Top Food-and-Beverage Trends for Meetings in 2020

Look for these trends to drive event catering and culinary decisions in the coming year.


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Learn more about what to expect for event F&B in 2020, from Stephanie Edens and other experts — and take part in a live Q&A — at the upcoming webcast, "What's on the Menu for 2020," taking place at 2:00 p.m. EST on Wednesday, Nov. 13. Register here.

The world is becoming more food-savvy, and meeting attendees are interested in every element of the culinary experience. At the same time, many meeting groups have become more geographically and culturally diverse. For 2020, expect food and beverage choices for events to be more varied, culturally informed and sustainable. As senior vice president of national sales for Wolfgang Puck Catering, I'm seeing first-hand what groups are looking for: Following are five of the top trends we should expect to see more of in this coming year.

Exploring the Globe

As guests are broadening their palates, it's time to go beyond the traditional categories of Latin and Asian when adding international flavors to menus. Take attendees on a culinary tour of the globe and explore the world through food. Try Mongolian, Taiwanese, Peruvian and Ethiopian. A Peruvian dish we recently featured was a hamachi tiradito with apple slaw, hominy, Peruvian potato chips and aji chile. We are very fortunate to have a talented culinary team that travels the world, taking inspiration from what they see and taste and bringing that home to our clients.

Social Media Moments 

Now, more than ever, food needs to be "Insta-ready." Clients want to know more than just what the menu will be. They're asking what it will look like, how it will be presented and what, if anything, we can do to make it Instagramable. It's time to ditch the traditional buffet and chafing dishes and seek out unusual vessels. We often use ingredients to double as serving vessels, such as puffed rice or tapioca baskets which also add a great textural component to the dish. Or, add interactive and educational elements through chef experiences. Our culinary team loves to be out of the kitchen and in the action, creating the food in front of the guests, answering questions and sharing the insights and inspiration behind the dish.

The Food Waste Conversation

Attendees today are more socially conscious and having a more serious conversation about food waste. Our clients ask us often about what happens to all the leftover food. At Wolfgang Puck Catering, our made-to-order approach inherently minimizes food waste. Additionally, we have food-recovery partners, such as Chefs to End Hunger and Equal Heart, in every market.

Grab and Go / Mix and Mingle

When attendees are mostly sitting in meetings or sessions all day, at night they want to move around and mingle. Create a menu of tapas that can be quick and easy for guests to enjoy so they have more time to network or spend time with colleagues. Start with lighter hors d'oeuvres and then transition into heartier passed small plates — our specialty small plates include Agnolotti with Black Truffle and Parmesan Reggiano Brittle and Loup de Mer with Artichokes, Fennel and Romesco Salsa.

Zero-Proof Drinks

Just like vegetarians tend to feel left out when non-meat dishes lack creativity, non-drinkers can feel overlooked when specialty cocktails all contain alcohol. Organizers should have more creative options than coffee, water or a club soda for those choosing to forego alcohol. Try non-alcoholic spirits like Seedlip or consider products such as sparkling tea, kombucha or matcha latte. We like to create craft, non-alcoholic bars with a wide array of options from alcohol-free tinctures such as hibiscus, chamomile and lavender, to house-made syrups including cucumber basil and jalapeno agave, to fresh produce such as basil, thyme and berries.

Stephanie Edens, senior vice president of national sales for Wolfgang Puck Catering, will be presenting a deeper dive into these trends and more at Northstar Meetings Group's webcast, "What's on the Menu for 2020?", taking place at 2:00 p.m. EST on Thursday, Nov. 13 (register here). She oversees a team of 60 in 10 major markets across the country while driving the overall sales efforts of the Wolfgang Puck Catering organization. Edens emphasizes relationship- and loyalty-building while coaching her team and showcasing the Puck brand for catering and events.