Clever Carly Dives Into Hospitality’s Hot New Trend

One Marriott is rumored to be reinventing the traditional business meeting model, so naturally, Clever Carly was curious!

Well hello there, savvy planners! Clever Carly here. 

When you hear business meeting, where does your mind go first? Do you imagine office professionals seated in a conference room staring at a PowerPoint presentation? Or perhaps a ballroom decked out with table settings and refreshments?

If similar scenarios occurred to you, you’re in the majority. But while that standard corporate event style may be tried-and-true, a group of my colleagues at Charlotte Marriott City Center saw room to innovate the model—to the extent that attendees didn’t feel like they were in a hotel conference room at all.

The City Center, a cultural hub of sorts, boasts a state-of-the-art fitness center, redesigned guest rooms, all-mobile check-in capabilities, a locally sourced coffeehouse with a neighborhood-like feel, several bars and an interactive LG Kitchen.  

While all of City Center’s offerings are changing the way we think about hospitality, the LG Kitchen—with its interactive, “bite-sized” learning courses and residential dining experience—is arguably the most remarkable of all. I sat down with Talib McDowell, the director of guest experience for the property, to learn more about the exciting things cooking. 

Prior to the Charlotte Marriott City Center, there wasn’t necessarily a demand for “residential dining” in meetings. Where did this idea from you and your team come from? 

We were initially inspired by Meetings Imagined—where every meeting should push boundaries and have a purpose. Our main goal? Get guests to collaborate. We wanted our attendees to connect with one another on an entirely new level and, most 

importantly, have fun in the process. With the LG Kitchen studio, we opted to create a comfy, residential-style kitchen (with equipment provided by LG) where our partners could take their meetings to the next level.

So, you just set up kitchen equipment—and let guests go to town? 

No, not at all! We really had to brainstorm ways to bring this beautiful, almost denlike space to life. Our initial thought: Why not make this an experimentation lab where we bring in professional chefs for demos? That idea transformed into a concept called “bite-sized learning,” where the chefs show our guests how to create these five-star recipes step by step. For example, we taught attendees at a particular meeting how to create a North Carolina spice rub one day and a barbecue brisket the next. 

My mouth is watering. So the guests cook their plates, then subsequently devour?  

Not necessarily. One of our primary goals is to ensure our guests are having fun. So why not incorporate a little friendly competition with a cook-off? We frequently divvy guests into groups to prepare the same recipes and then vote the next day to decide which plate tasted the best. 

I bet it can get a little hot in that kitchen with so much competition (excuse the bad joke). Are guests able to sit and relax as well? 

Most definitely! We’re passionate about our North Carolina wine and craft scene, so we often invite attendees to take breaks in the kitchen for cocktail hours. Local vendors will provide the wine, liquor and beer, but instead of just pouring, the bartenders can explain how the drinks relate back to our state and your event. 

With so much eating, drinking and competing, is there time for corporate guests to still, you know, work?  

Oh yes. But the best aspect to this innovation is that our attendees don’t feel like they are working. These amenities make it feel like something you’d be paying for, rather than just another team-

building activity. 

Sounds like the guests (and meeting planners!) are loving this space. 

The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Many of our meeting planners and other local franchise owners haven’t had access to something like this in the past. We show them how to effectively activate the space with amazing talent.

What does the future look like for the LG Kitchen, and the City Center in general?

On top of the tremendous amount of interest from other Marriott property managers, our goal for the following year will be to really bring bite-sized learning to life with live video or online demos. As the seasons change, we will also be updating our menus. But most importantly, we created this hotel not just for our customers, but also for our community. We approached everything we did with that mentality. And as the city of Charlotte has relentlessly embraced us, we will continue to do the same for them. Community will always come first. 

That’s all for now, folks. Check back in two weeks for more helpful tips. You can find me on meetingsimagined.com, and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Until then, happy planning (and tasting)!