Food trends for events - local, healthy and experiential

Chicken dinners and cheesecake are unfashionable, especially in event world. Meeting and event planners are now at the forefront of food and beverage trends, providing event attendees with unique gastronomical experiences. Today we share some of the top food and beverage trends shared by planners, venues and caterers around the country.

Stacy Goldberg, MPH, RN, BSN, CEO and Founder of Savorfull sees some of the following trends in the requests she received from businesses and conferences:

  • Interesting jerky made from varying proteins such as chicken, venison, beef, turkey, pork with different flavors and seasonings, from sweet to savory. 
  • Plant-based crunchy snacks, such as roasted lentils, chickpeas and chips.
  • Foods without anything artificial, clean eating based snacks such as jelly beans and gummy bears without artificial colors or dyes.

David Watts, Director at the Keep Memory Alive Event Center in downtown Las Vegas sees similar request for healthy snacks and alternatives for breaks, including nuts, fruits, yogurt and protein bars. The Keep Memory Alive Event Center is associated with the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, hosting a lot of medical clients requesting non-GMO and organic foods. 

Lisé Puckorius is CEO at the OLC Education & Conference Center, and sees similar trends, and is a proponent of adding in variety, local flavor and experiential stations.

  • Alternative beverages are hot. Coffee and soda aren’t the only beverages attendees crave for caffeine. More attendees want healthy alternative beverages – like soy and almond milk, fruit-infused waters, and green or herbal teas.
  • Infuse your food and beverage options with local flavor. Especially when attendees are coming from out of town. Event hosts are spicing things up by sourcing local ingredients and featuring favorite hometown dishes and specialties.
  • The concept of pop-ups - short-term, temporary stores, markets or restaurants – are big buzz builders. Surprise and delight event attendees with an unexpected food or beverage element to get them up and moving. Some of the OLC’s favorite pop-up experiences have been the arrival of a gelato stand during a break on a hot summer day or a special wine sampling experience during an evening reception.

Puckorius also recommends to be clear on ingredient lists. With many attendees having dietary restrictions or potential allergies, label all food with detailed ingredients to make it easy for guests to choose foods that fits their personal preferences. It will also prevent from question overload during mealtime.

Chalk Point Kitchen in SoHo, New York City is a plant-based, health-focused, farm-to table restaurant that provides catering for conferences and events. The most significant change for recent catering inquiries is that event organizers are looking for healthy options even for catering. As a catering provider, Chalk Point Kitchen believes that the idea of eating healthy is trending nowadays. 

Tracy Bardugon, Catering Sales Manager at Sonesta Gwinnett Place Atlanta oversees hundreds of conferences, meetings and weddings each year.  Some of the trends she has seen develop are:

  • Candy buffet tables! This includes the guests' favorite candies, pretzels, snacks and 
    dipping treats like chocolate and caramel. 
  • Local food and craft spirits that are unique to the area. At Sonesta Gwinnett Place Atlanta we love using local ingredients, and supporting local breweries and distilleries.
  • Farm-to-table menus. Fresh, local and unique is really intriguing and an important asset to a handful of our clients. 
  • Signature cocktails for reception events remain trendy. People LOVE having a special cocktail with a fun name. It makes for a great conversation piece and social media post.

The selfie craze has made it into the food and beverage aspect of events as well with companies like Selffee, incorporating exclusive technology using FDA-certified edible ink to print selfies directly onto cookies or coffee without the use of sugar paper, traditionally used to transfer photographs onto food. 

What is your favorite event food trend? Share in the comment section below. And please do us a little favor and share this post with others, for there’s a good chance that it will help them as they go about planning meetings and events.

Managing dietary restrictions at conferences and events.
Conference food and beverage planning tips.