Here are some of the trends featured, based on in-depth interviews with top caterers and vendors:
Popcorn bars: Elaborately spiced and flavored popcorn has been showing up at events in 2012, and caterers are predicting that they'll see even more in 2013.
Tacos, dumplings and fillings galore: Ethnic isn't exotic anymore; it's just a state of being at events. Caterers are drawing global connections with street-food style innovation, melding Jamaican, Lebanese and Indian into one menu. Call them gyoza, pierogi, empanadas, knodel or momo; fillings wrapped up in dough signify the best of the world in a doughy package.
Bizarre and botanical: Events promoting culinary explorations mean big business for caterers. Goat may not be the protein of choice at a wedding, but events devoted to menu items you might see on Bizarre Foods can make a big splash with guests and are fun for chefs.
Fifty shades of grey decor: In addition to Emerald, the Pantone color of the year, grey is making a comeback for events, with sleek modern materials like metal and acrylic slowly moving in on burlap and vintage decor.
Emulating Top Chef for teambuilding: There's big business in using a commissary kitchen for corporate development events. Modeled after shows like Chopped and Iron Chef, caterers are preparing challenges of menu preparation and buffet presentation—all to boost the collaborative and communications abilities of white-collar professionals.
Wedding desserts are becoming even more diverse and personalized: Just when we thought we'd seen it all, soft serve stations, ice-your-own-cupcake bars and more options for creative flavor combinations are predicted for weddings in 2013.
For more trends from the top caterers in the industry, attend the 2013 Catersource Conference & Tradeshow, March 10-13 at the Mirage Resort in Las Vegas. Best rates available through December 21, 2012: http://www.catersource.com/conference-tradeshow/attend/