Connecting through food

Even as technology can keep us more “connected” than ever, there is still much lament about the difficulty of making “real” connections, face-to-face.

Food and drink have always provided means for people to connect, but I wonder if this type of connection has even greater importance in today’s hyper-digital age.

It got me thinking about a couple new promotions in this vein by Sheraton brands. Sheraton Hotels & Resorts launched Sheraton Social Hour globally a couple months ago. One of the program’s hooks is that it features wines with top ratings from Wine Spectator as well as Riedel stemware, but perhaps more important, it was designed to foster social interaction among guests. The brand piloted the program in 19 properties around the world, and 95% of guests said they are very likely or likely to return to another Social Hour.

Similarly, Four Points by Sheraton this summer is hosting Best Brews & BBQ at nine properties in the United States and Canada. The casual Wednesday evening meet-and-greet offers complimentary appetizers and beer from a brand-wide program highlighting local craft beer, but it also affords guests an opportunity to connect. “It’s a formula we think will resonate in particular with midweek road warriors who will appreciate the chance to kick back and refuel,” said Brian McGuiness, senior vice president, special select brands, for Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.

Regardless of whether guests embrace these promotions as a chance to connect with fellow travelers or simply see them as chances for free food and drink, I still applaud the efforts to foster at least the chance for connection beyond just email, text or Facebook message.

What are your thoughts about the evolving importance of encouraging guests to connect at the table, so to speak? If your hotel has tried events along these lines, I’d love to hear from you.