Catering: the next Big Thing

So what is the next big trend in the catering realm? Below, some experts offer ideas to keep in mind when creating a special event atmosphere and menus.

WHERE TO LOOK FOR THE LATEST TRENDS

Don't only look to restaurants for ideas about menu trends, says Stephen Denison, president of McCall Associates in San Francisco. Also look at where your customers and potential customers are spending their time.

“If you're doing weddings, your client base is between 25 and 35 years old,” he says. Who is educating that client about food?” In many communities it's the grocery stores like Whole Foods and local farmers' markets. At a store like Whole Foods, look not only at the raw ingredients but at the prepared and semi-prepared foods. “When a new Whole Foods goes in, half of its square footage is take-out, prepared food,” Denison says

Look at where your customers are traveling. In the 1980s young people went to Southeast Asia and brought back an appreciation for various Asian cuisines. “Now where is it cheap to travel? South America,” Denison says. “We're seeing a lot of those menu items showing up here.”

The Food Network also has had an important influence, he says. “It's educated people to expand their palates and it's made them more knowledgeable about food. It's made them less intimidated when they work with a caterer.”

Denison says the menu for an event is usually the last thing he plans. He starts with “Why are you holding this party? What do you want out of it?” he says. “Planning the menu falls into place when you've got down everything you want to do with the party.”

EMERGING FOOD TRENDS

  • Asian street food.

  • Artisanal and local products.

  • Regional foods. “There's a difference between food from Abruzzo and food from Tuscany,” says Tanner. “People are interested in the different flavors and profiles from different areas of a country, not just from the whole country. I think that expands into U.S. regions as well; there are different ways of preparing food in Missouri than in Kentucky.”

  • Dark chocolate. Enough said.

  • Healthy food — or at least food that is perceived as healthy. Tanner says a flaxseed spread with different flavors has been a big hit.

  • Snack foods. “There's a lot of interest in hand-crafted, salty products,” says Tanner.

AT THE BAR

Intriguing cocktails and high-quality alcohol of all kinds, plus innovative non-alcoholic options, have become more important as part of an event. You may not serve a lot of alcohol, but what you do serve should be interesting.

  • Mojitos.

  • Seasonal berries

  • Pomegranate.

  • Asian influence. Green tea flavors in alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Lychee flavors.

  • New flavored syrups (in both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks) like desert or prickly pear.

  • Fusion drinks. Serve something spicy that you combine with a sweet flavor.

GOING GREEN WITH FLORALS

  • Heights of arrangements at the extremes, very low and flat or very tall.

  • Wreaths on the back of the chairs, held by two loops, which can be used as favors for the guests.

  • Green flowers that are literally green in color, like a Green Tea rose, Bells of Ireland, calla lilies, gladiolas.

  • Brown accents in floral designs, including star anise pods, cinnamon sticks, tiny pine cones, seeded eucalyptus berries.

  • Wrapping the centerpiece with special paper in order to bring in texture.

  • Rented plants, rather than floral designs, to create a natural ambience.

  • Increased importance of lighting, whether it's pinspots on the centerpiece or flame-free candles within the centerpiece.

  • Layered shapes. Think squares upon squares upon squares.

COLOR TRENDS: BACK TO EARTH TONES

  • Monochromatic color themes in tints so subtle they may not seem like color at all: shale, stone gray, oyster, the palest seafoam or pink.

  • On the other end of the spectrum are deep rich colors like a dense forest green or ruby.

  • Blue. According to many color trend predictors, blue is the color for 2008, whether it's a dramatic peacock or a soft, almost neutral silvery blue-gray.

  • Interest in various areas of the globe influence color just as they influence menus. The warm earth tones we associate with South America and the rich colors of Indian tradition follow the cuisine.

Source: Catersource