13 Catering Trends to Keep on Your Radar

Food and beverage is perhaps one of the most anticipated elements of any event. With in-person events slowly returning, event planners and caterers alike would be wise to try and make the attendee F&B experience better than ever. Being so, we’ve put together this list of catering trends to help you hone in on what matters to audiences now.

Whether you’re planning a wedding, a conference, or an anniversary dinner, these catering trends can help you stay ahead of the curve and craft experiences that people won’t soon forget.

For this blog post, we interviewed experts in food and beverage and event planning to get the inside scoop on catering trends for the years ahead. Here are some of the key questions we asked: 

  • Where do you see as the F&B service trends for the coming year, especially in light of the pandemic? 
  • Will buffets come back? 
  • Will everyone stick with packaged or plated meals? 
  • Are there new trends emerging? 
  • Are you doing any food for remote events? What does that look like?
  • What foods or types of food do you believe will be popular?
  • Do we still see food as an experience? What will that look like going forward?
  • What do event planners need to be thinking about in terms of food and beverage service in 2021 and 2022?

We answer all these questions and more below! 

With the increasing popularity of healthy eating, event planners and catering professionals might want to consider incorporating some, or all, of these 13 catering trends. While nothing is certain, of course, and trends can change at any minute, it’s hard to not get excited about the following topics. 

1. Open concept is here to stay. 

“I think people want to see where their food is coming from,” Omar Torres, Bartender and Food & Beverage Director at Bonsai at Hilton Pensacola Beach, told Social Tables in an interview. “The open kitchen concept, as well as action stations in banquet and catering, will be more popular.” 

Not only does the open kitchen concept look great, but it also provides reassurance that health and safety protocols are being followed. Not to mention the fact that it can provide some amazing visual content for your next Instagram Story or TikTok! 

2. Buffets will be back. 

In his email, Torres goes on to say that “throughout my career, I’ve focused on making buffets more interactive, with cooks preparing salads and appetizers rather than the typical salad bar and handing them over to the guests. I think the future of buffets in both restaurants and banquets will evolve to a more interactive buffet with more culinary presence.” 

Want to do a buffet but need to keep food sealed? Torres has a solution for that. 

“Another option for buffet are premade items already plated with cover, like salads in mason jars.” 

3. Health will continue to be a priority. 

“I think the request for healthy food will get even stronger in the near future, and working close with farmers will be the new norm,” Torres told Social Tables. “More fresh ingredients in your food, like vinaigrettes for meats instead of heavy creamy sauces; sous vide will get more popular, and more greens in your plate.” 

At the moment, Torres says “hot ingredients are and will continue to be: Avocado, lemon, kale, arugula, quinoa, and root vegetables.” 

While there’s room for micro trends like the kind we see on FoodTok, using these as your staple dishes will help simplify catering while still being on trend. 

Also, Torres notes that “Ramen is a dish that’s getting more and more popular, as well as Caribbean-style seafood.”

In beverages, you can expect to see everything from cactus fruits to Asian fruits. Items such as yuzu and dragon fruit are currently in.

5. Pairings will need to be perfect. 

“The new style for restaurants is fun with a great synergy between the kitchen and the bar,” observes Torres. “Now you see chefs more involved on the cocktail menus, and that creates the full experience of food being perfectly paired with beverage.” 

This can be an educational experience when combined with tastings. 

“Seeing that perfect combination of food and beverage along with the science behind it makes it fun and a unique experience,” Torres says. 

6. Alcohol-free cocktails are in. 

These are the new generation of craft cocktails that are taking over the beverage game. This time, though, they are perceived as much cooler than their “mocktail” counterparts. In fact, Yahoo Finance shared research that says web searches for non-alcoholic beverages are up 47% from the same period last year after hitting an all-time low in April 2020. 

7. Free-from foods have become a must. 

Free-from food products are expected to grow at a robust rate over the next couple of years, partly due to the popularity of gluten-free diets. While this category makes up a significant portion of all food products, dairy-free and soy-free are also popular due to their low allergen content.

8. Meats will be supplemented by, or replaced with, vegetables. 

With the rise of plant-based meats, chefs are experimenting with new ways to prepare these nutritious and appetizing alternatives. Even seafood may get a veggie-based swap soon, as long as rising pea prices don’t inflate the costs of artificial meat too much. 

9. Fermentation is fun now. 

With research showing that the gut is a vital part of our health, fermented food like kombucha are becoming prevalent. Not only are they good for our bodies, they’re also becoming an integral part of the catering industry.

10. CBD infusions will be in demand. 

Due to studies of its various health benefits, CBD has become a sought-after ingredient in food and beverage, making it a hot catering trend to consider. Don’t believe us? Take a look at the data: According to a new estimate from the Brightfield Group, the hemp-CBD market could hit $22 billion by 2022.

11. Milk alternatives are a necessity for bars. 

As various milk alternatives such as oat and almond quickly approach the “must-carry” status, events catering to breakfast or offering barista bars should keep cartons of this alternative on hand. Coconut milk may also be in demand as consumers grow tired of the unsustainable practices of the almond milk industry. 

The complexity of food preparation and packaging contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. Moving forward, event planners and caterers will be looking to reduce single-use plastics, improve the sourcing of sustainable food, and so on.

Want to learn more? We take a deep dive into 11 ways to make events more eco-friendly and sustainable.

13. Chips are back and better than ever. 

We’re seeing a resurgence of potato chips, beet chips, and cheese puffs — but in healthier versions. Think less salt, more umami. There will also be organic ingredients replacing artificial ones. Caterers that create their own homemade versions will be in high demand. 

Up next, learn more about how to manage over 20 common dietary restrictions for specialty event catering to perfect your next menu. 

Tip Sheet: New Catering Ideas

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