Here are some of the trends featured, based on in-depth interviews with top caterers and vendors:
Popcorn bars: Elaborately spiced and flavored popcorn has been showing up at events in 2012, and caterers are predicting that they’ll see even more in 2013.
Tacos, dumplings and fillings galore: Ethnic isn’t exotic anymore; it’s just a state of being at events. Caterers are drawing global connections with street-food style innovation, melding Jamaican, Lebanese and Indian into one menu. Call them gyoza, pierogi, empanadas, knodel or momo; fillings wrapped up in dough signify the best of the world in a doughy package.
Bizarre and botanical: Events promoting culinary explorations mean big business for caterers. Goat may not be the protein of choice at a wedding, but events devoted to menu items you might see on Bizarre Foods can make a big splash with guests and are fun for chefs.
Fifty shades of grey décor: In addition to Emerald, the Pantone color of the year, grey is making a comeback for events, with sleek modern materials like metal and acrylic slowly moving in on burlap and vintage décor.\
Emulating Top Chef for teambuilding: There’s big business in using a commissary kitchen for corporate development events. Modeled after shows like Chopped and Iron Chef, caterers are preparing challenges of menu preparation and buffet presentation — all to boost the collaborative and communications abilities of white-collar professionals.
Wedding desserts are becoming even more diverse and personalized: Just when we thought we’d seen it all, soft serve stations, ice-your-own-cupcake bars and more options for creative flavor combinations are predicted for weddings in 2013.