Are you looking for food and beverage inspiration for your next meeting or event? Trends continue to evolve, and this year has some pleasant surprises. Read on for our observations on this topic.
Photo Caitlin Abrams, as seen in Mpls St Paul Magazine
Everything old is new again –as the saying goes. What do we mean by nostalgia? Everything from décor to food and drinks, and even restaurants and serving styles. Menus offer traditional items like prime rib, chicken and steak. Drinks that were popular in the 1970’s and earlier are also featured.
Supper clubs are making a comeback. What is a “supper club” you ask? Dating from the 1930’s and 1940’s, it’s a traditional dining establishment and social club combined. Guests would usually come for dinner and stay for the evening entertainment. Friday nights feature a good old-fashioned fish fry, especially in the Midwest.
If you aren’t dining in a restaurant, you can recreate a supper club atmosphere and menu at your event.
#2 World Cuisines
As more people travel and/or relocate around the world, they have the wonderful experience of tasting a variety of international cuisines. This means attendees at meetings and events are often familiar with, and appreciative of, foods from a variety of cultures.
You can “spice up” your next event by offering your guests a unique menu. Here are suggestions from the major continents to get your creative juices flowing.
South America offers delicious foods like Asado (from Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay); Peruvian ceviche; Empanadas from Brazil; Arepas from Columbia, Venezuela, Mexico, and Peru; Cazuela from Chile; Choripan from Argentina; and Encebollado, the national dish of Ecuador.
Asian cuisines are a huge category including sushi (from Japan); Dim Sum (from China); Biryani (from Iran and North India); Satay, curries, and rendang (from Indonesia and Southeast Asia); pho and banh mi sandwiches (from Vietnam); shish kebabs and wonderful stews (from Iran); Nasi Lemak and roti canai (from Malaysia); masalas, coconut-infused curries, biryanis, naan bread, and chicken tikka (from India); all things Thai including tom yum goong and pad thai; bibimbap, bulgogi, kimchi, and ever-popular barbeque (from South Korea).
African foods include tajine and harira (from Morocco and Algeria); bobotie and braai (from South Africa); ugali/sima (from Kenya); egusi soup (from West Africa); jollof rice is a popular dish that each country modifies to make it unique; ful medames are the national dish of Egypt; kifto (from Ethiopia, Somalia, and Eritrea); and matoke fruit from Uganda.
Australia – lamingtons, pavlova, barramundi, New Zealand lamb, and Aussie style burgers.
Europe – many of these dishes are probably already in your menu rotation: paella (from Spain); French breads, pastries, and sauces; gyros (from Greece); pastas and risottos (from Italy); and variety of delicious sausages (from Germany)
This list is in no way extensive, as we could devote an entire book to the wonderful cuisines from each country.
#3 Health and Wellness
Health and wellness is a broad term that covers everything from special dietary needs, food allergies and intolerances, to other health-related considerations. Overall, your guests are eating healthier and including vegetables and fruits in their everyday diets at home. Within reason, they should be able to continue their preferred eating while attending meetings and events.
Special dietary needs - this includes paleo, keto, vegetarian/vegan, gluten-free, low/no sugar, etc.
Food allergies and intolerances – there is a very long list of items in this category. A few of the more common ones include celiac disease (requiring gluten-free); allergies to nuts, peanuts, onions, etc.; and dairy-free.
Religious dietary considerations include halal, kosher, vegetarian/vegan, and seasonal restrictions for many faiths.
Other health-related considerations include no alcohol, low salt, low/no sugar, low/no caffeine, non-dairy alternatives, and whole grain or multi-grain breads.
We strongly encourage all event planners to ask their guests about dietary needs during the registration process. Most caterers and restaurants are well-prepared to accommodate all of their guests’ requests.
In addition to F&B, other health and wellness benefits for your attendees include a quiet room, more frequent breaks to allow for body movement, and time to go outside for fresh air and sunshine. Caring for the whole person’s physical, mental and emotional needs will result in healthier guests and a successful event.
#4 Food and Beverage that's Sustainable yet Stylish
Did you know? 60% of consumers buy products and services from companies that are socially and/or environmentally responsible (Forbes, 2020.)
The overall goal of sustainability is to minimize the negative impact on the environment, contribute to local economies, and give people healthy and nutritious foods. An added benefit of sustainability is reduced costs due to less transportation and advertising of products. This is what sustainability might look like at your next event:
Seasonal foods sourced locally to minimize transportation
Reduce food waste by carefully planning quantities, then finding places to donate food overages.
Reduce/eliminate plastic packaging (water stations with reusable cups, bamboo utensils, etc.)
Chef gardens to provide fresh herbs, vegetables and fruits. Some chefs also have bee hives for flavorful honey.
Meeting and event planners should keep sustainability in mind in all areas of planning, but especially with F&B.
Learn more about Environmental Sustainability and Meeting Planning here.
#5 Staffing for Meeting-Related Vendors
As you have likely read or experienced, staffing in 2023 remains a challenge for most meeting-related vendors. This includes hotels, transportation, and restaurants to name a few.
As of January 2023, 79% of hotels surveyed said they don’t have enough staff. Labor shortages at hotels mean reduced or modified services and amenities, using more technology, and outsourcing to manage shortages.
Airlines are reducing the number of flights to some destinations and eliminating some routes entirely. This means most flights are full and possibly overbooked. Last-minute flight changes are becoming more challenging to achieve.
Ground transportation providers have a reduced number of drivers and vehicles. To best manage this situation, we suggest providing as much detail in advance as possible. While these companies will do their best to accommodate last-minute changes, it may not always be possible. Having a back-up plan will help alleviate stress.
As new staff is hired, the challenge for each vendor is getting their team fully trained. Time is valuable for gaining the full level of experience required in these service-based businesses. The best thing we can do is have patience and understanding.
We are constantly discussing this issue and working to manage our clients’ expectations. Things are not the same as they were in 2019 and before. Recognizing this reality and adjusting to the current situation is vital.
What are your thoughts on these trends? Are you seeing the same things or not? We welcome all comments.
Flawless meetings and events require experts who start with great contracts, plan for all possibilities, and troubleshoot issues in real-time. The LaClare Group is here to provide free tips, tricks, and tools to help you succeed in your next meeting; in-person, hybrid, or virtual!