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June 22, 2017Blog

The ABC’s of Food & Beverage Trends

Selecting your food and beverage menu can be a critical aspect to designing your event’s guest experience. Today’s savvy and health conscious guests are in search of quality ingredients- they are expecting thoughtful and delicious food options that give them the energy to endure a productive meeting day.  Below are a few food trends that are or continue to be on the rise. They can be incorporated into your next menu strategy to give your guests an F&B experience that will exceed their expectations.


Avocado Toast – It’s all the rage in restaurants around the nation and your breakfast buffet should be no exception. Offer your guests various bread options (be sure to include something Ezekiel bread or something gluten free), add various toppings based on your budget and group preferences- sliced tomato, roasted mushrooms, smoked salmon, the possibilities are endless. This can also be used on a healthy lunch buffet or converted into a bruschetta station for a reception.

Beets – Everyone knows the nutritional value and health benefits of beets. With a focus on wellness on the rise, it’s important to incorporate healthy food choices into your food selections. Beets can be showcased in a juice, paired with goat cheese in a delicious salad or even incorporated into baked goods…think chocolate beet cupcakes (sounds odd but delish)!

Cauliflower – Everything from Cauliflower “steak” as a vegan entrée option to cauliflower “rice” or mashed cauliflower on your dinner buffet to cauliflower crust for your pizza….it can be a great gluten free healthy alternative.

Donut Wall – While its certainly lacking in nutritional value, it can have a real wow factor at your next event and many hotels are incorporating into their custom break options. Envision a peg board wall loaded with traditional, colorful donuts for guests to enjoy. Be sure to pair with some healthy alternatives as well and for those that won’t want to indulge, it still makes for a good photo opp.

Edible Cookie Dough – It started showing up in grocery stores a few years back and currently has people lining up around the corner in NYC, now it’s hitting the event world as a new exciting alternative to your dessert stations. Much like ice cream, it can be served in a variety of flavors and features various toppings. Most venues will need to outsource this offering, so give your venue plenty of time to procure a product they feel comfortable with.

Farm to Table – It’s a buzz word we have heard for years in dining. For many, it is becoming a way of life and not just a trend. Many hotels and venues have created strategic partnerships with local farms and ranches so they can offer local & sustainable items in their menu offerings. Often, it will have an impact on budget so be mindful when selection food items, but using local offerings has proven to be beneficial to your guests’ health and the environment, it’s a win-win!

Goat Cheese- its popularity has been on the rise for the past 5+ years and its popping up on various menu items across the board. It has fewer calories then cows milk and is rich in essential nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin B, iron, magnesium, potassium and can be a great addition to your salads, pizzas, even desserts.

Honey – It’s not just a healthy sweetener, it can be a real super food & offer guests a “beetox”, especially when leveraging local varieties. You can incorporate into your banquet menus in for form of themed honey breaks (with various teas, parfaits & baked goods) or can be a great compliment to your evening cheese boards or desert offerings.

Infusion Stations – With increased concerns over wasteful water bottles at corporate events, an infused water station is a great way to feature jugs of water with various infusion options. Consider giving guests a company logoed eco-friendly infuser water bottle and offering various fruits & herbs for guests to create their favorite taste combination.

Jerky – has really made a come back. It comes in all varieties….beef, turkey, pork, salmon, even ostrich and is proving to be a high protein, low calorie snacks to offer on break stations. Work with your venue to determine if they can create a house made recipe using local ingredients.

Kale – It’s a superfood that has been making its rounds on every banquet and restaurant menu around the country. Its health benefits are well known but its many used can be underestimated. While Kale makes for a great salad or side dish, it can be used in a variety of creative ways- pesto, hummus, guacamole, soup, smoothie ingredient, pasta alternative and more.

Lettuce Stations – can be a clever way to take your make-your-own salad stations up a notch by featuring several locally grown lettuce varieties to be “snipped” by chef attendants for guests to enjoy with their custom salad.

