Georgia World Congress Center Launches Flexible Dining Venue for Events

February 21, 2017

With such a wide variety of trade shows and events moving in and out of the Georgia World Congress Center on a weekly basis, it would make perfect sense for such a busy facility to devise a multi-faceted food and beverage venue able to satisfy all kind of culinary tastes and preferences.

Enter Social Table, a flexible restaurant concept designed to suit the unique dining needs of individual trade shows and their attendees.

“Each convention center event brings a new set of attendees who move, see and dine differently,” said Cindy van Rensburg, division president of Levy Restaurants, the GWCC’s food and beverage partner.

She continued, “We recognized an opportunity to craft a more intuitive experience serving guests fresh, locally-inspired menus where, when and how they want it.”

Located in the main lobby where the Terraces Restaurant & Lounge used to be, Social Table is the result of a several-year collaborative research and design process on the part of the GWCC, Levy and its experience design agency, Curiology, as well as ai3, an Atlanta-based design and architecture firm.

Designing the new space and menu involved understanding convention guest movement patterns and identifying several common behaviors, including how different types of show participants like to sit in a restaurant space or roam the exhibit floor, according to GWCC Executive Chef Matt Roach.

“We got an architect on board and worked with the GWCC Authority in really trying to understand what we needed this new space to be as far as the design, how people need to move about the space and then also looking at the industry and trying to figure out what exhibitors, attendees and show managers are looking for in this space as far as how people move around,” Roach explained.

He continued, “Obviously, with convention business a lot of it involves business deals being made, so we had to make sure we had a venue that invited that to happen, as well. It’s right front and center in the main lobby and gets a lot of foot traffic by it, so we thought whatever the space was, it had to be nice and open and bright.”

Bringing that design to life involved removing the old restaurant’s exterior walls and creating a more open and inviting space that includes a 35-seat bar, multiple seating and lounge options, and food stations including a build-your-own salad bar, a “Grab and Go” station and a multi-use food and beverage area serving a rotating selection of hot options, such as house-smoked BBQ, hand-pressed, locally sourced burgers and artisanal flatbreads.

Show organizers can customize the venue’s various dining offerings to match their event audiences, from hearty, meat-based selections to lighter, calorie-conscious fare.

“We actually have several menus that have been developed, so we have lots of ability based on what the show is and can do many different things for many different needs,” Roach said.

The 12,000 square foot space also can be booked for evening networking receptions, with a revamped bar menu that includes Southern twists on classic cocktails such as the Southern Mule, Midnight Manhattan and Lemon Sapphire Mojito.

Besides its menu flexibility and customizable features, the new eatery also emphasizes fresh, high-quality and local flavors, something Roach is especially passionate about.

“We understand in a state-run facility that it’s very important to be fiscally responsible and do the right thing for our community, so early on in the redesign process we worked with the Georgia Dept. of Agriculture to find great products from our local farms,” Roach said.

He continued, “A lot of the menus started with finding a great item versus knowing the item we wanted to serve. Some of it changed up, some of it worked, some of it didn’t, and some (farmers and artisans) are a little too small for the volume that we would need at a convention center, but we found great ways around that, too. It was a really fun experience and it was great to be able to keep as much as we can here in the state of Georgia.”

After nine months of heavy construction, Social Table made its debut just in time for the International Production & Processing Expo, held Jan. 31-Feb 2.

According to Nath Morris, IPPE vice president of expo, the eatery was a great new offering for the event’s participants, as it not only helped keep attendees and exhibitors onsite during mealtimes, but also encouraged more networking and socializing.

“The feedback I received from the attendees and from what I saw as far as the crowds is that it was very open and welcoming and people really used it,” Morris said.

He added, “It was very successful for GWCC because I know it was successful for being part of our show and being there to offer a great dining experience for our attendees.”

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Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? 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As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. 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Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.