The Next Big Thing in Catering Menus

Outdoor catered event

In-person events are carefully coming back to life and bringing with them exciting new trends on the catering menu.  These new trends are also being coupled with some cautionary steps to keep guests, hosts, and catering and venue staff safe.  While it’s true that the pandemic reshaped the way we think about gathering, eating and drinking together, it has also created some exciting new opportunities to make your next catered event one to remember.

COVID-conscience catering

It’s becoming more and more common for staff and guests to be required to show proof of COVID vaccination or a negative COVID test result before entering an event venue.  Once there, it’s possible that everyone will be masked, and that guests will experience “COVID-Conscience Catering.”  This means a focus on more passed hors d’oeuvres, and individual servings rather than large format presentations.

Individual everything

Individual servings are the biggest trend to emerge from the pandemic.  Safe-service for one includes things like personal charcuterie plates, mini salad cups, gazpacho shooters, mason jar crudités, and skewers galore.  Boxed meals are also growing in popularity.  Caterers are revising the format of the traditional Chef station into beautiful, individual portions.

Messina's individual plated appetizers

Comfort foods remain a top choice

Comfort foods have always had a place on catering menus, but now more than ever, they are a go-to for events both large and small.  Carb-heavy dishes harken back to a more carefree time, and are one indulgence we can all take comfort in.  From macaroni and cheese to pizzas to biscuits and gravy and sliders, a return to appetizers and entrees that focus on comfort is definitely here to stay.  On the catering menu, they enjoy an elevated status in both the way they are prepared and the way in which they are served.  New Orleans caterer Messina’s Catering and Events have made comfort foods a mainstay on all of their catering menus since they began in 1961.  For instance, they’ve elevated the classic grilled cheese and tomato soup by creating shooters filled with creamy tomato bisque, topped with squares of gourmet grilled cheese.

Messina's gourmet sliders

The great outdoors is king

Outdoor events combine fresh air, sunshine, gentle breezes, beautiful foliage and blooms, and breathtaking views; along with safety!  The trend towards outdoor events and garden parties is not new, but it’s seen a renewed focus with COVID.  We all know that the CDC has deemed outdoor spaces safer than indoor ones during a pandemic, therefore many events have been moving outdoors.  The key is to find an outdoor space that works in any weather. Extra care needs to be taken in the event planning stages to choose the right venue, catering menu, and the right space layout.  From rooftops, to waterfront, to garden settings, outdoor celebrations bring a fun, and unique air about them.

Messina's outdoor event

Free-from foods are now mainstream

Dietary restrictions on catering menus is another new normal. According to CVent, gluten-free foods are forecast to see an annual growth rate of 8.1 percent between now and 2026.  Right behind them are other free-from foods that are gaining in popularity, including soy-free and dairy-free.  Plant-based meat alternatives are also becoming more and more common on catering menus as peas, cashews, almonds, mushroom, avocados, and beets take the place of burgers, steaks and chicken.  In fact, the plant-based protein industry is anticipated to generate $85 billion by the year 2035, so expect to see it more and more on catering menus for all kinds of events.  Plus, the rising cost of meat makes plant-based dishes even more palatable when it comes to the catering budget. And vegetarian dishes are now consuming more of the menu than just for those few guests that request a vegetarian option.  People are choosing to reduce or eliminate animal products from their diets for a variety of reasons.  Vegetarian dishes can be so delicious and creative that even the staunchest of meat eaters will want to partake!

More reliance on native ingredients

Caterers like Messina’s have long known that fresh and local is the best way to craft a catering menu that is sure to please every palette.  That’s why you’ll find a New Orleans bounty of seafood on many of their catering menus.  Everything from alligator to oysters, crab cakes to redfish often steal the show.  Locally sourced, sustainable, fresh ingredients are one catering trend that is here to stay, much to the delight of the taste buds of event guests.

Messina's local oysters

Miniature foods have big impact

Over the past few years, plated, sit-down meals are giving way to miniature versions of the larger serving.  Everything from street tacos to sliders to charcuterie is being served in small-sized portions that invite the crowd to try a little bite of a wider array of appetizers, entrees and desserts.  Salads, soups, fruit tarts, quiches, and sandwiches all lend themselves well to miniaturized versions.  Plus, handheld fare gives guests the freedom to move, making mixing and mingling while enjoying exquisitely prepared foods easy and satisfying.  Just about anything can be miniaturized, and it can add visual drama to the event!

Messina's soup trip

Individually packaged menu items are gaining in popularity

Jarcuteries (charcuteries in mason jars) is just the tip of the iceberg for men items that can be cleverly packaged for individual servings.  Instagram-worthy presentations include cups of Pho with chopsticks, little cheesecakes in mini muffin cups, and beautifully prepared individual snack boards often find their way on social media feeds.  The rise in individually packaged foods reached new heights of popularity during the COVID pandemic, and will remain a mainstay on many catering menus moving forward. Just checkout #jarcuterie on Instagram for ideas!  Because, let’s face it, small things are adorable and photo-worthy!

Craft mocktails are on the rise

Non-alcoholic craft mocktails are increasingly popular at events both large and small.  No longer relegated to kid’s options or for designated drivers only, non-alcoholic drinks are seeing surge in popularity as people want to be social and sober at the same time.  Spirits distilled with botanicals from makers like Seedlip are replacing their alcohol-based cousins without any loss of a cocktail flavor profile.  Colorful, alcohol-free concoctions can be as fun to drink as they are pretty to serve!

Messina's mocktails

Messina’s Catering has been on the forefront of catering trends for 60 years

Messina’s Catering and Events have been not only following, but setting trends on their catering menus for decades. Let them help you create a menu that will take your next event from ordinary to extraordinary in a safe and memorable way.