I always like to say that restaurant food is like fashion, with trends and fads. The same is true for catering. Whether you own a restaurant that offers catering services or are a full-time caterer, it’s important to stay abreast of the latest trends in dining. Here are 10 hot trends in catering, some of which have been around a long time, while others are fairly new.
Dating back to the 1500s in France, buffet dining is the easiest way to feed a large number of people at once. Buffets are great for large events like weddings. They can be hot or cold, casual or formal, and you can customize a buffet to fit almost any budget.
This trend is also ideal for a large group. Instead of the food sitting on one long table, as with a buffet, the menu is divided up among stations throughout the dining room or event hall. Often the stations are comprised of an assortment of appetizers and other finger foods. Food stations are well suited for a cocktail reception, where people mingle casually about.
Nothing brings oohs and ahhs like a river of chocolate, making a chocolate fountain a favorite at parties, showers, and receptions. You can purchase a fountain from commercial equipment distributors in a wide range of prices. Good-quality chocolate can be pricey, but you can offset the cost with lower-cost dipping items, such as pretzels, fresh fruit, cookies, and marshmallows.
Also known as English Service, family style features bowls and platters of food to share at each table, versus individual plated meals. Olive Garden built its concept around family-style dining. Serving food family style adds an element of intimacy that can be lacking at large functions.
Food and Drink Pairings
How about a wine tasting in lieu of a traditional rehearsal dinner? Or a beer dinner instead of a bridal shower? These types of dinners offer a three-, four-, five- or more-course meal, paired with a wine or beer for each course. Note, these types of meals take longer than a buffet or plated meal, appealing to those who like a slow, leisurely dinner.
Artisan Food and Drink
Artisan food refers to foods that are produced in small batches. However, as there is no regulation on the term, you will see "artisan" thrown around by many large restaurant chains, such as Panera Bread and even fast food chains such as Wendy’s. Like local or organic foods, "artisan" has become a good marketing term. After all, a "handcrafted sourdough baguette paired with an assortment of artisanal cheeses" sounds rather decadent, compared to a plain old cheese-and-cracker platter.
Local foods convey health and better taste and offer good marketing potential on menus. Local foods do offer some challenges, however Fresh fruit and vegetables are not available all year round in many areas, making it hard to have a set menu of local foods. However, this encourages a rotating menu of specials, allowing chefs to flex their creative muscles.
One of the hottest trends in catering is offering menus inspired by the ethnic fusion of street food. From Mexican churros to Spanish tapas and Chinese dim sum, the more international a menu, the better.
Whether it’s an allergy to wheat or a conscious choice, more people are opting out of gluten. There are many health benefits to going gluten-free, and it also serves as an opportunity to experiment with many alternative cooking ingredients such as amaranth, cassava flour, and teff flour.
Cupcakes, mini wedding cakes, and bite-sized desserts are all hot trends for catered events. Even if you aren’t a baker, you can purchase delicate petit fours and other small desserts that are both good in quality and taste.