The 2019 catering trends have emerged, and if you like the flavor of ‘taste menus’ that allow you to sample a little bit of this and a little bit of that, you’re going to love what’s on the table in foodservice for the year ahead. From futuristic culinary masterpieces that delight consumers who are hungry for new, innovative dishes, to full inventories of ancient spices and grains that date back to the Stone Age, there is plenty of variety for your chefs to sink their teeth into.
What’s New in Catering
Since keeping abreast of what’s new in the dynamic world of catering is essential to your business’s success, here is a rundown of what you can expect to see in 2019. Today’s catering trends give a shout-out to comfort foods of the past on one hand, while catapulting the food industry far into the future with state-of-the-art dishes and desserts made from any number of edible materials.
Nostalgic and Futuristic Dishes are Trending
For an example of the latter, look for ‘cereal milk mania,’ where serving nostalgic-flavored cereal milk with alcohol has become a winning recipe. At the Nighthawk all-day breakfast bar in Los Angeles, for example, customers are taken back to their youth while being provided a grown-up experience with menu selections that include Honey Nut Cheerios with Bourbon, Cocoa Puffs with Vanilla Vodka, and Cinnamon Toast Crunch with Spiced Rum.
And when it comes to non-traditional and futuristic foods, look for traditional wedding cake slices being replaced with cinnamon rolls, customized ice cream stations, pie buffets, exotic fruit trees, donut towers, strawberry daiquiri donuts, as well as unconventional wedding cakes turned into bona fide works of art. Imagine savory hand-painted cake designs and decorations, edible metallic and gold foils embedded in rich chocolate-raspberry icing, dazzling sugar art, decadent dark chocolate swirls, and every topping your palate can picture.
Foodservice Technologies for Your Catering Business
What else is on professional catering to-do-lists for 2019? According to the pros, your catering business should be investing in new foodservice technologies such as electronic inventory tracking, digital reservation managers, systems that streamline the menu selection and ordering processes, multiple digital payment options, and more. The latest in restaurant technology introduces advanced facial recognition software that tracks consumer ordering histories and dish preferences, delivering a more personalized and pleasing dining-out (or dining-in) experience.
Inclusive Catering Expands
Also in the culinary forecast: Inclusive catering continues to expand, with the food-and-beverage industry evolving to answer the growing demand for menu selections that accommodate a wide range of restricted and specialty diets. These include a surge in plant-based dishes and ingredients and recipes that meet the needs of customers who follow vegan, vegetarian, paleo, keto, gluten-free, grain-free, nut-free, dairy-free, and fat-free diets.
Continue to say goodbye to plastics and non-biodegradable catering supplies and cookware and hello to eco-friendly, clean-and-green catering practices that preserve the planet. Foodservice sustainability efforts to conserve energy and combat food wastage are increasingly important to today’s environmentally-conscious public, and the latest trends feature zero-waste cooking policies and practices such as repurposing spent grains and making snacks from rescued bananas.
The Rise of Small Plates
Attention Caterers: Large helpings and platters packed with a smorgasbord of foods are out! The minimalist look is in, featuring clean lines and uncluttered plates, one-bite hors d’oeuvres, mini everything, as well as isolated food stations and specialty kiosks replacing traditional line-up buffets.
From Edible Insects to Exotic Spices
Bugs, anybody? Yes, you heard correctly. Edible insects are now on the menu, cricket flour is trending, and world consumption of sea vegetables and seaweed varieties is on the rise. As for spices, ‘global’ is the name of the game, featuring a growing array of exotic, spicy, sweet, and savory flavors. At the same time, consumers are still clamoring for locally sourced, organic ingredients, fresh home-grown produce, support for local farmers, and healthier menu choices.
Latest Catering Industry Reports
And now, some catering trend reports from the experts in the biz: Innova Market Insights, the acclaimed company that continuously analyses global developments in food and beverages likely to impact the industry, has released their report for what’s up-and-coming in the year ahead. They cite catering to the adventurous consumer as key for 2019, a heightened focus on multisensory foods with an unexpected element, greening up ingredients to feature the plant kingdom, and introducing healthy food alternatives to bread, meat, and dairy. The latter includes an increase in the use of beans, lentils, peas, chickpeas, nuts, seeds, and even insects as protein sources.
