by By Tom Isler | April 01, 2009

Trade buffetTrade show organizers have a new F&B option at McCormick Place in Chicago: a "bistro" on the show floor. In truth, that's a colorful name for a buffet area featuring the same round tables and chairs that comprise a ballroom banquet. The difference: Exhibitors and attendees can reserve seats and meal tickets ahead of time online, avoiding the uncertainty of finding a place to sit and eliminating the need to go off-site to conduct a business meal.

Pricing is variable. At a recent Health­care Information and Management Sys­tems Society convention, a table for four for lunch was priced at $230 (with 10 meal tickets, allowing for a few seatings); a table reserved for 10 for the entire show went for $1,380.

When the Radiological Society of North America first tested the service last December, 98 percent of the 4,000 tickets were sold to exhibitors. The service met or exceeded expectations of 88 percent of customers.

A spokesperson for the center said the service adds value for exhibitors and attendees and is not set up to generate revenue for show organizers.