Boat Show Food For Thought

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In a smart move to create a better overall customer experience, the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show is making a move to improve its food and drink this year.

On a busy news day, the most recent press release—sent via email as they blessedly all are these days—from the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show organizers would have ended up unread in my trash folder. After all, a new caterer for a boat show isn’t exactly big and breaking high-performance powerboating news.

But with the Memorial Day weekend on tap, Thursday, May 24, wasn’t exactly a busy news day. So I opened the release.

Here’s the short of it: Proof In The Pudding, a 39-year-old catering service with 18 kitchens in the South and Southeast, will be “crafting new culinary and mixology experiences at five leading U.S. boat shows” starting with the 59th annual Fort Lauderdale event Oct. 31-Nov. 4.

Hell, I don’t know about you, but I’m always up for new culinary and mixology experiences, especially at a boat show. Because for the most part, they just don’t happen.

Instead, boat show visitors are treated to the usual assortment of culinary delights that include tragically wilted salads, cold sandwiches filled with gray processed meat, mystery-filled hot dogs, dried-out burgers, crimes against pizza and more gruesome fare—all at steep prices. As for “mixology,” that term is better applied to the change you tend to get back from arithmetic-challenged cashiers than the frazzled bartenders attempting to pour boring weak drinks.

OK, yes, I obviously have strong opinions on such things that go beyond a lifetime of waiting tables and cooking in restaurants during high school and college. To me, the standard fare at most boat shows demonstrates either a woeful lack of understanding of—or complete indifference to (maybe even both)—people actually in the market for a powerboat.

You know, the kind of people you might want to attract to a boat show?

That’s particularly true in the high-performance powerboat segment, where most catamarans, V-bottoms and center consoles start at $300,000. Not everyone has the income required for such discretionary purchases—in fact, that’s a fairly elite group that tends to avoid pitiful wilted salads, cold sandwiches filled with gray processed meat, crimes against pizza and boring weak drinks.

And yet, whether you’re just strolling the docks (after paying admission, by the way) to kill time or a serious buyer with the desire and means to leave a given show with a new boat ordered, that’s what you’re expected to tolerate and pay for. And that is a horrible, to borrow from current service industry jargon, customer experience.

Listen, boat show food always will be expensive because boat show venues are necessarily expansive (as products go, even small boats are big) and don’t come equipped with multiple kitchens and dining areas staffed by caring professionals. You should know that going in. But providing decent expensive fare—rather than overpriced junk—to attendees isn’t impossible. And it would improve the customer experience.

Boat show food is food for thought, and I think it’s incredibly cool that the Fort Lauderdale show and four other events are making an effort to improve their food and drink. And I’m glad that unlike the disgusting quesadilla and I tried to eat at last year’s Miami International Boat Show, the press release about it didn’t end up in the trash.

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Matt Trulio is an award-winning journalist who has covered the high-performance powerboat world since 1995. He wrote for Powerboat magazine for 17 years and was the magazine’s editor at large until it ceased publication in 2011. Trulio is the founder, editor-in-chief and publisher of speedonthewater.com, a daily news site that covers the high-performance powerboat realm. He’s also the former editor of Sportboat magazine.

 

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