pi” took everything else.

Event industry pros gave their own opinions of the show but everyone agreed on one thing at least: The stage design was phenomenal, if not the show itself.

After parties: BizBash gives us an inside look at the post-show festivities.

Teamwork: With the increasing number of event apps emerging this year, the industry welcomes a new event, called Event Tech Circus. Hosted in Amsterdam, the conference will focus on connecting event organizers, tech companies and investors to bring new ideas to fruition.

Event Technology: Jeff Hurt Blog posted an infographic listing eight techno gadgets coming out in 2013. Gamers can geek out at the XBox 720 while the rest of us can speculate on what Google Glass is going to look (and feel) like.

Happy National Margarita Day!

In light of National Margarita Day, we thought we would close this week by featuring some fun margarita recipes.

Whether planning to entertain guests for a dinner party this weekend, or simply kicking back by yourself for the day, here are several ways to get your fiesta on and start the weekend right. TGIF, after all!

classicmargarita 300x225 Happy National Margarita Day! The Classic One:
This quick and easy recipe is a salute to the original beverage and a perfect way to celebrate National Margarita Day.


Combine all ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake until cold and strain into a chilled salt-rimmed glass.

Recipe and photo taken from Cooking Channel TV

frozen margaritas 300x300 Happy National Margarita Day! The Frozen One:
Bring fruity and frozen into one with this chilled beverage:

Ingredients: (serves 4)

  • 2 quarts ice cubes
  • 1 can (12 fluid oz) frozen limeade
  • 12 fluid oz tequila
  • 1/4 cup Cointreau
  • Margarita salt for the rims (optional)
  • Lime slices (optional)


  1. Working in 2 batches, place 1 quart ice cubes in a blender. Add 1/2 can limeade, 6 ounces tequila and 2 tablespoons Cointreau. Blend at highest speed until drink is almost smooth. Pour into a pitcher and repeat with remaining ingredients. Store in the freezer.
  2. To salt the margarita glasses, pour a single layer of salt on a salad plate. Moisten each glass rim with lime; dip each rim in the salt. Pour margaritas into each glass; garnish with lime. Serve immediately.

Recipe and photo taken from Pam Anderson, USA Weekend

watermelonmargaritas 300x300 Happy National Margarita Day! The “Healthy” One:
For those already in the fight to achieve their summer figure, consider the Watermelon Margarita. This drink is only 105 calories. No need to deprive yourself of a Friday night treat!

Ingredients: (serves six)

  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 lime wedge
  • 3 1/2 cups cubed seeded watermelon
  • 1/2 cup tequila
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon Triple Sec (orange-flavored liqueur)
  • Lime wedges or watermelon balls (optional)


1. Place 2 teaspoons sugar in a bowl. Rub the rims of 6 glasses with 1 lime wedge; spin rim of each glass in sugar to coat. Set glasses aside.

2. Combine watermelon and next 4 ingredients (through Triple Sec) in a blender; process until smooth. Fill each prepared glass with 1/2 cup crushed ice. Add 1/2 cup margarita to each glass. Garnish with lime wedges or melon balls, if desired.

Recipe and photo taken from Sue Spitler, Cooking Light


4 Wedding Trends for 2013 (Weddings Part 3)

At long last we have reached the end of our Weddings series.

Parts 1 and 2 focused on building a working relationship with your client and creating a unique experience for them. Part 3 will conclude our series with a look into wedding trends for the upcoming season.

What’s out: The past few years have seen an abundance of rustic romance: mason jars, barns, antiques and wildflowers seemed to take precedence over crystal, satin, ballrooms and roses. Now the trends are taking a turn back towards sophistication.

Like the rest of the event world, the wedding industry is closing up shop on the short-lived rustic simplicity trend and turning to elegance.

What’s in: Of course, when it comes to weddings, tastes are as diverse as the bride & groom themselves. However, this is what the industry is buzzing about:

Trend #1: Green

Mint Green1 300x300 4 Wedding Trends for 2013 (Weddings Part 3)

The color, not the movement (although going green is also a trend prediction.) Already listed as the color of the year, several wedding experts predict green will be a favorite color theme. Other colors include bright red and violet hues.

Trend #2: Themed weddings

A carnival circus, camping (yep, its a thing), the Wizard of Oz… Couples are beginning to think outside-the-church, going outside of traditional venues and customs and doing things their own way. A wedding in the sky is now just one of many fun themes.

“Themed weddings are becoming more common,” Pamela Neman, Sheraton Fairplex Hotel sales manager says. “It’s less about tradition now and more about the individual couple.”

