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Melissa Johnson of Cameron Mitchell

A Top Caterer's Take on Top Holiday Party Catering Trends for 2018

Cameron Mitchell Premier Events, helmed by managing director/operating partner Melissa Johnson, shares the hot holiday catering trends this year.

Over the last few years our holiday parties have changed based on clients’ requests and their visions. 

THINK 'HOLIDAY' Holiday parties usually have a theme to them, but the themes today are much more “holiday” than Christmas, and much more inclusive of a variety of ways to celebrate the time of year. We see this with nontraditional colors and more seasonal decor vs traditional Christmas decor.

Lately, themes are tied more to our current climate and trends.  For example, we see craft beer bars and tastings at a lot of events.  Inclusion of nonalcohol offerings--such as coffee and craft tea stations, as well as nitro options or a designer “zero-proof” signature drink--are now often incorporated. 

MAKE IT SPECIAL Our team works hand in hand with many of our local producers of specialty beers, cheeses, produce, wine and spirits, etc., to include local offerings and flavors into our menu items.

READY, SET, INTERACT Keeping interaction and guest experience at the forefront of planning is being requested for parties today more than we have seen in the past. We make sure to walk through the event as the guest would, to ensure we have enough experiential components to keep the guests engaged but not so many that they become overwhelming.  Such experiential elements can range from photo opportunities such as step-and-repeats and creative photo stations to social media posts projected and scrolling during the party.  

Participatory food stations--where guests finish cooking an item over a yakitori grill, build-their-own food bowls, or garnish a dish by snipping fresh herbs from a themed planter stand--are on the increase.  We also get a lot of requests for something new that has not been done before or is unusual.  Our chefs made a “piecaken”—a pie baked inside a cake--for one such holiday party request!  

GOOD TO GIVE Finally, we plan with our clients more than ever on how to add some sort of giving-back component to their events.  Consider something be collected to donate, or homeless-care packs, which can be assembled while guests wait for the valet, as a takeaway for guests to distribute during the season.  Having some way to help those in need as a component of our holiday parties is very important to our clients.

THINK FAST Holiday party events seem to book much closer to the holidays and don’t book as far out in the year as we used to see.  Our level of business has been steadily increasing in the last few years, but we work at a faster pace planning and executing parties in a shorter span of time, so it feels much busier for the first three weeks than it ever used to.

THINK HEALTH There is a trend towards adding healthful items to events.  This trend is often seen on station-style events, where an item or two per station or even one whole station can be dedicated to offerings that appeal to guests who might be following certain diets such as ketogenic, Whole30, etc.  

Offerings that are allergen-free--such as gluten-free, nut-free, dairy-free, soy-free, etc-- are also on the rise and being incorporated into menu items.  

Our chefs have been working on creating eye-appealing and delicious vegan plant-based offerings that are seasonal and festive, as this is a big request we see increasing.

PEOPLE PLEASING Finding menus that are delicious and wow guests, while still accommodating and pleasing as many people as possible, is a big goal.  This goal may not be new, but the amount of options needed to accommodate so many different people is where the challenge comes in. There is still plenty of room on the menus for the fun and indulgent items; the healthful items complement the holiday splurges!

Melissa Johnson is managing director/operating partner of Cameron Mitchell Premier Events, headquartered in Columbus, Ohio.

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