17 Oct Event Food and Beverage Trends
In between breakout sessions, networking mixers, and scouring the event floor, attendees head out to refuel. The food and beverage choices available can make or break your event. Don’t get burned by lifeless menu choices that leave your participants wanting more. Today, attendees want food that tastes great and that they feel good about eating. Before signing off on the menu for your next gathering, take a look at these hot food and beverage trends.
Local & Small-Batch
The trend to go local has only gained more steam over the past year. You don’t want participants to have to look outside the venue for hardy, locally-sourced food. Give them a reason to stay by stocking your menu with a reasonable sampling of local fare. Whether it’s cheese, meats, or veggies, people will respond to your efforts to bring in food choices from local growers and farmers.
When it comes to beverages, offer local craft beer options or feature a regional wine selection. And don’t forget those who abstain – ask your local brewery if they offer non-alcoholic brews like root beer or ginger ale. This way all of your guests can experience the style and panache of local brewmasters.
Pros: Putting locally sourced food on your menu (along with a guide to the farmers, brewers, and growers that supplied your food and beverages) gives your event instant street cred.
Cons: Going local comes with a price tag. It will likely cost you a bit more than selecting a menu sourced from mass-produced, large suppliers; however, the respect and satisfaction of your attendees should offset the stretched budget. If you can’t afford to go local for all your food and beverage, select at least one or two items you can locally source. You’ll still get credit for trying and won’t blow your entire budget.
Healthy & Sustainable
Along with local fare, event attendees are also looking for food that won’t add to their midsection or give them a guilty conscience. Fast food-style food and beverage options are no longer the mainstays of conferences, events, and parties. Look for non-processed foods and be sure to offer some food choices that accommodate different dietary needs. Include vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and GMO-free menu items. Offer fresh fruit and veggies, and healthy protein alternatives like quinoa and beans.
The same goes for beverages. Forgo sugary sodas and juices for natural alternatives. Include various water options, such as sparkling or still. Provide limes, lemons, and oranges for participants to add to their water. When it comes to caffeinated offerings, look for coffee and tea from a sustainable source. The key to meeting this food and beverage trend is looking for food and beverage choices that are healthy, locally-sourced, seasonal, organic, fairly traded, and not processed.
Pros: If you’re already going local, you’re one step ahead of the healthy and sustainable game. It basically gives you two hot food and beverage trends from one smart decision. You can gain extra sustainability points if you arrange to donate leftover food to a local food bank. This shows attendees that you’re doing more than giving lip service to sustainability.
Cons: Once again, you’ll probably have to pay more for healthy options that are sourced from sustainable suppliers. However, if you encourage your caterers to incorporate imperfect fruits and veggies that may otherwise be thrown out, you might be able to save a few pennies (and make a big dent in reducing your event’s food waste).
Awesome Alcohol Alternatives
As people become more health-conscious, they’re taking a more moderate approach to their alcohol intake. With that in mind, provide swanky beverage options that make non-alcoholic drinks feel just as special as traditional cocktails. You can go as simple as waters infused with cucumber and mint, or blackberries and basil. Or you can create a full bar menu that features sexy, non-alcoholic cocktails. It provides attendees with all the fun of fancy drinks without any of the potential pain.
You can keep in step with the locally-sourced trend by looking for local soda makers or juicers. You might also choose to expand the coffee and tea bar with cold-brewed offerings or exotic full-leaf teas. With a little imagination, it’s easy to upgrade your non-alcoholic drink options – just make sure you serve more than the usual commercial sodas and flat, boring water.
Pros: Here’s where you can actually make up some of your budget. Alcohol is expensive, and by limiting (or eliminating) it from your menu, you have more dollars to invest in that local, healthy food everyone is clamoring for. Another bonus – no liability worries about people drinking too much before they head home.
Cons: If your event has been established for a while and people are used to having a bar, you may get some flak for cutting down on alcohol. Consider scaling back in stages – this year provide wine, beer and one signature cocktail and next year drop the cocktail all together.
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Smoke & Fire
All the trends we’ve looked at so far focus on the type of food and beverage being offered, but this trend considers how that food and beverage is prepared. Fresh veggies charred on a grill are in high demand, along with blackened proteins and smoke-infused cocktails. As the chargrilled trend grows chefs are getting more adventurous, so why not add charred peaches or apricots to a fall menu?
Scorched bread and pizza, cooked on an open fire or in a brick oven are also popular choices. Some people are even grilling up greens to add dimension to salads. When it comes to beverages, highlight liquors that come with their own smoky flavors like scotch whisky, or add real wood smoke for extra flair. Other easy ways to add smokiness to beverages is to use a bacon or jerky swizzle stick or incorporate a smoky spice like paprika or chipotle.
Pros: Embracing a food and beverage trend that focuses on preparation instead of product can be more budget-friendly. Delicious, smoky smells in the air are also the perfect way to get every attendee salivating in anticipation.
Cons: Relying on smoke or char in your food and beverage selections may limit your catering and venue options. Before setting your heart on a giant outdoor grill, make sure your event space and caterer can accommodate your wish.
Whatever occasion you’re planning for – a company party, conference, or celebration – everyone always remembers the food. Look to these hot food and beverage trends to make sure your attendees walk away with a smile on their face and nothing but awe for the impressive spread you put together.