Trend #3: The English Garden

Nina and Hong 247 4 Wedding Trends for 2013 (Weddings Part 3)

For the past two years peonies and garden roses have been on high demand from many brides and the trend isn’t slowing down now. This year’s bouquets and centerpieces are designed to be lavish in style and rich in color.

Trend #4: Fresh & local fare

According to Elizabeth Creasey, a Los Angeles caterer, fresh and local are two of the most popular requests when planning menus for brides. Though rare, hotels and restaurants with on-site farms are in the perfect position to cater to these events.

veggies 4 Wedding Trends for 2013 (Weddings Part 3) For example, McKinley’s Grille, adjacent to the Sheraton Fairplex Hotel, creates the majority of meals from the fresh ingredients taken from McKinley’s Farm, the onsite urban garden. All catering and dining services reflect those menus.

Colorful bridesmaid dresses, fun and original wedding themes, an abundance of English flora and freshly made gourmet fare seem to be on the horizon for weddings in 2013. Is it really goodbye mason jars, hello crystal vases? Is it a fond farewell to walking down the church aisle and a hallelujah skip down the garden path instead?

Really, the bride is the one who makes the call. It is the venues, caterers and wedding planners who need to anticipate every whim and fancy, trending or not.

But that’s the fun of it.


Event Industry News: Oscars preparations, Staples Center goes vegetarian and Twitter ups the ante

twitter money 1 Event Industry News: Oscars preparations, Staples Center goes vegetarian and Twitter ups the ante

Social media: Beginning on Wednesday, your tweets will have a price sticker on them. Twitter will decide the value of each tweet with a rating system similar to the “Top Tweet” category already on the site. Criteria will likely include number of followers, favorites, and retweets of any given tweet.

The Oscars: Next Sunday brings the brightest and biggest of Hollywood award ceremonies: The Oscars. In preparation for the big event, street closures spanning the length of Hollywood and Highland (and beyond) started this weekend as construction for the red carpet begins.

The Top 100: Nightclub & Bar released their 2013 list of top 100 clubs in the nation. Top destinations include Las Vegas (as expected), Washington D.C., Los Angeles/Hollywood, Orange County and New York.

Staples Center, minus meat: Already praised as “most vegetarian-friendly NBA venue in the country,” the sports arena is shutting down McDonalds when Morrissey, former member of The Smiths, performs on March 1. Per the artist’s request, the venue will shut down all meat eating for the night. Vendors are instructed to take meat items off their menus while McDonalds will close its entirety. This is the first time the venue has agreed to these restrictions. Sir Paul McCartney made a similar request earlier and was denied.

Where to wine & dine for Valentines Day (Los Angeles)

romantic valentines day place setting horiz Where to wine & dine for Valentines Day (Los Angeles)

Photo taken from

So, Valentines Day: Are you the romantic sap who loves all things chocolate, Hallmark cards and roses? Or are you the cynic who turns up his/her nose at the commercialism of the holiday and prefer to live under a rock until February 14th is finished? Or maybe you’re just a panic-stricken dude who is looking for the perfect restaurant for an as-of-now unplanned evening with your date.

Whatever your view on Valentines Day is, if you have a significant other, there’s a chance you’re looking for someplace to dine. Here are suggestions on Valentines Day dining destinations. Whatever your mood and style, there is something for everyone.

For the “we still want to join the crowds” couple:
bigimage5 300x200 Where to wine & dine for Valentines Day (Los Angeles) While private romantic dinners are fun and all, sometimes its nice to have that romantic dinner at a place where you can see and be seen. Luckily, Los Angeles is all about that. Take it to the extreme and visit the rooftops of Downtown Los Angeles at the multi-level Perch. This French-themed lounge is perfect for looking down at the hustle and bustle of Pershing Square while enjoying the quietude of dinner and live music above. There’s plenty to do in the area, from hitting up one of the many trendy bars to getting lost in Little Tokyo for the evening.

For the romantic couple:
DSC 1033 300x200 Where to wine & dine for Valentines Day (Los Angeles) Listed by Open Table as one of the most romantic restaurants in the nation, Yamashiro is a prime Valentines Day destination. Overlooking the twinkling lights of Hollywood Hills, the restaurant transports guests into the Los Angeles version of Kyoto, Japan. Featuring gardens, pools and a peaceful atmosphere, the restaurant is perfect for hand-holding and gazing into each other eyes over a candle-lit meal.

