A well-fed attendee makes for a successful meeting, indeed. One of the most invaluable aspects of any successful event is the food & beverage offerings. Whether it's breakfast, lunch, dinner, in between sessions or simply during some downtime, your attendees deserve the latest and greatest in food and drink.
In light of recent predictions made by food research and consultants Technomic, Baum+Whiteman, and others, below are some of the trends in food & beverage you can expect to see in 2015.
Small-minded: Keep portions bite-sized
According to Technomic, "diners demand petite plates and flexible portions." More and more establishments have made the move to feature smaller plates on their menus, encouraging passing and sharing among guests. In corporate catering, small bite-sized options are becoming commonplace. Serve your attendees dishes that can easily be eaten while standing and networking with others.
Perhaps try the Catalan-inspired cuisine, especially tapas, from Mercat a la Planxa. Quartino (pictured) and Bar Toma have distinctive Italian small-plate menus, both perfect options for events that call for some nibbling.
Stay conscious of dietary restrictions
Guests with food intolerances such as gluten or dairy require hospitality planners to be flexible with their catering choices. Fortunately, there is an abundance of alternative, more nutritious ingredients and fare that can replace the foods in contention.
The Berghoff Catering & Restaurant Group is certified gluten-free by the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA), and takes great care in creating a wide variety of vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free and gluten-free dishes. Green Seal certified FIG Catering delivers personal service-oriented catering with sustainability in mind as they serve up everything from vegetarian and dairy-free to ethnic and exotic.
Farm to fork
Restaurants and catering companies have made great strides toward sourcing their menus as locally as possible. Via Culinote, this trend comes about from "post-industrial cultures' respect for agricultural products ... increased attention to health through food, and the increasing interest in handcrafted, artisanal foods." Demand for fresh produce and ethically raised, organic animal products - free range eggs and pasture fed beef among the most popular - has never been higher.
Aria Restaurant and Bar at the Fairmont Chicago Millennium Park focuses on locally grown ingredients - Chef James Phillips "ventures to the market weekly to find the freshest ingredients and brings them directly to your table." Executive Chef Paul Kahan and Chef de Cuisine Cosmo Goss at The Publican have a dedicated network of vendors that supply the restaurant "hand-selected and sustainably-raised fish, seafood and pork." Choose eateries such as these for the freshest, most untainted food possible.
Green, sustainable practices are great for the environment and sit well with the soul. The U.S. prides itself on being clean and green, and Chicago is no different. In addition to the purveyance of locally sourced ingredients, caterers are ensuring the effects of waste products are minimal. Many establishments, such as Chicago Certified Green Restaurants®, have achieved significant standards in energy, water and waste reduction, using ecofriendly disposables and purchasing environmentally preferable food.
Try Limelight Catering, the city's first "green" caterer, embracing an exquisite and socially responsible dining experience.
Retro cocktails and craft beers
Baum+Whiteman project big shifts in boozing in 2015 - sharable punches, herbal liqueurs, whackadoodle hybrids and small-batch whiskies have taken over the drinking scene. Modern twists are placed on classic cocktails such as adding chartreuse, maraschino, Benedictine and absinthe to give inventive cocktails some depth and body.
Craft beer and breweries are also all the rage, especially in Chicago, recently named No. 1 Drinking City in the World by GQ Magazine. Visit Choose Chicago's new Craft Beer & Breweries page to see what's on tap and to get a full one-of-a-kind booze experience.
Upscale comfort food
An uncertain economy and a never-ending penchant for comfort foods has many guests preferring quick eats over multi-star dining. According to Baum+Whiteman, chefs and restaurateurs "are rethinking backbreaking, high-risk commitments to multi-star dining as customers in droves pledge allegiance to the fast-casualization of America."
Mac & cheese, pot roast, meatloaf, fried chicken, BBQ, mashed potatoes and green bean casserole are all fair play. Guests want it the way mom used to serve it but with a sophisticated twist, so give them a surprising take on nostalgia with reworked old school classics.
With Chicago q, you can get some mouthwatering BBQ, coupled with favorites such as bruleed macaroni and cheese or American Kobe brisket baked beans. J&L Catering does comfort food right, featuring things like classic beef tenderloin served with sauce Bearnaise and sauteed wild and domestic mushrooms.
Sources: Baum+Whiteman, Technomic, Crowne Plaza Auckland, Culinote, Plan Your Meetings