Food fads come and go, but trends find their footing and evolve. How are event planners hitting the sweet spot today? They’re designing event menus that are culturally relevant, creative, practical and sustainable. Sounds like a lot of ground to cover in one menu? Not so!
Overall, the primary menu trend for 2020 that we’re seeing (and loving) is that inclusivity is everything. Event planners shouldn’t be afraid to step out of their comfort zone, ask the chef questions, push for creativity and try something new. Here are a few of the latest menu trends we’re seeing in meeting and event planning.
Menu Trends to Serve up at Your
2020 Corporate Events
Customize Your Event Menu
Take your F&B up a notch and deliver your ideal selection of palate pleasers. Opt for a hotel, caterer or restaurant that offers completely customizable menus, presenting a golden opportunity for creativity and even more specific tailoring to your attendees. Aim for food choices that reinforce your event theme, speak to your participant personas, or authentically celebrate a destination. Aside from enriching your guest experience, the ability to carefully customize a menu can also mean a more strategic use of your spend.
Smell, Savor, Sip & See
Nothing creates a premium vibe like a well-designed, experiential food event at your meeting. Think sushi stations, MOET champagne vending machines, donut walls and fashionable food trucks. Foodie shows like Top Chef and world-class events like the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen have made the concept fashionable, but their staying power is simply this – food can be full-sensory fun. On a large or small scale, creating beautiful and innovative food stations allows guests to experience diverse flavors and is a sure way to offer something for everyone – delicately arranged doughnut walls, sizzling tacos, steaming dumplings, wine tastings and more.
Up the Energy
Indulgent and delicious doesn’t need to translate to ‘heavy.’ Experienced, on-the-go, business travelers aren’t vying for nap-inducing food options. Help them maintain their energy to learn, work and connect with colleagues. For at least one meal function, showcase a build-your-own salad bar, offering lighter fare and the perfect moment to add a rainbow of color. Keep ingredients separate to account for food allergies, and be sure to offer a few proteins (like chopped chicken, eggs or chickpeas) that can power up a salad. For breakfast, offer light and trendy avocado toast, Greek yogurt or overnight oats. For breaks, serve a balanced mix of snacks, like cookies and fresh fruit, chips and nuts, coffee and tea or fresh-pressed juice.
Embrace the Mocktail
While your participants might not all appreciate a completely dry cocktail hour, there are plenty of people who do not drink alcohol. In fact – the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) estimates that to be around 30% of your adult group. Also consider that after a drink or two, some people like to switch to an option will benefit their morning routine. Stay on the more inclusive trend and include intriguing alternatives. Non-alcoholic beers, alcohol-free spirits, and home-brewed cocktail syrups are all gaining popularity with venues, these options can keep your menus relevant for your group. And for the alcohol you do serve, be intentional with the options; choose beer selections with a lower ABV, seltzer options with less sugar, and lighter wines to help people your guests feel stellar in general session the next day.
From ingredients to brands, basking in all things local is a great, on-trend way to celebrate a destination. Locavores will relish the fresh, in-season ingredients on event menus and at locally owned restaurants, while local brands can be creatively incorporated into the program. In Chicago, Garrett Popcorn as a snack; in New York City, catering by a favorite food truck vendor (head to Smorgasburg to sample some favorites); in Raleigh, Lonerider Brewing Company; in Denver, mountain trout for dinner; and in Atlanta, organic peach cobbler for dessert paired with Jitty Joe’s coffee. Focusing on the local can not only help generate creative, distinctive ideas in the planning stages, but ultimately produce a more memorable experience for your attendees.
SHOW PLANTS THE LOVE
It’s time to appreciate some F&B options that are often overlooked. For a multitude of reasons, more and more attendees are passing on meat and animal products, and caterers are ready to accommodate. It’s customary to offer a separate plated vegetarian or vegan entrée. But today’s chefs can go beyond blanched beans and get very creative with a veggie-based diet. Consider branching out with plant-based meats or just-so-happen-to-be-vegan dishes. Well thought-out vegan entrées can absolutely enjoy broad appeal, while likely accommodating other dietary restrictions, like allergies, or simply fit the bill for a lighter, plant-based meal in the day.
Learn more in Lime Venue Portfolio's
plant-based menu report
To make food experiences more comfortable for everyone, you might try color-coding your event name badges according to dietary requirements. That way, staff can clearly identify and anticipate the preferences of participants.
Interested in more Event Design trends?
Download our FREE Trends & Innovation Report: