Bringing home the bacon

The one constant in our business is that things change.

Take, for example, the President’s Cup, an incentive program we were planning for our long-time client, US Foods. The program, for 500-plus of their highest achievers, was
supposed to travel to Paris, France in October 2016. But due to security concerns, it was repositioned to The Pan Pacific Hotel and Resort in Vancouver, Canada in the spring of the following year.

The new date, we realized, coincided with the company’s Quarterly Scoop, an event for launching new food products. Well then, it makes sense to fold the new Scoop products into the onsite incentive experience.

Easy, right?

“Not exactly,” recalled Rebecca, one of our Program Managers. “Canada-US customs’ regulations around bringing food over the border involves a lot  of red tape.”

And so began multiple phone calls between us and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. “There was a lot of confusion around the fact that, while we were doing a food product launch, it was a private corporate event, and not for public consumption,” Rebecca explained. And even though the Chef’s Line Schiacciata Sandwich (featuring smoked meat, pickled cabbage and Russian dressing) and the Lava Cakes Drizzled in Berry Sauce, plus the other eight menu items, were US Foods products, not all were made in-house at US Foods.

Chef’s Line Schiacciata Sandwich (featuring smoked meat, pickled cabbage
and Russian dressing)

Which meant each individual item had to be routed separately to US Foods’ Seattle warehouse, where it would be loaded onto a refrigerated truck with all the others, and then driven to the hotel in Vancouver.

The day was drawing nearer and nearer. It was getting down to the threadbare wire. Rebecca was still wrestling with the mountain of customs-related paperwork.

Finally, it all came together! The paperwork was stamped, the products were received and loaded ━ everything was ready… everything except the bacon, that is.

To be clear: This wasn’t your run-of-the-mill bacon. It was all-natural, uncured beef navel bacon smoked over applewood chips, an artisanal item that was to be presented on sourdough, accompanied by lettuce and heirloom tomatoes.

Chef’s Line all-natural, uncured beef navel bacon smoked over
applewood chips – yes, it’s that Bacon!

“When it comes to transporting meat products over the border, the producer needs to supply customs with a special code, which this supplier didn’t have because it was a small, boutique farm,” Rebecca said, adding, “but by this time the menus were set and printed… we had to have that bacon!”

Here at Meridican, we subscribe to the mantra: when the going gets tough, we get creative.

“So, I called a guy,” said Rebecca. “I asked him: “What are you and your wife doing this weekend?”

She offered “the guy,” who happens to work in US Foods’ Seattle warehouse, a deal he couldn’t refuse: You and your wife transport a cooler full of 40 kg of bacon (the limit for crossing the border is 20 kg per person) to Vancouver (a 2 hour 48 minute drive) and in exchange we’ll put you up in the four-star Pan Pacific luxury hotel for the night and include a dinner at Five Sails, the AAA four-diamond award-winning onsite restaurant.

Have bacon, will travel

Fast forward two days. Two of our US Foods chefs are walking along Hastings Street in Vancouver, each pulling a couple of full-sized suitcases. The scene looks normal enough to passersby. But what these passersby wouldn’t know ━ and what you may be guessing ━ is that each suitcase contained 20 kg of boutique beef bacon; and they were being wheeled to The Vancouver Club, where the opening night reception and product launch were taking place.

Suffice it to say, the event was a success and the client loved it. And the beef bacon? Put it this way: the suitcases were a heck of a lot lighter on the walk back.

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