Saturday and Sunday Feb. 8 and 9 the third annual Clearwater Beach Uncorked will attract thousands of foodies, wine connoisseurs and style aficionados from around the region to the Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort and Spa for a food and wine adventure. This year, 25 students from USFSM’s College of Hospitality & Tourism Leadership (CHTL) lent their energy and creativity to this celebrated event. During the fall 2013 semester, Event Management students competed to develop unique marketing and operational initiatives and those winning ideas will be uncorked in February. The students’ ideas are currently being executed by the spring semester’s class.
Tammy Gail, the event producer of Clearwater Beach Uncorked said, “Although Clearwater Beach Uncorked is an already successful food and wine event, we’re always seeking ways to enhance our guest experience. What better way than to use fresh young minds to brainstorm new ideas?” The partnership came into focus with the assistance of Cihan Cobanoglu, dean of the College of Hospitality & Tourism Leadership at USFSM and Chef Joe Askren, director of the new USFSM Culinary Innovation Lab in Lakewood Ranch.
Objectives included investigating the potential for social media support; growing the overall brand awareness; analyzing sponsorship needs; studying how to attract world-class chefs to the event; reviewing technology enhancements; discovering best practices on working with vendors and consumer packaged goods brands, and improving the overall operation on the day of the event.
“It’s a classic case of learning in the real world,” said Chef Joe Askren. “That’s what’s so valuable about this project. It exposes the students to a real event, with all of its moving parts. Making that event succeed demands a high level of organization and management. It takes thousands of details to make an event like this work. Most of our students had no idea.”
Uncorked executive Tammy Gail adds, “There’s no ‘cookbook’ for an event of this nature. To make it work, you need to approach it with an open mind and create fresh ideas, and not simply repeat the old ones. That’s where the ‘wow’ factor comes from. You have to take a creative, problem-solving approach—and that’s the real lesson the students came away with. They exercised their problem-solving skills in areas like crowd control and flow, pinpointing new markets and developing marketing concepts to attract new attendees, and offering some new sizzle.” Gail notes that these are the same problems event and hospitality professionals face, and she was amazed by the students’ professionalism. “I was intrigued by the level of ideas each team came up with,” she said. “The long-term result of the collaboration will be an army of confident and capable hospitality graduates who will be adding their energies to Florida’s flourishing economy for years to come.”
Professional Event Management expertise is in growing demand in Florida’s economy. “Every semester, this class will be involved with several real-life events,” Askren notes. “Stepping out of the classroom and into the event arena is the most important lesson we can give them. It’s a billion dollar industry. The opportunities are there—and our students will be ready.”
Clearwater Beach Uncorked will donate a portion of ticket sales to the College of Hospitality &Tourism Leadership to help develop academic programs, scholarships, research grants and campus infrastructure.
The third annual Clearwater Beach Uncorked food and wine extravaganza is February 8 and 9, 2014, 1 p.m.-5 p.m., beachside in front of the Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort and Spa. For more information, visit www.clearwaterbeachuncorked.com