Catering Menu Trends For Unique Experiences

 

Every time I design a menu for a client, I treat it like I’m auditioning for American Idol. I need the initial menu and proposal to stand out, to be unique and exciting but also feel like our brand. An initial proposal to a client is often like a blind audition, if it’s a new client, and we want to make it past the initial auditions, to be invited to “Hollywood Week” ( the tasting) and then hopefully win the whole thing!

Will all these trends be adopted in 2024?  Probably not, but even if they don’t and you’re only able to incorporate a couple into your event designs with your catering partner, you’ll likely appear more innovative and exciting then your competitor and be able to deliver a fresh and unique event experience.

HIDE AND SEEK BUFFET

What if your event appeared to have no food, only because it was out of sight until your guests discovered it among the event furnishings. Using dressers, record cabinets, side boards, apothecary tables is a great way to achieve this, and once discovered can look more than Instagram worthy

I DON’T DRINK ALCOHOL, I EAT IT

Gaining in popularity are spirit infused dishes incorporating some of people’s favourite cocktails. Think Dirty Martini Pasta – with olives, gin sauce and blue cheese, Scotch Infused Popcorn with rosemary and Espresso Martini Tiramisu Cups. The possibilities are endless

MONOCHROMATIC

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This trend we have been doing for some time but is gaining more popularity and is sure to have guests taking out their phones to snap pictures. This also works really well for weddings and incorporating their design colours onto the plate.  This does require your culinary team to get a little creative, or you can borrow our ideas below.

Caviar Wishes

The great thing about incorporating caviar is that it instantly elevates your menu and clients are aware there is a price tag associated with it. It always impresses guests and there are cost effective ways to add a little luxury even if working with a budget.  A little goes a long a way when served as part of a welcome drink on a salt and vinegar chip or done as a ‘toast” in lieu of champagne.

Flavour Flashbacks

Post-pandemic has guests feeling more adventurous (since none could travel for two years) but also craving something comforting with a nostalgic food memory from their childhood and we are seeing these menu items  or event themes increase in popularity. I would recommend incorporating this trend into a cocktail reception or the dessert portion for ease. You can do this in an elevated way like Ramen Friti Bites with thinly sliced char siu and green onion pearls or Tomato Soup Spheres with gruyere crisps or you can embrace the child like feel of this trend with Cereal Ice Cream Sandwiches, Soda Flavored Cupcakes or Coke Float Popcorn with Milk Powder.

Savory Cocktails on the Rise

We are finally seeing this trend become more mainstream. I first created a version of a Caprese Cocktail back at The Catersource conference in 2018 and I’m pretty sure most people were a little reluctant to try it. Now, thanks to places like Double Chicken Please in New York, savory cocktails can be found around the globe and as someone with little to no sweet tooth I hope these stay! My favourites are Whiskey Dan Dan and Chilie, Clarified Pizza Punch, and Thai Beef and Basil Gimlet.

The New Espresso Martini

Your bar staff will love you for adopting the easiest riff on an espresso martini that tastes just as good, The Carajillo. For this all you need is equal parts coffee or espresso and liquor 43, shake, strain and elevate it with your garnish, chocolate bark or shavings, fresh skewered berries, cinnamon bark , toasted pistachios.

Vinyl Bars- The New Speakeasy within your event

This fun and interactive idea works best if you have a venue with multiple rooms, but If you don’t, work with your event rental company to create one. It should be somewhere ideally soundproof – a little tricky to find. Moveable walls and thick drapery worked in a pinch. Your bartender here will work as DJ, playing a small selection of records guests choose. The cocktail they receive is determined by the vinyl album they choose as well as what side.  A Side and B Side cocktail menus with which albums they pair with can be printed onto old 45s to keep on theme. Need some help with this one? Purchase the book Booze and Vinyl from Amazon or your local bookstore to get some inspiration.

In the next year I predict we will also see a rise of third culture cuisine, interactive and edible games at cocktail receptions, Asian inspired dishes,  sheet cakes as table centerpieces, tasting bars at events and micro-region menus.  I’ll save a few more menu ideas in my pocket for my next “audition.”

 

Shannon Boudreau is director of sales and events at Lazy Gourmet in Vancouver. She oversees the sales team and executes hundreds of events a year, ranging from 6 to 15,000 people. 

 

 

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