Where once “comfort foods” like mac and cheese were all the rage, today’s foodie fads tend toward the healthy. But which nut milk should you offer your event participants with their coffee? That’s just one decision you’re faced with when planning your event menu.
“Staying on top of the latest food trends” might not technically be part of your job description as an event creator. But “creating the best possible experience for attendees” certainly is. And with 77% of people saying food is important to them at any kind of event, your event menu matters.
Based on a recent Eventbrite survey of foodie trends, input from event experts, and the general buzz about town, here are 27 catering ideas to position your event menu on the culinary cutting edge.
Event catering idea #1: Artisanal doughnuts
It started with the cronut, the unbelievably delicious croissant-doughnut hybrid. Now, specialty doughnut shops are popping up all over the place, and your event could follow suit.
Event catering idea #2: Bánh mì
Vietnamese for “bread,” bánh mì is a sandwich that includes traditional Vietnamese ingredients like pickled daikon, coriander, and spicy chilli. Typically a casual street food, bánh mì sandwiches are very popular in Australia, and make for a perfect stand-and-eat foodie choice for a busy event.
Event catering idea #3: Bento boxes
Bento is a traditional Japanese lunch served in a box with compartments. Typical components might include rice or noodles, sushi or fish, and chopped or pickled veggies. Or take inspiration from the Instagram-mums and create all sorts of wild lunch creations with cute faces separated into little boxes.
Event catering idea #4: Bagels
The bagel craze has finally made its way over from the U.S, and they can be dressed up with anything from classic cream cheese to smashed avo, with a huge selection of bread-types to chose from.
Event catering idea #5: Chef’s table
Recruit a local or celebrity chef (even better, a local celebrity chef) to conduct hands-on demos for attendees. Australians love cooking shows, and hosting a mini-cooking show where your attendees can interact with a professional chef is a sure-fire way to please the crowd.
Event catering idea #6: Coffee bar
When it comes to coffee, everyone has an opinion. Make them all happy with a diverse coffee bar that has it all: pour-overs, cold brew, nitro coffee, and all manner of non-dairy milks. Not sure how to pull this off? Enlist your local hipster coffee shop as an event vendor.
Event catering idea #7: Composting
Not about what you eat, but what you don’t — a composting initiative at your event demonstrates that you’re invested in sustainable practices. It also gives attendees a chance to give back.
Event catering idea #8: Farm-to-table meal
Dishes made with local, seasonal ingredients are often deemed healthier and more environmentally friendly. These include ingredients sourced from nearby farms, as well as locally made specialty food items.
Event catering idea #9: Farmers’ market
Alongside the “locavore craze” (diets that consist primarily of local produce), farmers’ markets are experiencing a major revival. Add a mini-farmers’ market to the mix of your event to capitalise on this craze.
Event catering idea #10: Fermented foods
Kimchi, kombucha, sauerkraut — all slightly exotic and terribly good for you. In other cultures and centuries past, fermented foods were a smart way to preserve food for longer. Today, we eat them because they’re yummy and healthy.
Event catering idea #11: Food trucks
Food trucks have transitioned from being the cutting edge of hipness to a must-have at many events. In fact, food trucks are one of the top three types of food-related experiences that people are most likely to go out of their way to check out.
Event catering idea #12: Gluten-free options
“We’ve found that quite a significant number of Australians are choosing to remove food components like gluten from their diet,“ says researcher at CSIRO Health & Biosecurity, Dr Sinead Golley. Serving low-carb or no-carb options will endear yourself to those who habitually avoid bread — which is seemingly everyone these days.
Event catering idea #13: Grain bowls
Think farro, quinoa, brown rice. Layered bowls of grains, veggies, protein, and sauce provide a versatile, creative catering choice. Attendees can mix and match options.
Event catering idea #14: Hot chicken
The Australian southern fried chicken scene has finally evolved from the old Colonel’s secret herbs & spices, and we’ve seen rapid growth in the casual chicken market, such as Belle’s Hot Chicken. A range of chicken options with popular Asian and American inspired sauces is a great casual dining option, but it may get messy.
Event catering idea #15: Italian food
Okay, Italian is more staple than trend. But it is consistently one of the most popular types of cuisine (60% call it a top choice, according to our recent survey). You can never go wrong with pizza and cannoli.
Event catering idea #16: Local restaurants
Partner up with a local restaurant to create a one-of-a-kind catering experience. Restaurants can be a lot more personable and willing to create something unique together, rather than a typical catering partner who cranks out events every week.
Event catering idea #17: Matcha tea
A traditional green tea made from powdered tea leaves, matcha has recently exploded into urban tea bars. It can be served hot or iced, or used as an ingredient in shakes and smoothies, with touted health benefits. The vibrant green hue of matcha tea makes it also quite photogenic.
Event catering idea #18: Miniature foods
It’s a fact that small equals cute. Take tiny tacos. What could be cuter? Tiny pizza! Tiny pastries! Yes to all of the above — and they’re easy to pass around at an event.
Event catering idea #19: Pop-up restaurant
Move away from the traditional food court setup and instead surprise attendees with pop-up food options in unexpected places.
Event catering idea #20: Popcorn bar
Movie popcorn is a sublime treat, but butter flavouring is not the only topping that’s delicious on popped corn. Notable upcoming flavours include: parmesan cheese, maple bacon, sesame oil, sweet and sour, cracked pepper and sea salt, and of course, caramel.
Event catering idea #21: Rolled ice cream
The frozen dessert originally from Southeast Asia, also sometimes called “stir-fried ice cream,” is new on the Aussie ice cream scene. Think delicious gelato, flattened on a sheet and then rolled into a vertical cylinder. Add toppings, stick a spoon in it, and bam! You’ve got yourself a delicious — and highly Instagrammable — festival treat.
Event catering idea #22: Skewers
An ideal grab-and-go food, skewers consist of anything on a stick, including grilled meat, veggies, and fruits. They work well for events because they can be prepped ahead of time, stacked, and offered as a self-serve option to attendees.
Event catering idea #23: Acai bowl bar
These beautiful breakfast bowls typically consist of a mix of fruits, veggies, oats, yogurt, and “superfoods” like acai and chia. They are becoming increasingly popular as a refreshing and healthy breakfast option.
Event catering idea #24: Tapas
Our study showed that half (50%) of those surveyed prefer to eat small bites to large sit-down meals at an event. And tapas are an economical approach to catering.
Event catering idea #25: Unicorn food
You may not have heard it described as such, but unicorn food is a legit food category according to the New York Times, which defines it as “any food item jazzed up with dye or cute accessories like fruit cut into little shapes or mountains of pastel marshmallows.” Whatever you call it, it is sure to promote sharing on Instagram.
Event catering idea #26: Vegan options
Plant-based diets are getting a lot of play lately, as a focus on healthy eating and environmentally sustainable practices ramps up. Whether you go full vegan or simply offer a tempeh Reuben option at your sandwich bar, honouring your vegan contingent is a nice way to say “we get it.”
Event catering idea #27: Zero-proof cocktails
With healthy the big buzz in food, everyone’s jazzed about booze-free cocktails. Hire a mixologist to set up a non-alcoholic specialty bar, and your attendees can experience the joys of revelry without hangovers.
Innovative catering ideas will make your event menu stand out. To see how Eventbrite helped HWKR sell out events in the competitive Melbourne food market check out this short video.