Micro-brews – With local breweries popping up all over the country and the popularity of gastro-pubs, micro brews can be a great addition to your bar offerings. Bring in a local “beer sommelier” to do a beer tasting, offer beer flights or add a specialty reception station with food & beer pairings.  Similar to wine, beer and even spirits can offer an interactive tasting and reception experience.

Non-alcoholic “Mocktails” – With a greater emphasis on health and wellness, the pressure to indulge during cocktail hour has waned. Work with your venue mixologist to create a specialty drink for those not interested in a traditional cocktail. Use health-promoting ingredients like fresh-pressed juices, teas, herbs, and spices. It can make for a refreshing treat during your evening reception or can even be used as a specialty item during a morning or afternoon break.

Organic – and locally sourced –work with your conference services manager and venue chef to see how you can incorporate these items into your group menus. Attendees are looking for these distinctions on those buffet labels, list the farms that those items are sourced from and be sure to label organic items accordingly.

Purple Food – Once reserved for fancy grocery stores and farmers’ markets, purple versions of our favorite produce (cauliflower, potatoes, corn, asparagus, etc.) are finally becoming more mainstream and can bring some “color” to your salads and sides.

Quinoa – and other ancient grains – faro, millet, bulgur, kamut, spelt – these can be prepared hot or cold, sweet or savory and chefs are putting their creativity to great advantage to these gluten free options much to the delight of adventuresome health minded eaters everywhere!  Pasta who?

Rose – Champagne is a classic but perhaps not a fit in the corporate dynamic.  Meanwhile, Rose – sparkling blush wine – has become the drink of the young and beautiful and is fast hitting the main steam.  Stand close to the bar at your next sponsored cocktail event and you will absolutely hear folks asking for this pink and refreshing elixir! Consider adding a “bubbles bar”’ at your next event to give guest the chance to sample several sparkling wines.

Snowcones – Throwback and kid friendly this icy cool treat is getting action station treatment and upgraded adult flavors!   Perfect for an afternoon break or an outdoor dinner.   Another frozen treat on the horizon?  Boozy adult milk shakes.  Get ready to make those breaks hip and chilled.

Tea – Its subtle earthy and herbal flavor has been invited into the kitchen in all kinds of ways.  Just like infused waters are entering the hydration game so is iced tea with less traditional flavors like fruit and green teas.   Tea flavors can also be found smoking meats and infusing desserts on innovated menus.

Unicorn – This pastel multicolored food phenomenon isn’t a great corporate fit but it’s popular colors could be used for deserts or at a kid friendly incentive event.   Unicorn coloring is not just for Starbucks drinks but appear on brownies and desserts – even kettle popcorn!

Vegan dishes are not just for vegans anymore! Given the shift to gluten free, dairy free and more, vegan dishes prove to be popular alternatives for all attendees.

Whiskey & Bourbon – The turn towards liquors has been happening for a few years – think small batch tequilas and fragrant gins –  now that American stalwart whiskey is getting it’s just due with whiskey and rye samplings and pairings available far beyond their native Kentucky blue grass it’s a terrific time to add a cocktail or food whiskey element to your next menu.

eXcess – Today’s attendees are keeping an eye on portions. Oversized servings of pasta or giant sandwiches are not desirable.  Individual sizes and bites are much preferred.   Buffets can be made of pans of smaller portions of proteins and serve your own side salads and sides, leaving the portion decisions to the consumer.

Y – Generation Y – Born in the 1990s and 2000s are coming up to affect the food trends – one of the first impacts of this second wave of Millennials?  Their foodie connection to social media and all things digital this generation of foodies are the on the forefront of yelping a chef and posting your dinner photos.  This familiarity could soon touch the meeting lunch table with real time social media reviews – #meetinglunchtableyum vs #meetinglunchbuffettskip

Zoodles (zucchini noodles), sweet potato spirals, spaghetti squash – All low calorie, carb-free alternatives to traditional pastas, as a group we can still indulge in those yummy sauces but check the health column when they are heaped on a bowl of ribbons of veggies


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