The Top Nine Latest 2023 Event Catering Trends: Buck the trend for your Event
It is increasingly important that events follow and adopt the latest trends in event catering and the wider hospitality industry. Events continue to change both in their expectations and intentions to appeal to guests aside from the barrage of legislation and policy coming down on the industry. Today’s event buffet is no longer a spread on the table as in the days gone by but rather an experience rooted in professionalism and deep-seated reassurance for the guests such as for example creating opportunities for networking, conversations and interactions whether it be around the food offering or the event theme. The meal experience is now expected to enthuse, provide choice, and deliver colours, textures and contours; all the while allowing guests to enjoy the day’s craft and creativity. The industry is now on course to change forever with increasing guests’ expectations on the one hand and options and opportunities available to event organisers on the other.
Needless then to over-emphasise the vital contribution catering brings to the success of any event or indeed the memorable event experiences guests do take away when done correctly. When organising an event be it a wedding, birthday, a corporate do or otherwise, it’s now expected that you go over and above simply the provision of a meal. A bland meal does nothing to add to an event just as much as one lacking in colours , contours etc. In contrast, a well-crafted buffet menu brings with it creativity in harnessing food tastes as well as complementary colours and textures.
Here we bring you some of the 2023’s highlights for a creative and well-crafted event buffet experience
1. The Green Movement
The global movement for environmental awareness continues to match on with leaders from all walks of life advocating for fundamental change. The Events in Germany or Cumbria regarding new coal serve to reinforce this point. Let’s accept it, we’re all becoming environmentally aware. The U.K. landfills at the same time continue to be filled with food waste and processing waste too. In the years gone by, dumping in landfills instigated a movement towards reduced food waste among many people including event guests. Now, new policy is stripping out single-use process materials in catering production. This requires event planners to be conscious of not only the legal requirements, and optimal food planning but also proactive actions towards ensuring the event activities are of little impact on the environment as possible. Planning now extends to such things as eliminating plastic disposables that ultimately end up in the recycling system.
Guests and hosts now also emphasise local provisions hoping to for action on food miles. Similarly, an increasing preference for outdoor events that won’t require much energy use in heating and lighting is taking hold as opposed to indoor events. The industry now more than ever need to adopt resource planning that shows a smart approach and awareness that extends more widely to issues of policy as well as trends including such things as innovative waste management and more biodegradable and renewable food packaging that guests will be looking for. For caterers, now is the time to position not only as eco-conscious but also use this as an opportunity to drive up sales and credentials but also drive down waste and lower costs all for a greener earth.
2. Pick Me And Go
Yes, the finger buffets continue on trend in 2023 and beyond as has been the case for the last 5 or so years. Similarly, small bowl-fork buffets that provide guests with opportunities to pick and go are a solid attraction. Emma Greenfield the CEO of Benons Catering says “Over 80% of enquiries for our service are for finger buffet provision. This says so much about what guests and hosts are looking for, convenience.” Events continue to increasingly be an opportunity for networking be it among colleagues at work or family members and old friends. It’s a moment to catch up on old times, share ideas informally, filling in the gaps in important questions of the day and those informal breakouts are trending. Perhaps the unintended consequence for hosts for the ‘Pick me & Go’ trend is the opportunity for guests to the choice of what and, how much to have without the encumbrances of a big plate to carry around.
Tip: A well-laid out and labelled food station with self-serviced and signed points and services alongside some background mood entertainment can greatly add to the event.
3. Local and Authentic Showcasing
First off, localisation and nationalisation in food and drinks service are both in trend while the globalised influences continue en-masse. To square this, event providers and hosts need creativity to bring the right balance to an event buffet spread. The argument, therefore, goes that while travelled guests will want to reminisce on experiences gained on their travels, the same goes for those guests that will have travelled a long way to come to an event to indulge in local culinary influences. They want to take the experience back home with them. This is therefore the moment when the hosts and providers need to bring out their best in creativity to bring balance to flavours and textures that are inclusive for all. There can be a multitude of ways to do this including a careful choice of culinary local seasonal specials and hot or cold drinks or indeed the indulgence with a vernacular taste of wines and spirits to inject a powerful local content and statement to your event. Consider local purveyors of fine meets or other ingredients, bakers for the finest local pastries and bread creations or indeed drinks provisions from a local microbrewery or vintner to sure make a statement for a great party experience.
Tip: In the absence of a local choice, consider a regional substitute for even something as widely off as creative homemade non-alcoholic cocktails based on locally grown fruits, and décor with local wildflowers and spices. These are all perfect ways to allow guests to get in on the fun and start conversations on this.
4. Smart Buffets, Smart Guests
We have previously considered the saying ‘food for thought’ — well, literally, a lot of today’s guests indulge in thoughtful consumption all the time. Awareness has been on the increase on recent times of what’s in a dish as part of guests’ thought process even at event buffets. Guests continue to be more cautious and not merely indulging for the sake of it. Today, buffets have to be seen to be healthy and rich in choice and often had along with a narrative. Besides, creativity around locally sourced fresh produce and exotic complementary superfoods are what is becoming important in the increasingly sophisticated and complex process of crafting lasting guest memories. Needless then to say that a well-planned menu and experience that delivers on the increasing health ideas guests expect is essential for events in 2023 and beyond.