For those settled into their “happily ever after” :

Compressed Restaurant 300x225 Where to wine & dine for Valentines Day (Los Angeles) An intimate fine dining affair may be ideal for couples who have been together for a decade’s worth of valentines. Our very own McKinleys Grille is offering a special Valentine’s Day Dinner. The four-course menu features delicious entrees including Jidori chicken and pan-roasted sea bass. All dishes are created with ingredients fresh from McKinley’s farm, an urban oasis of fruits, vegetables and herbs right on Fairplex campus. McKinleys Grille is tucked into a cozy corner of the Sheraton Fairplex Hotel with romantic lighting and comfortable seating, perfect for conversation over a gourmet meal and a mellow night out.

For the anti-Valentine valentines:

There are a select few who really, truly don’t care that it’s Valentines Day. “Why designate one day to show a person that you love them? Shouldn’t that be every day?” Or maybe its too “mainstream” and “commercialized” or hey, maybe its just too cheesy for a couple to stomach. But no worries. If you’re dead-set on ignoring all the hype, The Boiling Crab is a perfect alternative. (It’s fun. And messy.) Throw on a bib, roll up your sleeves, and eat shrimp, crab, oysters and any other number of messy meals straight from the table. You won’t find candles or rose petals on their tables–they would be smothered by the pounds of shrimp, lime sauce and Cajun fries. The Boiling Crab, located in Alhambra and Korea Town is the place to be for those looking for a unique, memorable way to spend Valentines Day evening.

Event Industry News: The Grammys — rain, LED dresses and talent, event tech and bar trends

The Grammys: Last night the ever-diverse Staples Center transformed from the Lakers’ home arena into the 55th Grammy Awards ceremony. The focus was equal parts awards, talent and technology. From Taylor Swift’s circus-themed opener (“We Are Never Ever, Ever Getting Back Together”) to Best New Artist fun.’s phenomenal performance of  “Carry On” (it rained on stage, people) to Carrie Underwood’s dress all the way to the Bob Marley tribute, this year’s show was an inspiring mixture of talented performances, flawless technology and well-deserved winners. A full list of winners and a re-cap of the night is available here. And let’s not forget the after parties

Social Media/Technology: Facebook will potentially allow users to purchase tickets to events on their site.  Flickr is back, apparently. Only time will tell if it’s the next Instagram or the next Myspace. BizBash introduced five new event technology tools ranging from speaker-to-listener interaction, on-the-go convenience and virtual seminar assistance.

New York Fashion Week: On the other side of the nation, New York Fashion Week (NYFW) has so far been a success, despite the weather.

The 90s called and they’re thirsty: Mixology is the norm but who says “le art” of flair bartending should take a back seat to culinary cocktails? Flair bartending–flipping glasses and liquors in the air to create your drink–peaked in the 90s and is frowned upon in mixologist circles but who’s to say it needs to stay a thing of the past? There are whispers in the industry that the “F word” might be making a comeback.

5 Ways to Keep a Bridezilla Happy (Weddings Part 2)

Bridezilla main1 5 Ways to Keep a Bridezilla Happy (Weddings Part 2) When it comes to weddings let’s be honest: It’s all about the bride. And her mom.

Whether you’re a hotel, a restaurant, a museum or a country club, your willingness to accommodate, communicate and facilitate a wedding is crucial in building business AND in keeping your customer calm.

Here are five tips for keeping even the most temperamental of bridezillas happy:

1. Com·mu·ni·cate
When drafting and reviewing the contract between you and the bride make sure everyone is on the same page. Establish your role: you are a business, not a personal assistant. This is the time to get a clear picture of what the bride wants for her wedding. But signing a contract is only the first step. As a venue host, keep in constant contact with your bride, from day one all the way to the day of “I do.” Schedule meetings throughout the planning process between yourself, the wedding planner and the bride.

Let her know about your venue’s policies regarding all things: catering, floral arrangements, alcohol and fire regulations, room capacity, extra fees, the whole nine yards. Most important, keep tabs on the details. The last thing your client needs is you failing to tell them that the bridesmaids juggling flaming batons down the aisle just isn’t gonna fly.

2. The Center of Attention: Population Bride
Some people act as if its all about them. And in this case, it is. It’s about the bride, the groom and their big day. They are thinking of family expectations, bridal parties, honeymoon, reception, clothing, food, band vs DJ and  then actually paying for the whole thing. Their stress levels are on high so try your best to be understanding. While it’s never acceptable for a bride to be rude, being sympathetic and anticipating her needs will make things easier for her. Remember: This is (usually) her first time planning her wedding. You are the expert here.

