Mar 17, 2016

Recap of the 2016 VIBE Conference



March 28, 2016


Keynote speaker Howard Putnam, former CEO of Southwest Airlines.

This year, over 200 operators from the top 150 chain restaurants, hotels and cruise lines traveled to San Diego, along with suppliers across the industry, to attend the 2016 VIBE Conference on January 19 – 20. Over the two days, attendees learned about the latest beverage trends through education workshops, beverage tastings, research sessions and lively networking opportunities.

Before the start of the conference, the official charity of VIBE, Children of Restaurant Employees (CORE), invited operators to its annual “Giving Back to Our Own” party on Monday, January 18. During the party, guests bid on a variety of prizes available at the nonprofit’s silent auction. Through the event and its partnership with VIBE, CORE raised $203,000 for families in the food and beverage industry facing terminal illnesses or sudden losses.

On opening day, President and CEO of Questex LLC Kerry Gumas and The Modern Mixologist Tony Abou-Ganim kicked off the two-day event by welcoming operators to the VIBE Conference inside the Hilton San Diego Bayfront. Following the opening remarks, attendees were treated to a motivating keynote session with former CEO of Southwest Airlines Howard Putnam.


pages25-1During his session, Putnam spoke about innovation and why organizations must embrace originality and risk-taking, in order to be successful in today’s industry.

Operators then had access to four workshop series featuring a variety of tastings, research sessions and discussion panels. Top sessions included Palate Trips and Craft Beer Pairing, with Brewers Association’s Julia Herz and Adam Duyle; Annual VIBE Beverage Consumer Trend Monitor, with Next Level Marketing Founder Mike Ginley; The Luxury Malt Class, with author Heather Greene; Crafting a Winning Beer List, with Stephen Beaumont of Beaumont Drinks; and Satisfying our Thirst for Beverages, with NPD Executive Director Warren Solochek. After the sessions, attendees networked at the welcoming cocktail party, while sipping on over 30 delicious craft cocktail recipes prepared by celebrity mixologists.



Event host Tony Abou-Ganim mixes a Margarita onstage.

The following day (Wednesday, January 20), Edward Korry, Associate Professor and Department Chairman at Johnson & Wales University, and Tony Abou-Ganim presented the VIBE Vista Awards to 16 companies for their positive, result-driven corporate beverage programs. Later on, Technomic, Inc. Vice President David Henkes and Associate Principal Donna Hood Crecca spoke to operators about factors hampering adult beverage growth, and discussed strategies for sparking sales and profits. Crecca was then joined by Abou-Ganim to present the VIBE Supplier Awards to 11 companies for their concrete, business-building support as well as service and support performance.

The “Thumbs Up & Thumbs Down” session.

The “Thumbs Up & Thumbs Down” session.

The final workshop series concluded with a panel of the VIBE Vista Award winners discussing their winning programs, with moderator Stan Novack of Sammy’s Beach Bar & Grill. Closing out the conference, operators attended the Thumbs Up & Thumbs Down session. Presented by David Commer and a panel of beverage executives, speakers weighed in on trends regarding liquor, beer, wine and alcohol-free spirits, while attendees were able to vote using the VIBE app that allowed audience participation.


VIBE 2016 Vista Awards recognized the top beverage programs for hotels, cruise lines, casinos and multi-unit chain restaurants during the conference.

Vista Award nominations were submitted by sponsors, consultants, agencies, distributors, suppliers and operators, and were judged on creating positive initiatives that spark beverage sales, innovations that contribute to operational efficiencies, and training and service programs that lead to the highest quality standards and operational practices. All submissions were reviewed by a panel of Johnson & Wales University beverage faculty, staff and alumni.

Awards were presented by Edward Korry of Johnson & Wales University and celebrity mixologist Tony Abou-Ganim.

Edward Korry and Tony Abou-Ganim present the VIBE Vista Awards.

Edward Korry and Tony Abou-Ganim present the VIBE Vista Awards.

This year’s VIBE Vista Award winners include:

Hotels, Cruise Lines and Casinos Award Winners

:: Best Overall – Hilton Worldwide
sponsored by E. & J. Gallo

Submitting for and winning the VIBE Vista award in the Best Overall Beverage Program category was a great opportunity to showcase the Hilton Better Bar Experience Program with its unique and interactive beverage guide. It was very exciting to win.”
–  Shirley Whelan, Hilton Worldwide

:: Best Beer Program – Interstate Hotels & Resorts
sponsored by The Boston Beer Company

:: Best Spirits Program – Marriott International
sponsored by Beam Suntory

:: Best Wine Program – Columbia Sussex Corporation
sponsored by Jackson Family Wines

:: Best Menu Program – Walt Disney Parks & Resorts
sponsored by Campari America

:: Best Special Event Program – Omni Hotels & Resorts
sponsored by Brown-Forman Corporation

:: Best Responsible Alcohol Service Program – Royal Caribbean International
sponsored by National Restaurant Association

Multi-Unit Chain Restaurant Award Winners

:: Best Beer Program – Taco Mac
sponsored by New Belgium Brewing Company

:: Best Spirits Program – BRAVO BRIO Restaurant Group
sponsored by Tito’s Handmade Vodka

:: Best Wine Program – Ruth’s Chris Steak House
sponsored by Palm Bay International

:: Best Adult Alcohol Free Program – California Pizza Kitchen
sponsored by Monin Gourmet Flavorings

:: Best Menu Program – iPic Entertainment
sponsored by Bacardi USA

:: Best Special Event Program – The Melting Pot
sponsored by Edrington

:: Best Responsible Alcohol Service Program – Hooters of America
sponsored by National Restaurant Association

:: Best Overall – Hard Rock Cafe
sponsored by Anheuser-Busch

:: Best Overall – AMC Theaters
sponsored by Infinium Spirits

VIBE Conference recognized the top adult beverage suppliers at the 2016 Supplier Awards.

For the past six years, the VIBE Supplier Awards has invited beverage operators to rate their respective supplier companies on key attributes including business-building support as well as service and support performance, through an online survey. To ensure efficient, fair and unbiased balloting and analysis, survey results were analyzed by research and consulting food industry firm Technomic Inc. Based on company size, winners were then selected in four categories including beer, wine, spirits and non-alcohol beverages.

This year’s VIBE Supplier Awards category winners include:

:: Large company:  Anheuser-Busch
:: Medium company:  The Boston Beer Company
:: Small company:  Craft Brew Alliance

:: Large company:  E. & J. Gallo Winery
:: Medium company:  Ste. Michelle Wine Estates
:: Small company:  Terlato Wines International

:: Large company:  Bacardi USA
:: Medium company:  William Grant & Sons
:: Small company:  Rémy Cointreau USA

Alcohol Free
:: Large company:  Red Bull
:: Medium company:  Monin Gourmet Flavorings