The next hot trends in food for events and special occasions can be hard to predict, especially in a year where so much has been put on hold or numbers limited. The trend forecasts for food in 2021 all clearly point in the same direction, though – traditional is out; fun (and healthy!) is in. Here are four exciting trends you'll see pick up pace in 2021.
Food stations and DIY food
The buffet table has had its day and the creative, immersive, experiential food experience is what it's all about. Food stations, food carts, DIY bars and interactive experiences create an atmosphere of fun and whimsy and are a big catering trend for 2021. With more people than ever wanting to create highly personal, relaxed and informal occasions, theatrical food experiences work beautifully, whether you're having a small, intimate gathering or a larger one.
Food as a ‘show' isn't new, but it hasn't been adopted for special events to the same extent as it will in the coming year. Things like teppanyaki, sushi trains, showcase dumpling making, noodle stretching and pasta rolling, all happening right in front of you and your guests, will be a big hit.
The DIY bar or station will also continue to grow in popularity because your guests can customise everything to their exact tastes – not too spicy, salty, sweet or sour. Don't like onions? No problem! Think taco, burger, salad or BBQ bars, or for a bit of glam, a prosecco bar, gin bar or mimosa bar (this works great for mocktails too). Everything is much more fun when you can get your guests involved! A great combination of the ‘food as show' trend plus the DIY bar is a carvery ‘theatre' experience, where one person on each table takes on the role of ‘chef' (complete with hat and apron) to serve the rest of the table.
Other interactive food ideas include roaming food, where waiters can bring mini-bars around as people mingle so even the smallest bites can be customised. Or the fancy street food style cart that really adds to the informal and relaxed atmosphere. With fish and chips in paper cones, pie and mash, hot dogs and corn on the cob as options, there's no need to have a traditional three-course sit down meal when there are so many great ways to create a fun and delicious menu for your special event.
The good news is that the long dessert table is here to stay! Individual desserts and a single big cake are still a great way to do dessert, but you can also add something unique with popular trends like a cookie table, donut wall or macaron tower. Having items like candy floss machines, waffle bars, pancake stations, personalised biscuits or individual cakes can create a feeling of both DIY and informality to your event – and are all fun new ways to satisfy those sweet cravings!
The biggest shift in the world of food you're likely to see in the coming years is the move towards more plant-based, sustainable choices, where vegetables are the hero of the menu. Making really considered choices and committing to choosing catering that is seasonal, local and involves limited food waste will continue to trend as more people shift their lifestyles and daily eating habits. Vegan and vegetarian menus, or at least more ‘environmentally friendly' options, will dominate future trends as plant-based meals sky-rocket in popularity.
Similar to the hot new trend of DIY, putting your personal stamp or style on the food you serve at your function will be a very popular choice moving forwards. Why serve alternating chicken or fish dishes for your main when that's something you wouldn't normally eat yourself – or even particularly like! If you love pizza or mac and cheese, throw the food rule book out the window and embrace a unique menu that really tells people a story about you.
Suitable for any occasion – birthdays, weddings, kids' parties or more – making the event about you, or you as a couple or family, and weaving your story around your guests, will make a much more personal and special occasion for all involved. Personalise your menu and canapes, add in a signature drink or two, and set up a retro food station like a whisky or gin bar or a food-truck-style DIY. Who says you can't eat ice-cream for dinner?!
So, embrace the fun in food and create a memorable event in 2021 that you and your guests will love looking back on for years to come.