Last year, in-person holiday parties were on the rise as companies hosted these gatherings as a way to bring people together again after what seemed like an endless period of virtual meetings and remote workplaces. This year, the trend continued, with many workplaces that actively planned catered holiday themed events as the ultimate way to entice the entire staff to return, even if it was just for the day or night, to build back the office culture. And big catered events are not limited to just corporate functions. Weddings, holiday parties and private events – outdoors and inside – have also ramped back up. For operators, it is the chance to regain some of that pre-pandemic magic as across the board customers and guests are craving more elevated, full course experiences, yearning for a bit of real-world party glamour. Catering has the potential to boost sales by 20 percent or more, so it is becoming an increasingly appealing revenue stream for foodservice operators of all types.
It’s a super competitive landscape, however, so operators need creative ways to take events to the next level. Here are some of the top Catering trends that can help guide you towards a successful season:
- Personalization – Customers want experiences specifically tailored to them and their guests, not just a generic, one size fits all solution. This brings us back to the basics – it’s all about the relationship you build with the customer. Listen to them, be flexible and create a menu from the ground up. Exceed their expectations and they’ll re-book year after year.
- Experiential Catering – In today’s social media obsessed world, people are craving unique and memorable moments through inventive menus, theatrics, and activities. You want to create a “WOW” experience that guests will remember and talk about months after the event. Need some ideas?
- Invite a cocktail pro for a quick master class in mixology.
- Set up an “open–concept” kitchen that turns into a form of theater. Let guests get a peek behind the curtain and interact with chefs and see the inner-workings of the culinary team.
- Open-fire/ Live fire cooking – There’s fire and flame – what could be more dramatic?
- Create Your Own Stations – Let guests become engaged in the cooking process. Set up a create your own pasta or pizza station or even a DIY sushi station.
Kenny & Ziggy’s Delicatessen in Houston, Texas has embraced this new movement, hosting a variety of theme nights, from various wine dinners to a Rumanian night with traditional folk dancers, even a Marvelous Mrs. Maisel themed party. To learn more about Kenny & Ziggy’s unique events, click here.
Cultural culinary experiences – Guests really want to highlight the cultures they are from and focus on specific foods that represent their backgrounds. Go international with your menus and explore unique ingredients, unusual preparations, and incredible flavors to create a sense of cultural immersion for guests.
- Farm to table meals – Post shutdown, guests have taken a keen interest in where their food and beverages come from. This is a great opportunity to showcase local ingredients and food that makes a city, region, or state special from a culinary standpoint.
- Childhood Classics – Embrace the nostalgia of comfort food but add a fun, playful twist. Familiar flavors are back in style as people crave dishes that remind them of good memories from their childhood and simpler times.
- Vertical food stations – This is a great way to capture guest’s attention! Doughnut and pretzel walls were a big thing last year, and this trend looks set to continue. Walls can hold a variety of food and drinks, from appetizers to cocktails, and be customized to fit any theme and style of event. These stations invite guests to serve themselves, so they also help free up staff to attend to other responsibilities.
- The Early Bird – While most events seem poised for afternoon or evening time slots, don’t miss out on the important meal of the day! Morning meetings and pre-lunch conferences are becoming ever more popular. Breakfast stations and “refuel” stations are a great way for companies to keep their audience fresh, more engaged, and more likely to fully participate in the event. Plus, brunch is becoming an increasingly popular choice for weddings and private events as well.