Small plates, veggie trays, and new twists on classic comfort foods – none of these things are new, but their presence has remained strong in this year's catering food trends. Catering trends don't suddenly happen; instead, they're slow expansions of ideas from one end of the country (or the world) to the other. Below, caterers share some of their favorite catering trends - and show ways to add dollars to your bottom line while incorporating food trends into your catering.
1. Small plates
Although some are getting a little bigger, smaller plates are still popular amongst diners. Offering portion sizes large enough to experience the dish but small enough to leave room, your diners will get the chance to experience even more of your menu.
2. Fermented foods
Using unexpected ingredients like kimchi, pickles, sauerkraut, kefir and more offers a new spin for traditional dishes and puts the spotlight on fermented foods. Their unique taste does more than promote gut health and digestion - it adds another layer to each dish, one that our experts don’t expect to disappear any time soon.
3. Food trucks
Whether they’re parked at a wedding reception or in a neighborhood park on a Friday night, food trucks are here to stay. Their unique presence, coupled with a laidback appearance and approachable menu, offer a no-pressure way for diners to try something new. A tip from our experts: Small plates with a farm-to-fork approach are a hit and will continue to grow in this space.
4. Local menus
Given that local menus are more popular than ethnic menus in many areas, it seems that diners are content to stay - and eat - where they are. Allow them to celebrate the cuisine and style of a geographic area by incorporating and creating regional, traditional dishes that feature locally-sourced ingredients to spotlight farmers and businesses in the area.
5. The meat-free movement
Presented with an ever-growing list of protein substitutes, more diners than ever are choosing to replace their center-of-plate staples like burgers with meat-free alternatives. In 2019, the meatless meat industry was worth $800 million, had a place in restaurants like Subway and Burger King, and showed no signs of slowing down. Stay on top of the trend and make sure you have plenty of options on your menu, including lentils, quinoa, and chickpeas.
6. Veggie plates
Say goodbye to the boring vegetable plates of the past and hello to a gorgeous array of cut-to-order vegetables paired with a variety of flavor dips, hummus and chips.
7. Food stations
All hands on deck for this exciting trend. It’s not just about an open-kitchen concept anymore - diners want to help! Creating specific food stations are a great way to get diners involved. Options can be simple and traditional, such as oyster shucking, but some of the most creative stations we’ve seen recently include making cotton candy and crostini.
8. Food waste
Reducing waste is quickly becoming a high priority for consumers everywhere, and diners are no exception. As they become more and more aware of food waste, industry leaders need to be prepared to offer more resource-smart options. These could be as simple as serving your food in a different way or as innovative as making new packaging that’s better for the environment.
9. Vertical food displays
Food presentation continues to evolve and the iterations just keep becoming more clever and unexpected. This year, we saw vertical food displays take over the banquet and catering scenes. These original, eye-catching displays no know bounds and can be applied to most types of food, including doughnuts, pretzels, and more.
10. High-end cocktail offerings
High-end cocktails, when made with small batch bitters, elixirs, and decorative touches like ice balls or ice cubes with flowers, can round out a dining experience. With elements such as fresh ingredients and real fruit squeezed in front of diners, bars and restaurants have the unique ability to create go one step further and create a truly interactive experience in their cocktail hours.