Since the arrival of COVID-19, a lot has changed. The way we work. The way we communicate. The way we live. And yes, the way we eat—especially at corporate gatherings, meetings and functions which are just now, in 2022, starting to resume to somewhat normal pre-pandemic standards. And while the end-result remains the same—providing meeting-goers a variety of fare that will please their diversified palates while conquering the corporate objectives on the docket—the way we are arriving there has taken some turns. Here are five trends in the food and beverage arena that you can count on making a grand presentation at your next meeting.
- Bye-Bye Buffets
Buffets. Tableside Service. Action stations. We’ve all experienced them. Enjoyed them. Maybe even looked forward to them. A plethora of food options ranging from comfort foods, create-your-own salads, time-honored side dishes and delightful desserts were right at your fingertips. And we relished the choices, immensely, all the while standing as a group, talking, laughing and sharing serving spoons while selecting our perfect combination of food, sometimes even without (gasp!) an acrylic divider. Alas, this type of meeting fare has indeed fallen by the wayside and has been replaced with individualized packaging and unique presentations geared toward avoiding communal spoons, dipping into shared bowls, and not standing in groups and or even speaking in close proximity to food. “Food safety, from preparation to presentation, will continue to be a top priority and concern,” says Carla Ruben, president of Creative Edge Parties. She also predicts, “You’re going to see more individual servings, and less buffets in order to limit crowds and grazing.”
- Powerfully Plant-Based
Look around. Plant-based options are seemingly everywhere these days. Surely, it is safe to say that plant-based burgers have already gone mainstream for the most part. Meatless burger varieties are popping up in grocery store refrigerated aisles and even on the menu of some of the country’s most famous fast-food chains. Vegan chicken, vegan shrimp and even vegan bacon options are not far behind, with new plant-based alternatives in these areas hitting the market at an astounding pace. Consider this—according to Ipsos, there are currently over 9.7 million American vegans. In addition, claim that while their diets are not completely plant-based, they eliminate as many animal-related food products as possible and strive to one day be completely vegan. Knowing this, it makes perfect sense that powerful plant-based alternatives will be pulling up a chair as a guest of honor at your next meeting.
- Atypical Tastes
It’s 2022. For the last two years restaurant closures skyrocketed while the number of food service workers plummeted, drastically. People who normally frequented cafes and restaurants were dining in. At home. During this time many people tried recipes they saw on Tik Tok, read about on Pinterest or heard about on their favorite podcast. And we’re not talking about the tried-and-true blah blah banana bread recipe their grandmothers used to make or the traditional mac and cheese casseroles of yore. They experimented with new tastes, spices and flavors that border on the unconventional. As a result, their new-found palettes have upped the ante for corporate event planners throughout the United States. Employees are venturing out of their quarantine cocoons, some for the first time, and they want to be dazzled with atypical tastes that celebrate this milestone. Think global cuisine. Asia Pacific flavors. Korean influences. Filipino options. Caribbean fare. If it wasn’t on the menu at your last meeting, it very well could (and should) be there now.
- Going Local
While not in the least bit new, the thought of “going local” has seen an amazing upswing these past few years. Sustainability and supply-chain breakdowns caused by the pandemic have sparked interest in the preservation of local crops. And for good reason. Locally grown food fuels the economy that directly impacts where we live and work. Local food is fresher. It supports local farms and green/open spaces. And, in this getting-to-be-post-pandemic world, it ultimately provides a safer food supply. That means less steps between the source of your food and your plate. Conscious companies have taken this shift in ethical eating into consideration and have adjusted menus to incorporate local food that not only benefits the local community, but their employees’ health as well.
- Zero Waste Woes
The population has beefed up its focus not only on sustainability, but sustainable packaging as well. Meetings and corporate functions in 2022 will echo this trend with a severe reduction in single-use plastics and other unrecyclable goods which can leave a very harsh environmental footprint. Bowing out of conference rooms across the country are traditional meeting-standbys- turned-offenders including plastic water bottles and single-use coffee cups. In their place, meeting attendees can expect to see an increase in paper straws, compostable trays and plates and individually wrapped compostable/biodegradable cutlery stemming from predominantly plant-based goods that won’t clutter our ecosystem. Meetings in 2022 are reflecting this change in attitude regarding non-recyclables and making moves to grow both their company and the sustainability of our planet.
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