The event catering market is changing at a faster pace than ever previously seen.
Customers increasingly want greater choice of product, innovative presentation, the ability to customise meals and the reassurance that they are eating ethically sourced food. On the flip side, clients want caterers that can deliver all this quicker and more cost effectively than ever!
Keeping on top of consumer trends can help event caterers to stay one bite ahead of the competition. Here, Marc Frankl, Food and Beverage Director for Amadeus, discusses some of the key trends affecting the industry that clients should consider when choosing an event caterer:
Customers today increasingly want to be able to trace the origin of their food ‘from farm to fork’. In the UK, we’ve seen a sustained desire for high quality British food offerings – there is a constant race now to find something different, artisan produced in the most sustainable way possible. Working with suppliers local to wherever your event may be taking place will ensure visitors receive the freshest and tastiest food possible. Customers will also expect catering staff to be knowledgeable about the food and drink they are serving so it’s worth providing tasting sessions for staff and having suppliers come and educate them on their product.
Wellbeing and nutrition
Across the events industry, one of the biggest trends we have seen is the growing number of visitors wanting a healthy eating option with a particular focus on ‘super-foods’ which provide slow-release energy, are high in omega 3 and low in cholesterol. In addition, customers want to know that food providers are acting responsibly, aiding individuals to make positive food and drink choices that benefit their health through the catering offer provided, whether that be by providing recommended portion sizes, including nutritional information on products or working with conscientious suppliers.
We’ve seen a rise in popularity of more casual dining concepts and a growing trend toward grazing in people’s eating habits – rather than sticking to traditional meal times research shows that we are eating smaller, more frequent meals. We have seen the need for customers at events to ‘eat on the go’ rise in the past few years, as people don’t always have the time to sit down with a knife and fork. These changing patterns in consumer behaviour are just a couple of the things that have helped fuel the growing street food market – which is only expected to expand further in the future.
The visual impact of food is increasingly important to today’s customer. Food suppliers and caterers across the whole spectrum of the food industry will continue to be more creative and innovative in the way that they display their products. In this way, out of home dining – whether that be in a formal setting or eating on the go – is seen less and less as simply ‘a means to an end’, and is increasingly expected to provide an ‘experience’. When it comes to formal events like a conference, the catering offer can be one of the biggest draws for potential new clients and the event organisers themselves. A room is generally fixed in terms of décor, size and location so food can be a real decider both for a new booking, selling a venue and bringing back repeat business.
Rise of social conscience
Customers – particularity those under the age of 35 – are increasingly keen to associate with companies that interact proactively with their local communities and take measures to ‘give back, in whatever form that may be. For caterers, this can mean working with local suppliers in order to keep your food miles as low as possible, providing an apprentice training programme to help aspiring chefs into work or providing compostable and recyclable packaging solutions. Whatever it is, customers want to know how you plan to make a difference.
Customers today expect food to be prepared quickly in order to suit their personal tastes, whether adding extra shots in their coffee or choosing the type of filling or bread for their sandwich. Providing ‘add ons’ or optional extras to add to meals gives the customer the satisfaction of creating their own meal based on their preferences. Caterers should also consider whether they can tailor the food and drink offer to an event’s visitor or delegate profile based on typical demographic behaviour patterns to provide a suitable offering.
Self-reward and Indulgence
As the world’s economy has been fragile over the last decade we have seen trends move towards desire for the luxury and indulgent. In this way, indulgent food offerings have become part of people’s self-reward systems. While people are increasingly adopting healthier lifestyles – for example, exercising more, eating smaller portions or stopping smoking – people are turning to food as their reward system. With this in mind, event caterers should be careful to provide a balance between healthy and indulgent offerings.
Catering for allergens
It’s estimated that over half a million people in the UK have undiagnosed coeliac disease – a figure which illustrates how important it is to cater for people with allergens such as these. Caterer’s today need to be flexible enough to offer different menu options for people with allergens and should think of this when sourcing products. Aside from intolerances and dietary requirements, people are increasingly making lifestyle choices to avoid processed food or too much refined sugar for example, so the ability to be flexible is paramount for a caterer’s success today.