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Top Trends from Catersource + The Special Event

Between education and events, CS+TSE ‘23 showcased the latest trends

Catersource + The Special Event is one of the best places to learn about the latest trends from event experts, as well as see those trends in action. Here are six trends we’re loving from this year’s conference: 

1. Event well-being 

If there’s anything we took away from the pandemic that is definitely here to stay, it’s an emphasis on wellness and self care. Planners are examining the toll that events can take on mind and body and are looking for practical solutions. In his session Five Wellness Trends Meeting Planners Need to Follow, Justin Ball, CMP (Bespoke Event Group LLC) addressed the ways planners can integrate organic exercise and healthy options into events.  

Ball suggests that instead of designing meetings and events for hyper-efficiency, planners can provide walkable food and beverage options, rentable gym equipment, movement-based coffee breaks, and hydration challenges to encourage attendees to prioritize that wellness with practical actions. 

According to the American Express 2023 Gobal Travel Trends Report, 72% of travelers are more focused on self care than they were one year ago. 

“The idea of going home exhausted from your 3-day conference has to move beyond this,” said Ball. “The idea of finishing every day completely overindulged of F&B has to move beyond this.” 

Catersource + The Special Event prioritized attendees’ wellness this year with a wellness lounge, which attendees could pop into for a moment of silent retreat throughout the day; yoga classes; guided meditations; and non-alcoholic craft beverages at evening events. 

The Event Escape Room: Wellness Lounge hosted yoga classes and mediation sessions, and provided much-needed
quiet time. Photo courtesy WASIO Faces/SpotMyPhotos

2. Elevated immersive spaces 

In Kristin Banta’s Design to Impact in 2023, Kristin Banta (Kristin Banta Events Inc) shared several design trends for this year, which includes the next level of immersive spaces. Trending ways to elevate your space can include: 

Immersive entrances 
From the moment your guests arrive, they should be filled with excitement about what lies inside the venue. An immersive entrance will grab their attention and transport them to the world within before they enter: costumed greeters and servers handing out drinks, elaborate curtains, dramatic lighting—think of how you can hype up the event within the first glance. CS+TSE welcomed attendees to Connect Live with moulin rouge costumed greeters; to the Opening Night Party with a well-received LED light curtain; and to the ACE, Gala & CATIE Awards Reception with costumed champagne servers. 

Highly-customized tents 
In their session Tenting Trends & Styles, Bobby Braun, Brian Stumph, and Keith Krzeminski discussed the drastic transformations that basic tent structures are undergoing for events these days. Customizing the liners, flooring, lighting, décor, and even the pole and frame finishes (with wraps and popular powder coating) completely convert a space.

Floor art 
Last year, we looked up. This year, Banta says, we look down. Statement rugs, LED floor lighting, custom floor wraps—anything to get eventgoers to feel like they’re literally stepping into another world. 

The LED light curtain welcomed attendees into the Opening Night Party. Photo courtesy WASIO Faces/SpotMyPhotos

banta 11.jpeg
A lit-up floor at one of Banta's events. Photo courtesy John and Joseph Photography

3. Themed events 

Speaking of other worlds, themed events are popular as ever. Nostalgia and decades themes (70s, 80s, 90s) are big, but so are TV-inspired themes as well: Banta names western (Yellowstone), noir in the form of 90s-inspired goth (Wednesday), and tropical resort (The White Lotus) as trending themes. She also lists space/futurism and what she calls “avante apocalypse”—a metallic, minimalist, cyber scene—as themes of the moment. 

4. Bright and bold 

In her session, Banta noted that “bold and quirky color combos” are in style, and plenty of other speakers agreed. David Merrell (AOO Events) discussed the use of "saturated, concentrated hues” and “patterns on patterns.” This can be attributed in part to Pantone’s 2023 color of the year, Viva Magenta, which was spotted throughout Catersource + The Special Event, including keynote speaker Marcy Blum’s (Marcy Blum Associates) vividly colored magenta outfit.  

Opening keynote speaker Marcy Blum rocked Viva Magenta. Photo courtesy WASIO Faces/SpotMyPhotos

5. Robots 

Technology is always evolving, and this year’s iteration is in the form of robots. In his session Caterers Assemble! - Tantalizing Trends, Clever Concepts, and Inspired Interactivity, Michael Stavros (M Culinary Concepts) discussed innovative autonomous food service robots and robotic arms for food service prep. The CS+TSE tradeshow floor showcased an example of this tech from Technology Leaders and Creators, who displayed a robotic arm holding a glass of wine. 

And while AR and VR were mentioned throughout sessions here and there, we’re keeping our eye on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the developments being made by event pros to utilize this technology for industry purposes. 

Robot tech on the tradeshow floor. Photo courtesy WASIO Faces/SpotMyPhotos

6. Florals...and no florals 

Biophilic design incorporates the natural world into an artificially constructed setting (I.e., any building or indoor space). This design uses natural lighting and lines, as well as lots of plants, to create healthier environments. We saw this in a small-scale way in the Floral Design Lab at CS+TSE, which wove flowers and greenery into furniture design. 

On the other end of this spectrum, there are designers working with the supply chain issues and inflation of floral prices to create non-floral centerpieces, says Merrell. These designs use candles, battery-operated lights, textured cloths, potted plants—even food, like charcuterie—to create stunning tablescapes. 

The Event Escape Room: Floral Design Lab wove natural elements (florals, curved lines, earth tones) into the room
furnishings. Photo courtesy WASIO Faces/SpotMyPhotos

Try out these trends for yourself!  

As always, look for the latest issue of Special Events magazine for the most recent trend reports, and stay tuned for registration to open for Catersouce + The Special Event 2024, to be held in Austin, TX from February 12-15, so you can experience the trends for yourself. 

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