Catering Reinvented

Image courtesy of Marcus Hotels & Resorts
 
From corporate dining functions to elaborate wedding events, the essence of successful catering remains the same: You must create unique culinary experiences for guests. What is different this year, though, is how to go about satisfying the ever-changing expectations of your customers. 
 
Utilizing the latest event catering trends at your event is a must, writes David Abers, lead program manager at ITA Group Inc., an event management company in West Des Moines, Iowa. “Today, people are much more in tune with food than ever before,” he says, pointing to the following key barometers:
 
A recent Harris Poll noted that 8 in 10 of US adults watch cooking shows on TV regularly.
Millennials go out to eat more often than Gen X or baby boomers.
The number of millennials who read package labels is increasing.
 
These trends add up to one important thing: The stakes have changed for event catering, according to Abers. For instance, attendees of all generations and demographics love the experience of learning how to cook what they’re eating. Accordingly, consider making food an activity in of itself. A tour of a professional kitchen plus an interactive cooking class of local delicacies can give memories they won’t soon forget. Caterers can turn underutilized areas outside of their venue into an impressive outdoor hotspot.
 
As an example, Meena Purushothaman, executive pastry chef, and Sara Hancock, assistant pastry chef, of Occasions Caterers in Washington, DC, are dedicated to initiatives such as using sustainable and locally sourced ingredients. They teach chocolate techniques such as tempering and making ganache, as well as how to mold chocolate bon bons and infuse flavors into cream for chocolate creations. 
 
According to the National Association for Catering and Events, 2017 will ring in with a new sense of optimism, hope and foods. Culinary expert Rosy Usmani, marketing director with Puff ‘N Stuff Catering in Orlando, says that a concept that is applicable to more than just food, culinary upcycling is the process of utilizing leftover scrap (from prepping), once thought to be unusable, in the creation of other dishes.
 
In another trend, single bite options are easily elevated through creative utensil presentation, according to Usmani. Ideal for both butler passed service or as a small plate, the possibilities are seemingly endless. These mini portions are the perfect sample-size for guests adventurous enough to try offerings they would otherwise shy away from in larger portions. As a bonus, during passed service, guests can enjoy and immediately discard the utensil back to the presentation tray, making clean up a snap.

Seizing the office catering market 

Sizzling Platter in Utah features select items from Dunkin' Donuts.
 
Food can have a positive impact on many aspects of business, according to a recent survey of 1,025 office workers in the United States conducted by ezCater. In a new report titled, “Food in the Workplace: Surveying the Impact of Food on Sales, Productivity, and Culture,” a majority of workers agree that food makes it easier to close deals, keep customers and prospects happy, improve meeting attendance, save time, and attract talent.
 
Additionally, nearly one-third of all office workers reported that their employer orders food for employees at least monthly, but nearly half said that vendors or partners never bring food to their office. 
Workers overwhelmingly recognize that food contributes to positive experiences with customers and prospects. 
 
According to the study, 90 percent agree that food keeps customers and prospects happy, while 80 percent agree that food makes it easier to secure a meeting and nearly two-thirds agree that bringing food to a meeting makes it easier to close a deal. Workers see a clear impact that food has on office productivity. 
 
“Food has always been an important part of business, but it has evolved beyond taking a decision maker out for a meal,” says Stefania Mallett, co-founder and chief executive officer of ezCater. “This research shows the positive impact catered food can provide to businesses, for closing sales, attracting top talent, and more.”
 
Catering businesses are exploring new ways to dig deeper into the office catering market.
 
Sizzling Platter, the Utah-based restaurant management company with nearly 400 restaurant units globally, recently launched its new catering and delivery service, Sizzling Catering. The new catering and delivery service menu features select items from Dunkin' Donuts, including donuts, bagels, coffee, gourmet hot chocolate, breakfast sandwiches, lox, fruit trays and dozens of additional options. In addition to selecting one of several fixed Sizzling Catering specials, customers have the option to add individual food items to their order or build their own customized food pack based on preferred amount and food type. 
 
"Our new service aims to meet the growing demands of businesses looking for ways to simplify their catering and office party needs with the world class product lines our brands have to offer," says Ted Morton, chief executive officer of Sizzling Platter.
 
