I love F&B forecasts, because it allows me a peek into what I can be expecting from my favorite restaurants and trendy hot spots in the coming year. This week I sat in on a trends preview webinar from Andrew Freeman, a consultant and strategy guru for the hospitality industry. He specializes in restaurants and hotels, but what’s happening there often migrates into the event and catering worlds. Here are some Freeman forecasts that you can apply to your own trend-setting events next year:
1. We’re really open. The walls between front-of-house and back are continuing to break down. Open kitchens, chefs delivering their creations to the table and guests being invited to participate in the experience all have applications to our industry. Consider asking the chef to come out of the kitchen to introduce the menu to your group, or even passing a tray and chatting with guests. They’ll love it, and remember more than just the food.
2. Blow out the bar. Yes, bar food is becoming even more important. Casual, sharable food, either simple or sophisticated, is the new expectation. Hand in hand with this trend are all-day menus and snacking. Think about mixing up the traditional 10am and 3pm breaks with all-day snacking stations with fruit or other healthy snacks available throughout the meeting.
3. Don’t be a “locowhore” (Freeman’s words, not mine.) Folks are getting tired of getting hit over the head with all the details of what local farms the food came from. Freeman suggests that rather than making a big deal out of an established industry practice, you simply walk the talk. Don’t overpromote. Planners, keep the verbiage simple.
4. Of course, healthy food is always in, but today you need step it up a notch. Gluten free is a must for any event menu. For 2013, expect to see more juice bars with fresh pressed and cold pressed beverages.
5. Food trucks. This trend has pretty much played out in terms of innovation and the element of surprise, but Freeman says they’re here to stay. In fact, the new trend is having permanent sites for them around the city or meeting venue.
6. Reuse, reinvent. We’ve reported on this trend before, but it continues to be mainstreaming into social and corporate events. A trip to the flea market or estate sales can uncover treasures that will make your event shine.
7. Wedding in a Box. Think an entire package for the engaged couple—from tastings and cooking demonstration to a plated reception and first anniversary dinner. The San Francisco Stanford Court launched a Oct. 18 that is all inclusive. Is this what engaged couples want? Only time—and trends—will tell.