According to other experts, your restaurant or catering service should be investing in improved biodegradability, compostable capsules, and mindful menus that serve ‘conscious consumption’ consumers by giving them what they want most – which is, according to some sources, authenticity above all else.
And in the words of the trendologists from the National Restaurant Association, expect to see wild hummus concoctions, globally influenced breakfasts, and a focus on equal rights, food waste, and health-and-wellness.
2019 Breads Make a Comeback
What other restaurant, catering, and food trends do you need to know about for 2019? Well, for one thing, bread is back! And not just any bread, but an A-Z encyclopedia of specialty breads made from ancient heritage grains or from no grains at all, but rather from gluten-free, preservative-free flours produced from legumes, nuts, seeds, cereals, pseudocereals, and fermented sourdoughs. Rising to the top of today’s bread and baked-goods popularity charts, for example, are chickpea flour, cassava flour, and pea flour. But if you are looking to update your menu with new textures and interesting flavors, be sure to also learn how to cook and bake with trending spelt, sorghum, amaranth, teff, and buckwheat flours, among others.
New in Drink Menus
As for your 2019 drink menus, the experts are predicting that consumers will be thirsty for lesser-known wines from unfamiliar wine-producing regions and vineyards. They indicate that customers will also invest in ongoing wine education and what makes a high-quality wine varietal.
Trending Culinary Educational Experiences
And speaking of education, did you know that culinary educational experiences are the new form of dining-out entertainment? With elevated consumer interest in exploring new ingredients and cultural trends, interactive and hands-on cooking demonstrations are all the rage, such as sushi-rolling classes and cocktail tasting sessions. Also becoming popular are tableside laptops that provide customers with a front-row seat to view the techniques and ingredients being used in the kitchen, as well as note cards served with menu selections that describe the source and cooking methods used to prepare various dishes.
Catering to Social Media
Finally, in an age where social media and Instagram reign supreme, it is vital that your restaurant or catering service learn the online tricks of the trade and how to take full advantage of what the Internet has to offer your business. In fact, ‘the camera eats first’ has become the new slogan in the foodservice biz, acknowledging the fact that today’s consumers are hungry for pictures that they love to share with the world. The more your menu selections, recipes, ingredients, service styles, and furniture stand out from the crowd, the more likely your business will get tagged online with the possibility of going viral around the world in a matter of days or hours.
Professional Catering Tip
If you are looking for an opportunity to jump into the forefront and gain a competitive edge, look no further than “augmented reality,” slated to be one of the biggest tech trends of 2019 but which is still in its early phases in the foodservice industry. Showcased by Forbes as a major driver of sales, augmented reality (AR) makes menu selections jump to life by creating a 3D food model that customers can view in-restaurant or as they order from their mobile devices or from home. Described by satisfied customers as a thrilling dining experience where they experience the food as if it was right in front of them, establishments that have already embraced the technology are enjoying a 25% increase in dessert sales alone.
Presentation as Important as Preparation
Finally, keeping in mind that presentation is just as important as preparation in 2019 catering, be sure to invest in virtual iPad menus and digital menu boards that are not only practical and user-friendly, but which are now highly affordable and cost-efficient. You can also use the Internet and your business’s website for marketing purposes, putting a spotlight on holiday specials, featured menu selections of the day, and the sale of accessories such as coffee cups for the car, ‘smart’ travel mugs, and more.
Food Truck Wedding Catering
Finally, keep in mind that food truck wedding catering is trending strong, presenting a lucrative business opportunity for caterers who know the in-and-outs of the biz and how to market it. Learn all there is to know about the industry so that your catering company can step up to the plate and give newlyweds and their guests an unforgettable experience.
Let’s end with this Catering Golden Rule of Thumb:
When the event you are hosting is memorable, your catering business will be memorable as well.