The catering business is ever-changing, constantly adapting to the latest food and presentation trends. Particularly with the rise of the foodie and Internet-sharing cultures, you can easily get lost in a sea of options and inspirations, especially as you try to one-up your competition with new and exciting takes on traditional foods, food preparation or serving techniques.
We asked pros in the industry to help us crack the code on catering trends that will surely be visible this summer, during peak event season. Here's what we found out.
1. Make It Mobile
Casual, food truck-style dining has taken the country by storm. Caterers can keep up by serving menu items in bite-sized portions on appropriately sized plates and dishes that can be enjoyed while sitting, standing or dancing. By keeping menu items smaller and presentation more interactive, caterers work in tandem with the fast-paced lifestyle of event guests.
John Kinderman, owner of About Thyme Catering in Los Angeles, recommends presenting fare at action stations, which allow guests to interact with chefs and see food being made right on the spot. "What I like to do is serve tapas courses instead of a three-course meal," he explains. "We do maybe five or six different really small portions of unique food fusions."
2. Go Green
Leafy greens like kale, Swiss chard and collards are huge among health nuts and everyday food fans alike, and caterers are preparing these veggies in dozens of new and tasty ways. And these items offer strong eye appeal.
Maurizia Floyd, owner and chef at Nonna Knows Catering in Dallas, says, "Green is the most important color you can have on your plate. It's something that just pops on your dish and makes you salivate when you see it." She's particularly fond of using mint as an herb in both sweet and savory menu items, in a signature drink or as a garnish.
3. Get Travel-Inspired
"Because people are becoming more well-traveled now, they are experimenting with new flavors," says Jim Hagy of Chef's Market in Nashville. As an example, he cites the recent popularity of the sweet and savory Vietnamese banh mi sandwich in Music City.
Now's the perfect time to get inspired by more daring ingredients, like strong spices or untraditional proteins. "Nothing's really out in terms of ingredients," says Jackie Tan of Neuman's Kitchen in New York City. "People are more experimental now and willing to try new things, whether that's pâté or octopus." Go the extra step and take on international serving styles like the hands-on etiquette of Indian dining or an interactive sushi bar.
4. Make Dessert Nostalgic
By taking the inspiration of classics and giving them a modern spin, caterers stay ahead of the dessert curve. The traditional three-tier cake of the past is being replaced by other classics served with a twist: mini donuts, personal pies and cookies with milk shots are the new cool in sweet treats.
This is even true for weddings, says Tan. "People are forgoing wedding cake all together, coming up with dessert stations, frosting shots or anything on a stick."
5. Brunch for Dinner
"Brunch is one of those things that's more social," Floyd says. Serving brunch foods and beverages at a non-brunch hour provides a unique and playful catered experience.
Pair menu items like silver-dollar pancakes, biscuits and gravy, or sweet potato hash with a Bellini or Mimosa drink option for a meal that guests are sure to rave about long after they're done.
Whether you're catering a corporate event for 1,000 or an intimate wedding for 25, get inspired by these top trends and create the perfect event experience for your clients and guests.