Food is one of the best ways to experience a city, and dine-arounds allow meeting attendees to sample the culture and taste the local flavor of their destinations. Convention and visitors bureaus can help planners pull together an evening that involves minimal hassle but dishes up maximum flavor.
Rock Hill/York County, South Carolina
When it comes to dine-arounds, every request is different and requires a different level of involvement, said Sonja Burris, communications manager for the Rock Hill/York County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Some planners simply want a list of restaurants to share with their attendees. In those cases, the CVB usually provides visitor guides that list area restaurants and include coupons, said Andy Clinton, assistant sales associate. Other conference organizers ask for the whole shebang: help coordinating with restaurants, signing up attendees and arranging shuttle service.
For past dine-arounds, the CVB has reached out to downtown restaurateurs to help plan the event. Each restaurant prepared a discounted prix-fixe menu for meeting attendees, Burris said. The CVB can also help with pre-event sign-ups. For example, 10 people sign up for dinner at one restaurant, 20 at another; that way, the restaurant knows how many people to expect.
Rock Hill’s historic Old Town and Baxter Village, a newer mixed-use development in Fort Mill, work well for dine-arounds. Old Town is home to about 20 restaurants, including Amelie’s French Bakery, where a former bank vault is now a private event room, and Five and Dine, a former five-and-dime store that was the site of a historic 1961 civil rights sit-in.
In Baxter Village Town Center, visitors will find bistros, pubs, a pizzeria, a wine shop and Cupcrazed Cakery, which won Food Network’s Cupcake Wars. The owners of Five and Dine also own Fish Market restaurant in Baxter Village.
Discover Lancaster doesn’t get many requests for dine-arounds, but when they do, the agency’s involvement ranges from simple things — providing a list of restaurants that are open on a Monday night or arranging discounts for attendees — to helping oversee every aspect of the evening.
The 2013 Going On Faith conference wanted a dine-around, and “we completely put that together,” said Mara Sultan, senior sales manager for Discover Lancaster. That involved contacting all the restaurants ahead of time, staffing booths at the conference, making reservations for groups and lining up transportation to shuttle attendees.
As the heart of the city, downtown’s concentration of restaurants and shops makes it a good place to send people for formal dine-arounds or simply to spend a free evening. Anchored by Penn Square, downtown Lancaster is also home to Central Market, a farmers market housed in a charming 120-year-old brick building. Every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday, visitors can sample and buy regional Amish and Pennsylvania Dutch specialties.
Visitors shouldn’t miss one of Lancaster’s claims to fame: the area smorgasbords throughout the county. Smorgasbords are “incredibly large buffets,” many of which are Mennonite-owned and typically serve Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine such as chicken pot pie, dried corn and shoofly pie, Sultan said. Hershey Farm, Miller’s Smorgasbord, Shady Maple Smorgasbord, and Bird-in-Hand Family Restaurant and Smorgasbord are just a few of the area’s options. Discover Lancaster once arranged to bus groups of conference attendees to several different smorgasbords for dinner, she said.