With this initial rollout, Sizzling Catering is currently offered at three of the company's Dunkin' Donuts locations in Midvale, South Ogden and downtown Salt Lake City.
 
Select Sizzling Catering packages include:
Let's Do Breakfast (Serves 10-20) – This special contains three sets of 24 baked goods (assorted donuts, pastries and bagels with cream cheese) as well as a seasonal fruit platter. 
Let's Meet & Eat (Serves 20-30) – This package contains three sets of 12 baked goods (assorted donuts, pastries and bagels with cream cheese) in addition to 24 breakfast sandwiches, a seasonal fruit platter (serves 8-10) and a yogurt parfait (serves 8-10).
 
Additional add-on items like individual breakfast sandwiches, bagels and lox and even Dunkin' Donuts Munchkins in 25-, 50- or 75-packs can also be added to Sizzling Catering order. 
 
Sizzling Platter currently operates in 13 states and multiple countries around the globe. In addition to Dunkin' Donuts, Sizzling Platter has four other brands in its concept portfolio, including Little Caesars, Wingstop, Red Robin and Sizzler.

The scoop on weddings

Image courtesy of The Sugared Rose
 
In its third annual International Wedding Trends Report, the International Academy of Wedding & Event Planning asked 50 industry experts to weigh in on the hottest trends in weddings for 2017. When it comes to food and beverage, the experts overwhelmingly agree that 2017 will be the year of small portions, interactive presentations, French service, and sustainability.
 
Wedding planner/designer David Tutera, describes the small plate trend he believes will dominate catering in 2017: “We will see more stylized tasting menus with tableside service rather than your traditional full course meals; think refined small plates like artisanal Tuscan flatbreads or shrimp and filet mignon skewers.” According to Tutera, the experience will be more engaging and fun for guests.
 
Celebrity wedding planner Brit Bertino agrees and adds that, “heritage dishes from your ethnic background,” as well as “perfect pairings like tequila and tacos, or milk and cookies will be popular as well.”
 
According to Elizabeth Solaru of Elizabeth Cake Emporium, “The top most popular wedding cake choices for 2017 that we are seeing include fairy tale inspired cakes, botanical inspired cakes, geode cakes, marble cakes, and of course, tall wedding cakes.” She says that metallics are still in, although they’ve changed to shades of rose gold and copper. 
 
Meryl Snow of Feastivities expects that, “Late night bites will continue in 2017 and the innovativeness in the menu and vessel will be welcoming.” On the contrary, she feels that food trucks will decrease in popularity because they clear the dance floor, making it challenging to get the energy of a celebration back.
 
Sustainability will be important to celebrities and every day folks alike. Emma Riddell of Goose and Berry ranks “keeping it local and using local produce” as one of the top 10 catering trends for 2017. She also includes raw foods, superfoods, and interactive family-style or table service meals on the list.
 
Marcus Hotels & Resorts, a nationally recognized hotel owner and management company, offers memorable venue spaces, delectable catering menus and luxurious accommodations to make any wedding day unforgettable. Marcus Hotels & Resorts’ properties throughout the US offer a variety of wedding packages, ranging from a trendy boutique-style wedding in the heart of downtown Chicago to picturesque outdoor rooftop ceremonies and a dream destination wedding in Las Vegas overlooking the Vegas Strip,
 
At the AAA-Four Diamond Hilton Milwaukee City Center, the pre-eminent downtown location allows bridal parties to stay for free during January, February or March weddings in 2017 or 2018. Couples can receive 15 percent off hosted food and beverage to keep a budget-friendly wedding. The newlyweds will also be gifted with a complimentary room night valid during the first year of marriage.
 
In Madison, Wisconsin, known for Badger football and basketball, wedding guests can enjoy a special appearance by mascot “Bucky” Badger and the horns section from the University of Wisconsin–Madison marching band. To make this a true Wisconsin event, the Hilton Madison Monona Terrace offers a classic custom Wisconsin tailgate buffet dinner and local wine and craft beer hour. The special couple will be gifted with custom Mr. and Mrs. matching Under Armor polo shirts and a complimentary wedding suite or certificate for a one year anniversary stay. Guests will receive a custom Wisconsin Badger keepsake.