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2018 Event Catering Trends: What’s Hot and What’s Not

Event Catering TrendsUtilizing the latest event catering trends at your event is a must. Why? Today, people are much more in tune with food than ever before:

All these trends tally up to one thing: the stakes have changed for event catering.

Simply put, the same-old rubber chicken and so-so hors d’oeuvres won’t leave a great impression on you, your message or your event as a whole.

That’s why event planners need to stay up-to-date on the latest in event catering.

Follow these trends for a surefire culinary celebration.


What’s Hot

Destination-Specific Cuisine

Chances are your people traveled to get to your event. They’re in a new spot and might even want to do some sightseeing on the side. While some people like to check out the city via taxi or subway, others prefer a fork and knife.

That’s why destination-specific food is a huge trend. Give them an experience they can’t get in any other place.

Try this: Hire a native restaurateur to serve up lunch or dinner featuring the destination’s famous foods.


Local Beer and Wine

After your event turns the lights off for the evening, your attendees will want to go out for a drink or two. And just like food, they probably won’t be attracted to the same old suds they can get back home.

Beer and wine from nearby microbreweries and vintners are a must to give your people a truly local indulgence.

Try this: Tie your local dinner together by serving regional beverages.


Smart Menus, Smart People

The food you’re serving makes a real difference to the amount your people learn and can recollect from your event. It’s food for thought—literally!

Participants need to feel alert and ready to engage. And that starts with menu planning.

Try this: Healthy menus are what’s in. Plan your menu around high-protein, low-fat meats such as turkey, chicken, salmon or Omega-3-loaded fish (which have been proven to boost mental health); superfoods, such as kale and avocados; and whole grains.


Grab and Go

At events, your hard-charging teams are there for one reason: networking. A grumbling stomach might be more of an inconvenience than anything else. Give them an opportunity to grab a meal and get back to work—quick.

Try this: Bring in food trucks to let hurried diners get a taste of local flavors on the fly.


Food Experiences

On the other side of the spectrum, event food can be the event in itself. Put food in the limelight of your event through immersive experiences that serve up your message with a side of fun.

Attendees of all generations and demographics love the experience of learning how to cook what they’re eating. Accordingly, consider making food an activity in itself. A tour of a professional kitchen plus an interactive cooking class of local delicacies can give them memories they won’t soon forget.

Try this: Turn underutilized areas outside of your venue into an impressive outdoor hotspot like we did for one client. For more on that, check out our interactive travel look book.


What’s Not

Boring Buffets

Rubbery chicken, iceberg lettuce salad and garlic bread. Yawn! Preset buffets are on the way out, thank goodness.

Hotels like the Hyatt Gainey Ranch in Scottsdale, Arizona, are breaking new ground by letting their attendees choose what they want to be served at mealtime.

Try this: Ban the buffet! Event trends are leaning toward providing real choices, and younger generations are expecting it.


Sugary Snacks

It’s 2:30 p.m., and your attendees have sat through four workshops, two product demos and a keynote. It’s snack time!

Sugar-drenched brownies and cookies—the kind seemingly always next to the coffee carafes—might not be the best idea. These high-glycemic foods might taste good, but the inevitable crash will leave your people zonked and cranky until dinner.

Try this: Snacking is an inevitable part of events, so put the focus on protein if you don’t want to host a post-break snoozefest.


Not Preparing for Dietary Restrictions

It’s a huge disappointment when a participant arrives at an event and can’t actually eat anything that is served due to dietary restrictions. This causes logistical headaches for the participant and takes away from the positive experience they have at the event as a whole.

Try this: Expectations are high to meet dietary needs. During the event registration process, ask if guests have any special dietary needs. Then follow up with them before arriving on site to make sure they are comfortable that they will have meals they can eat—and enjoy. Create specialized menus that take into account all the possibilities: gluten free, nut allergies, Kosher, Halal and more.


Food Waste

According to Feeding America, up to 40 percent of the good, safe food produced in America never makes it to people's plates, and that’s a trend people are noticing. Combatting food waste, both of extraneous packaging and food itself, should be a given at conferences in 2018.

Try this: Donate any leftovers to local food pantries or shelters, and boost recycling by adding more bins and educating participants about what is recyclable.


Truly immersive, strategic events are about engaging with people through all five senses—taste included. But how can you make your events more strategic to drive results for your organization? Learn seven defined strategies for making your event strategic and how events can be leveraged to impact your company’s bottom line in this ebook.


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