What's new on catering menus? The better question might be, what's old?
This issue brings our seventh annual look at the biggest off-premise caterers in business. All told, the 25 companies represented on this list should bring in some $892 million in revenue this year. And our respondents expect business to cook on all burners. All told, they expect an increase of 7 percent in revenue in 2014 over 2013.
And what's cooking? Along with dramatic action stations and charming small plates that have been popular for the last several years, today we're seeing a sharp surge in the call for old-time—wait, make that ancient—grains. Amaranth, farro, freekeh, quinoa—products that used to be found only on the shelves of health-food stores are now on the menus of top-flight caterers.
Also going strong, our caterers tell is, is the farm-to-table movement, with its emphasis on sustainable, responsible agriculture. Oh, and one more prediction to watch for: Escarole is the new kale. You saw it here first.
What we may be seeing here is a yearning to be more grounded. Even as the economy is coming back, many of us remember too well the heady days before the Great Recession, when it seemed everything was available if you had the money to spend, and everyone was ready to spend—whether they had the money or not.
There's a similar sense of being more grounded in the children's event market. Even though budgets are coming back and events are getting bigger, the experts tell us, the days of the over-the-top, "my party will be better than yours" are over.
In place of bold, brash themes are more subtle, sophisticated environments. Along with this, the honoree might urge guests to skip the gifts and donate to charity instead. "Parents may be infusing better values into their children," says planner Penny Rabinowitz, "and attempting to take away that 'all about me' mentality we've seen so much of in the past."
But one area in which the industry might need to get grounded again: ethics.
I've been surprised to see how often the phrase "ethics in rental" is searched on our website. Does a competitive marketplace make it OK to cut corners with clients, or is this a serious lack of character? We tackle the topic in our "Rental Essentials" department; turn to page 33 for more.
But where you're a moralist or a pragmatist, bear in mind that the event world is small. Burning vendor partners and clients won't help your business soar. It's better to be grounded in fair business practices, or you just might come crashing down to earth.