Now that the festive season is over, event and meeting planners have shifted their focus to creating exciting events for 2018. Careful attention to the culinary aspects of events is a sure-fire strategy for kicking things up a notch.
Fortunately, the National Restaurant Association and Trend Hunter have released their annual trend reports so there are many ideas to inspire event planners.
National Restaurant Association emphasizes ethnic cuisine
The National Restaurant Association surveyed 700 professional chefs who are members of the American Culinary Federation. This year, three of the 10 food trends highlighted ethnic influences.
- Traditional ethnic-inspired breakfast dishes
- Authentic ethnic cuisine
- Ethnic spices
This will please participants who are drawn from increasingly diverse backgrounds.
After you have introduced participants to ethnic inspired dishes through appetizers, amuse-bouches and dinner entrees, try some breakfast dishes. Whether its French crepes, Mexican burritos or Jamaican ackee and salt fish, don’t be afraid to experiment.
Other trends that were uncovered by the National Restaurant Association included:
- Affordable new cuts of meat. That’s great news for event planners who have been given the challenge of stretching their budgets. Some cuts to consider include oyster steak, Vegas Strip and Merlot.
- Home-made condiments. What a unique way to spice up your menu.
- “Street” food influences. Dishes inspired by street food add a new twist to culinary fare. Many of them have ethnic influences. Whether it’s dumplings, kebobs or tempura, bring it on.
- Sustainable seafood. Health conscious participants who want to play a role in preserving the environment will appreciate the effort required to serve sustainable seafood. Fortunately, there are companies that specialize in delivering the catch of the day to just about any destination.
Access the full What’s Hot Top 10 Foods for 2018 report
Trend Hunter adds a touch of whimsy
Trend Hunter offers a free version of its 2018 Trend Report that highlights a number of food and beverage trends. The report can also be customized to fit the needs of various event industry professionals.
This year, there are a number of trends that add a touch of whimsy and fun to culinary fare.
- Color-changing blended beverages like Starbucks’ Unicorn Frappuccino
- Blackened Ice Cream Burgers
- Colorful, photo-worthy food with an emphasis on aesthetic appeal (e.g. technicolor grilled sandwiches, tie-dyed pancakes, rainbow burger buns, rainbow sushi)
- Artisanal suites and snacks including, artistic hand-made chocolates, gourmet popsicles, exclusive eclairs, experimental gelato incorporating unusual flavor combinations
- Interactive experiences like digital cooking tables, interactive drinking games
- Alcoholic juice bars—healthy cocktails which substitute vegetable juices for sugary mixers
Speaking of color
Since color plays such an important role in Trend Hunter’s picks, remember that the Pantone Color of the Year for 2018 is Ultra Violet 18-3838. It emphasizes inventiveness and imagination.
Look for opportunities to incorporate this color and other colors from the Pantone Institutes’ 2018 palette into tablescapes and even dishes.
Avoid a flavor-of-the-month approach
While trend reports are a great source of inspiration, never fall into the flavor-of-the-month trap. It is tedious for participants to encounter the same dishes and approaches at one event after another. For example, at one point sliders, which were initially popular, were overused to the point that participants became bored with them.
Carefully consider your audience and the demographic profile of participants when planning your catering.