Tip: As a golden rule, plan your menu with local content, balanced in ingredients, low on processed ingredients, and fat. Finish it off with carefully curated local fine meats plus plenty of seasonal local and exotic salads and fruits, whole grains, superfoods and healthy snacks; to make for the greatest appeal.
5. Entertainment as You Feed
As mentioned earlier, food entertainment continues to gain wide appeal for many events be it company or private events. It’s fast making its central role of guests attaching an experience to a buffet. Food stations continue to become complex with increasing guests’ expectations. Besides the décor and food carts, they now have to link to entertainment and other activity stations. The food station remains the centre of all immersive experiences as part of your plan integral to the wider event activities. Food also now is becoming an activity in itself by bringing as part of the wider narrative such as by bringing in professional teams to provide an interactive cooking class of local delicacies that undoubtedly guests’ memories will carry away.
Tip: Age-old dishes with a local spin can be a great way to bring fun to an event, especially when added to food stations such as tortilla bars, crepe bars, candy bars, BBQ stations, hog roast stations or indeed pizza stations will create a lot of verve all right in front of your guests.
6. Authentic Drinks Station
It’s now possible to have a full drinks station right in the centre of the event without worrying much about space. Drinks stations can also add to the authentic feel of your event by providing varied options for cold drinks and smoothies as well as coffee lattes, cappuccinos, hot chocolates; or indeed a tea station brewing authentic teas. At the same time the days for hot flasks littering tables are running out, quality crockery and flavourings add flare and to fill the room and bring a Costa feel to it. Besides, many guests will be aware of the health benefits of teas and coffees that will be part of their diet plans already.
Tip: A drinks station will go a long way to assuage some cravings for harder drinks according to research. Quality choices of fresh filter coffees and authentic teas some with flavours will at the same time complement any carefully crafted offering for guests.
7. Inclusive Dietary Menus
Increasingly, guests will have special dietary preferences either due to lifestyle or out of practices and medical requirements. Indeed, reports show that up to 6 in 10 people in Britain have a special dietary requirement. Be it vegetarian, lactose intolerance, halal or paleo diets, there’s a myriad of special diets that may constrain event planning than before. For any event, it’s important to understand all guests’ special dietary requirements for a representative and inclusive spread. A buffet that best suits many guests’ requirements will add to the event experience as there won’t be many frustrations among guests that may feel excluded.
Tip: Separate stations for those foods that will appeal to special requirements will reassure guests. Where this is not possible, a boxed meal for the strictest dietary needs such as gluten or nut intolerance to avoid any contamination can be adopted. In all cases, advance planning will ensure optimal provision for example reassuring those vegetarian or Halal guests if their food was away from the rest of the food.
8. The Coming Of The Travelling Cuisine
Increasingly in the globalised world. many guests’ experiences including cuisines are those from their travels around the world. It is increasingly natural that expectations of some of these experiences back home will add to their experiences of events, perhaps as a starting point for conversations with others. Similarly, internationalisation and the globalised system continue to ensure interconnectedness in supply chains and resulting experiences. This we previously called ‘The Travelling Cuisine’ something that is gaining wide appeal and trend among event catering practice and guest experiences. Hosts and providers, therefore, now can harness opportunities in culinary adventures fusing international cuisines and exotic flavours that complement each other creatively perhaps to complement local recipes for an enhanced experience. This not only is an opportunity to appeal to guests but also to showcase local and exotic fusions and highlights that best complement the event. Guests will often enjoy the choice and will have the experience to take back home with them.
Tip: Creativity will be needed when locally sourced produce is fused with exotic elements for any experience of an event.
9. Tapas, Bowl Foods And Drink Pairings
The convenience of ‘grab and go’ has been discussed already. Complementary pairings of drinks and the right Tapas or Bowl food is not only trending today but also add variety to help appeal and impress. How this can be achieved is only limited by imagination but try to explore for all opportunities for your event – learning through experience. While guests’ conversations will likely initiate from the unique combinations and cuisines, guests will at the same time be learning about new flavours and textures as a result – creating a massive win-win and immersive experience. Taps and Bowl foods, therefore, continue on the upward trend for events.
Tip: The ideal paired drinks are best if fused with local flavours to add authenticity to the buffet. As always, maximum impact can better be gained when each food is paired with its own drink. Add displays for each combo on its own station. Different station locations will encourage guest interaction, while small portions will allow guests an opportunity to try everything without becoming overwhelmed.
About the Author:
Emma Greenfield is the Proprietor and Manager of Benons Catering, a quality professional catering service with a local emphasis. She holds a First-Class honours Degree in Tourism and Hospitality and a master’s degree in project management with a Particular interest in the Food and Drinks Sector. Emma writes extensively about the catering events and food and drinks scenes in the U.K. Contact Emma at firstname.lastname@example.org