3. Operation Organization
Know your stuff. Know your bride’s stuff. Keep up-to-date with preparations and work with her to keep your ducks all in a row. Lock down the number of guests attending, seating arrangements, DJ or band placement, technology needs, parking issues, dining options, noise level, time slots for wedding and reception etc.

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4. Be creative (within reason)
One of my favorite parts about wedding venues is when a blank canvas transforms into something beautiful and original, a perfect tribute to the ceremony about to take place. And it doesn’t happen by magic. A ballroom, a courtyard, a barn, a theme park, a vineyard… whatever your space is, work with your bride to create a space unique to her taste.

Lay out all the options: floral arrangements, linen choices, lighting and other elements of decor. Know your floor space and the various layouts. Chances are, the bride has gone Pinterest-happy and has quite a few good ideas up her sleeve too.

5. Be present
Follow through. From the initial planning stages all the way to the execution of the event, make sure you are available for the bride and that she knows you are accessible. At her beck and call? Not necessarily. Overseer of execution? Absolutely.

A different kind of love story (Weddings Part 1)


0ab7d0f54a9f49d0fc5f6310047cef4f A different kind of love story (Weddings Part 1)

On the surface the wedding industry seems to be all lace and frills and romance and thrills. At its core, this industry is like any other: it’s a business. It’s about acquiring clients, making them happy and building a strong reputation based on previous work.

And yet, the interaction between a wedding planner and the bride is similar to the relationship process.

1. Planner meets client.

Pamela Neman is Sheraton Fairplex‘s catering sales manager. She is the client’s initial contact when exploring Fairplex as a potential venue. The first “date” is spent showing the potential client the various wedding locations on Fairplex campus. This is everything from the traditional hotel and conference center ballrooms to McKinley’s Grille and Farm to the Meritage wine pavilion.

Highlight the best aspects of your venue. One of Fairplex’s advantages is flexible space. “Everyone has a different taste,” Pamela says. “I show them as many areas of our campus as possible.”

2. Planner signs with client.

images A different kind of love story (Weddings Part 1)

If things go well after the initial “date” the client will let you know.  This is where timeliness kicks in. As soon as the client calls or emails, Pamela replies within the hour (no three-day rule for this relationship.) After verbally confirming a partnership, she immediately drafts a contract and sends it to the client to be signed, sealed, delivered, she’s yours.

3. Planner works with client.

After all the paperwork has been pushed it’s time for the fun part: planning. “We review menus and get a feel for what experience they want,” Pamela says. “We write a proposal and see how they like our arrangements. We want to create an experience unique to them, something they will really like” Three months prior to the wedding are food tastings, DJ/band arrangements, the cake and other key elements.

Gorgeous Tribeca Wedding A different kind of love story (Weddings Part 1)

“You need to be organized,” Pamela says with emphasis on the need. “You need to know who the bride’s ‘go-to’ person is, whether its the maid of honor or their personal wedding planner. Start with details and end with details. The little things matter.”

4. Planner keeps client’s best interests at heart.

Know your client on a personal level. “They aren’t just another number,” Pamela says. “They are people. Realize that each client is going to be different… each individual is looking for something different.”

When asked what the most challenging aspect of planning a wedding is, Pamela promptly answered: budget. Unlimited funds are a rarity in this economy. Flexibility is everything.

“The way Sheraton works with tight budgets are with customized menus and spaces; we allow the client to have as much flexibility as possible.”

5. Client marries planner love of their life. Planner looks on with a sense of accomplishment.

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When it comes to working with a client it’s all about transparency, timeliness and building a strong working relationship. Pamela’s favorite part of the job is the personal relationship she makes with her clients. “The social side of event planning helps you see people differently. It is more personal.”

& they all lived happily ever after.

Stay tuned for part 2!


“They’re ba-ack!”

3296 13088 1FTT 150x132 Theyre ba ack!  Yep. Food Truck Thursdays are back and life is good. Start your weekend a little early and bring your family and friends down to Fairplex (aka foodie heaven) for some good eats. Free parking and free admission. All you have to purchase is your dinner.

A variety of Southern California’s most popular food trucks are setting up camp in the lower administration parking lot near the NHRA museum. Grab the grub of your choice, enjoy an outdoor picnic and swing by the farmers market for fresh produce on the way out.

The chow down happens every Thursday fro 5:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. Visit the Fairplex events page for a current list of trucks available.

Happy eating!