With the demand for new and out of the box catering concepts at events ever rising, we take a look at what is driving the change, and which new catering styles are making an impact.
Gone are the days when delegates could reliably expect the catering at any event they attend to be a sit down meal consisting of the typical meat, veg, and a sauce – often served from a buffet table – which has been a staple of the event menu for decades. Nowadays, many events are leaning to the unusual, with an assortment of styles gaining traction, be it grab-and-go options or menus with a little bit of flair.
So what’s driving this change? The pandemic caused event caterers to have to completely rethink how they provided food at events. Contamination concerns gave rise to a plethora of creative workarounds from traditional buffets. Foods which could be served in containers to each individual delegate, such as bento boxes, were a popular solution. As was easily cleaned and mobile catering concepts such as street food carts, which would allow service staff to hand over food and beverages to delegates with minimal contact. Both of these trends were such a big hit that they’ve stuck around post-pandemic.
The influence of social media also plays a significant role in the shift. People share their experiences online, and unique catering ideas can go viral, generating buzz for both the event and the catering service. This kind of exposure can be beneficial for both for catering companies looking to differentiate themselves in a competitive market and for event organisers looking to create a buzz surrounding their event.
We’re living in an increasingly globalised culture, with more access to exotic flavours and recipes than ever before. There is a growing interest in diverse and exotic foods, as well as a focus on healthier and more sustainable options. This means that, interestingly, both global and local are having their moment right now. Caterers are adapting to these trends by offering a wider range of menu choices and incorporating worldly flavours. Fusion cuisine and the use of local, organic ingredients are also gaining popularity.
The big question is: is this shift in catering styles going to stick around for good? The NEC, Brimingham certainly seems to think so! The UK’s biggest event venue has recently opened a new street food area entitled StrEAT Kitchen, which will provide catering for events held at the venue. Katie Gordon-Hill, Event Manager at Fleet and Mobility Live, the first event to benefit from the new piece, said: “We’re really excited by the new StrEAT Kitchen concept at the NEC. It’s a gorgeously designed, relaxed, and informal setting that we think is much better suited to our event visitors. They can grab bowl food on the go and not have to worry about allocating time from their already busy schedules to sit down and eat.
“We love food that is easy for our event visitors with a fork in one hand and bowl in the other – and menus that will excite them much more than any packet sandwich could. The StrEAT Kitchen is a great move for the team and we look forward to seeing its popularity continue to grow with guests and visitors”