This week I had the privilege of working on the Grafton-Roop Wedding. A perfectly orchestrated backyard wedding, nestled at the base of the Rocky Mountains, this wedding had everything you'd expect from two people in love, fully searching to honor God in their ceremony. There were tears, laughter, complete honesty when the bride burst out with "I just want to kiss you right now" in the middle of the ceremony, and, of course, partying throughout the evening!
The idea of being illiterate when it comes to events is the act of hearing a new idea and your first thought is how it won't work. This accusation is harsh but a realistic question in this day and age where meetings and events look differently than ever before. No longer are there attendees at an event, but rather participants; no longer can we classify by demographic, but rather by cycle graphics; no longer can we depend on email marketing to reach the masses.
What do I mean by this:
With this in mind, what trends should we be looking to or considering for the future so that we do not become event illiterate?
"94% of executives believe that events are worth the time and financial investment because they drive revenue, leads and retention." (Drew Neisser, Founder & CEO of Renegade) This is only true if we stay relevant and not event illiterate.
SMALL PLATES & CREATIVE DISPLAYS - gone are the days of large chaffing dishes and ladles, buffet lines that go on for miles, and plates piled high. Instead, allow your catering to be part of the decor with height, color and simplistic displays that lend to many options out at once. Not only will your catering display a level of sophistication, it will tempt your guests to try "just one more bite." (tip: pair this catering display in a room where the focal point is a large center area with soft seating, cocktail tables and various light displays. Your guests will naturally be welcomed in to visit, move around, and stay longer than they expect.)
LOCAL SOURCING - Everywhere you look you will find people more food savvy than generations before; people want to know where their food is from. Fueled mostly by the recent farm-to-table trends, this concept within your own catering set up is one to take into consideration. Many catering companies are already building relationships with local farms to continue these trends for their clientele. Add this to the list of questions for your caterer. This level of detail screams care and intentional thought to your guests with very little effort. (tip: have marketing materials available for the farm you catered from. If you help market them, chances are you'll receive favors in return.)
VEGETARIAN OR GLUTEN FREE - living among the most food-savvy generation ever, you will find many more health conscious choices made involving the vegetarian or gluten free way of living. Caterers will choose to use more ancient grains like quinoa, buckwheat and amaranth - much more interesting to your guests than wheat based flours or even rice pilaf. Serving vegetarian options don't have to be boring either - and certainly don't stop at a crudites platter. You can search raw-food blogs and international cuisine for some creative options. Whatever you land on, these food options will show off both your flare for creativity and the right amount of drama needed to spice up any reception or cocktail hour.
SOPHISTICATED COMFORT FOOD - No matter how health conscious the generations may be getting, nothing can ever replace good ol' comfort food. However, stay trendy by adding some class to those comfort food. Mac-n-Cheese gets a face lift with sun-dried tomatoes, chives and Parmesan cheese. PB&J is now grilled with almond butter and strawberry jam. Grilled cheese sandwiches are now bite size with spinach, banana peppers and bacon melted into the cheese. Put some thought into the demographic and time of year; chances are you'll know what your guests will expect. Surprise them with a variation they'll be talking about for weeks to come.
BEVERAGES - traditional cocktails will continue to make a strong showing, as will craft beers and artisanal wines. However, there is a rise in a wider selection of non-alcoholic beverages and cocktail displays. Chilled water displays, coffee stations, hot chocolate bars are among the most popular choices that we've seen for a few years now. Newer on the scene are non-alcoholic cocktails; consider offering some of these options as a fun twist - Arizona Sunset, Coconut Lavender Lemonade, Millionaire Sour, Ginger Basil Grapefruit Spritzer, Asian Pear Sparkler . These classy cocktails are anything but boring and a sure fire way to keep your guests interested in the whole experience. BONUS! Your bill will be lower without the alcohol added in.
SUMMARY - 2015 continues to prove that catering no longer is an after thought but the star of the show. Serious thought and planning will be seen in catering displays throughout the year. It is wise to adjust your budget and program to accurately reflect the upcoming trends and priority placed on catering this year.