Given the complexity and size of the Taste, the Illinois Restaurant Association takes the lead on managing the food vendors that participate in the Taste. For the Taste of Chicago 2007, there were 64 dedicated tented restaurants plus an additional 10 restaurants that changed daily in a “specialty pavilion” tent (gourmet items) for a total of 74 restaurants.
Of course, in Chicago certain items will be found at food vendors selected for the Taste, including pizza, ribs, ice cream and cheesecake.
It’s a coveted spot to be selected as a restaurant vendor that participates in this food festival, and criteria includes only local restaurants that reflect Chicago’s neighborhoods. They must be able to handle the volume and have a completely clean status with the city.
Participating restaurants undergo the following:
- Complete the Illinois Restaurant Association Summer Festival Sanitation Certificate Course.
- Chicago Department of Public Health visits booths three times daily.
- Manage the flow of inventory between their booths and refrigerated trucks.
The Taste is a general community event. That means that while “food” is what draws the crowds, it’s the other activities that keep people there. The programming team incorporated the following elements into the overall program:
- Free concerts on multiple stages (national and local entertainers)
- Cooking demonstrations pavilion with top chefs and cookbook authors
- Family village including a children’s stage
- Environmental tent for “green” education
- Sports pavilion with fitness tips (promoting Chicago for Olympics 2016)
- International pavilion (shopping)
- 2-mile walk
- Food suppliers
- Budweiser Clydesdales and their Dalmatian companions
- Amusement rides
- Fireworks program on three days (July 3-5)
- Opening ceremony
The Taste involves several categories for sponsorships, which is a major source of dollars and in-kind support. But corporate marketers and corporate event planners participate in community events like the Taste to reinforce their brand and ultimate their own increase revenue.
Hospitality is an element that some of the sponsors include in their packages, allowing those sponsors to receive favorable access to some seating areas and private tents to host their own client events.
Types of sponsor at the Taste included the following:
- Cellular communications
- Grocery store chain
- Beverage companies
- Retail stores and banks
- Airline and hotels
- Auto maker
- Food suppliers
- Fitness and health care organizations
- City Park District and Public Transportation
Marketers who work on the Taste are in an enviable position because it is the type of event that automatically draws media attention in Chicago and elsewhere, according to Cindy Gatziolis, marketing manager for the Taste. Better yet, media sponsors also help promote the Taste.
That means the Mayor’s Office of Special Events doesn’t have to spend too much on traditional forms of advertising.
Marketing promotes the event by writing dedicated press releases to each area of the event, maintain the event web site and produces the event brochure. These items require working closely with all the other functional areas to document scheduling and content change as they occur.