By Paul Spano
Food trends are constantly morphing, especially given the growing number of corporate events each season. Not only are the food trends changing every year but the way the dishes are presented is changing as well. Chances are, your guests have grown to expect not just a well-planned and informative event but delicious, well-prepared, high-quality food as well.
With social media and online resources, it’s easy for guests to see what other corporate events are offering so why not try to up the ante this year? This is your chance to surprise them by presenting their favourites in new and unique ways. Here are a few great ideas to help keep your events fresh and exciting on the food and beverage front.
Clean and green
This year, enticing catering is all in the details. With a rise in better-for-you diets, the days of breadbaskets and deep-fried appetizers are fading away and catering pros have been focusing more on being “clean and green.” From vegan to gluten-free, it is common to hear of an abundance of specific dietary restrictions on top of the healthy eating craze. Don’t fret, though—health and taste can work hand-in-hand and you can still create beautiful, unique dishes that are suitable for all diets. Fruits and vegetables can add a great pop of colour and incorporate different levels of texture into any dish. Those who flock to these foods will appreciate the simple and fresh taste and, with multiple substitutions available, the majority of guests won’t even notice a difference.
Touching on another environmental trend and with the emergence of higher social consciousness, the call for “real” food is louder than ever. This means that guests are looking for simple and all-natural menus. The processed days are over and corporate catering should be leaning toward organic meals based on eco-friendly food sources. Guests want more than real food; they want it made by real people. Researching your surroundings and sourcing ingredients from local artisanal shops or farms shows a dedication to community support and involvement. Details such as grass or grain-fed meats, sustainable seafood and additive-free products are increasingly making grand appearances at this year’s events while menus focused on food and waste reduction are also trending. This is creating a new take on classic dishes and is introducing innovative, multi-purpose presentation ideas.
Not only are these options healthier for all, including Mother Nature, but showing some green initiative will be sure to catch the eye of your attendees and create buzz at your next corporate event.
A new take on the classics
There will always be those classic dishes or items that are a must-have at a corporate event. Everyone loves to nosh on a charcuterie board or pick at bite-sized desserts, but the typical presentation can get boring or overdone. Try to display these items in a creative or inventive way to keep guests impressed and excited. Use non-conventional, unusual serving dishes or accessories to present the food. If you’re stumped on how to do all of this yourself, your caterer will be able to help you with this. Brainstorming with a professional can create remarkable results that can shock and awe your guests in the best ways.
Crazy for carts
Are you looking for catering ideas that add a moving element to your next corporate event? Why not try a strolling buffet? It will require some logistical planning in terms of your room layout, but incorporating small dishes such as dim sum, sushi, or appetizers delivered on small bar carts can add an exciting aspect to your event. Your guests will especially love to see the food coming to them rather than them having to leave potential networking opportunities when their stomach starts to rumble. By offering a variety, even the pickiest of eaters will be impressed by the selection. Carts are yet another aspect that can contribute to your theme with an array or shapes and styles. Whether you’re looking for something surprising and funky, or formal and ornamental, you can be sure to find something that fits with your vision and complements your overall menu.
Desserts with a purpose
Even after a big meal, most people can’t resist dessert. So why not offer desserts that are not only delicious, but functional? Desserts can act as advertising for your company—for example, you can serve cake or cupcakes with the company’s logo on them, or dessert bars that nod to a new product being launched. You can get creative and incorporate a variety of dessert stations at your corporate event, featuring cake pops, candy, or late night snacks, for example.
Just say “oui!”
Soup served “French style” is the perfect way to add a touch of class and keep your appetizer fresh and hot with large or small corporate events.This dish is presented as a beautiful garnish in a bowl with the soup broth poured over top before eaten. It’s elegant and trendy with the sophisticated touch of trained servers but can also be translated into a more casual or hip setting depending on plating and garnish placement. Do you want to phase this trend into a food station or moving cart? Using mason jars, an edible bowl, or oversized cappuccino mug can add a fresh to-go or movable element to your corporate event.
Food stations can make a huge mark and fit in perfectly to networking or social portions of a corporate event. This can add variety to your menu and fit into any theme with the design of the station itself. Guests will enjoy being able to watch their food being either prepared or finished right before their eyes all while being able to interact with the chef. By positioning these stations throughout the event, it keeps guests on their feet and mingling rather than strapped to their assigned seats. This adds another aspect of customization and selection that is sure to get attendees talking—not only about the food but also to each other.
Interactive areas are also great opportunities for an educational portion of the event by asking the chef to speak about the food, where it came from and how the recipe is executed. Your guests are then taking home more than a great experiential memory but a delicious recipe to recreate the dish themselves after the event. It’s a goal to have attendees talking about how great the event is the day of, but having them rave about it weeks or months down the line is the true test of success.
In the ever-changing world of corporate events, catering is just one of the important decisions that should be made with a conscious effort to stay on top of trends and guest expectations. It’s no longer enough to just have tasty food and evolving ideas; methods and flavours should be used to keep guests secure in their choice to attend. Whether you’re implementing a cart service or simply promoting local and organic produce, using some of these ideas can keep your catering menu current and topical on both social and corporate levels, contributing to a successful event overall.
About the author
With over 15 years of experience in the hospitality industry, Paul Spano is Senior Catering Consultant and Director of Venue Development at Seventh Heaven Event Catering. With Seventh Heaven, you get quality food, unbeatable service, and refreshing honesty. This is truly a one-stop shop event catering company. For more information visit www.seventhheaven.ca.