Catering pros from throughout North America gathered in New Orleans this week for Catersource 2019. Here, they were treated to an array of education programs and culinary displays, culminating in a gala awards program. Catersource is a sister conference to The Special Event.
The education slate included the session "Tastings: The Show Must Go On." Here, Jennifer Perna of Fulton Market Consulting (above, left) and Paul Larson of Blue Plate Catering shared the secrets of tastings that turn into sales.
Although staging tastings is expensive--Blue Plate spends about $200,000 a year on tastings, Larson said--the expense is worth it because his team closes between 75 percent and 80 percent of tastings that the company offers.
Perna stressed the importance of qualifying tasting clients and of offering a polished tasting experience. Tastings are "not a waste of food, time and money," she said. Instead, tastings are opportunities to boost teamwork, showcase team "stars," enhance client relationships, and upsell, she explained.
Shannon Boudreau (above) of The Lazy Gourmet treated attendees to "45 F&B Trends in 45 Minutes."
Among the trends she sees in catering are:
- Frozen cocktails
- Asian spirits such as baijiu
- Smoked foods
- Plant-based menus
- Stunning food presentations.
- Interactive food experiences
- Alternative salad greens
- DIY cocktails
- Fun cocktail presentations, such as cocktails delivered by a burro or a cocktail created by a magician
David Merrell, founder of AOO Events, shared major trends in catering and events.
He stressed the game-changing role of social media, noting that an event with a well-staged photo op and hashtag can extend its reach far beyond its in-person guest list into millions of online impressions.
Merrell pointed to the robust role of live experiences now play in the corporate marketing mix. He encouraged attendees to look at all event elements in a new way, such as balloons and Mylar fringe. What can seem too basic at the event itself can translate well in a photo posted online, he said.
Floral expert Bron Hansboro of The Flower Guy Bron shared his take on top floral trends this year.
He reminded attendees that all event markets must translate trends dictated from sources such as Pantone--e.g., Color of the Year "Living Coral"--must be adapted to an individual market.
Hansboro said that major trends will continue to be deconstructed centerpieces, dramatic lighting, ceiling installations, entrance installations, big bridal bouquets, floral-bedecked lounges, and "bridal glam" preparation areas for brides.
At the Spark Awards Gala, achievements in catering and event production got their due. Here, Empyrean Events and Catering wins the ACE Award for Catering East Region Operations.
Charlie and Kathleen Schaffer of Schaffer Catering bring home the CATIE Caterer of the Year award.
The Special Event/Catersource 2020 runs March 9-12 in Las Vegas.