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What's in Store for Rentals?

We asked James Auerbach, Vice President, Event Segment & Rental Industry Workforce Development for the American Rental Association, to share his insights into what to expect from rentals as we move into the end of the year.

Peter Frank Edwards (photography) | Curated Events Charleston (design/planning) | Out of the Garden (floral) | J Lily Design (calligraphy/menus). Photo courtesy Curated Events

Catersource: What do you see as the biggest rental trends in catering for 2023? 

James Auerbach: Special events have returned in full force, but many continue to be held outdoors to create a larger area for the function. With the increase in outdoor tented events, rental companies are seeing greater demand for larger catering tents than in the past. These tents include upgraded features like climate control (heat and/or AC), LED lighting, additional power options and non-slip or luxury flooring.  

Tent floors that primarily were covered with artificial turf or carpet in the past have been replaced by a wide variety of wood plank flooring or luxury vinyl applications that offer patterned and color options. Catering companies are also using complimentary linen colors, décor items and food displays to match the theme created by the specialty flooring chosen.   

Catersource: What colors or patterns do you see trending in linens and tableware? 

JA: In 2022 there have been a few standout trends that event rental operators are seeing from the caterers they work closely with. 

Gold flatware has never been more in demand. Rental operators are seeing this demand continue through the end of 2022 and well into 2023. Many rental companies have not been able to keep gold options in stock at the same pace as being requested. Some supply chain challenges still remain, creating difficulties when trying to quickly increase inventory counts to satisfy demand.

Along with gold flatware, rental companies are also seeing increased requests for new flatware collections that feature acrylic handles with metal heads. The acrylic handles have been made to look like a wide variety of materials such as burl wood and pearl. 

Another trend is making a statement with “something different.” Customers are moving away from traditional white China options and replacing it with unique dishware, glassware, and the flatware. 

Rich, dark themes are a color trend in linens and tableware. Rental companies have received increased requests for darker-themed “mood tables” that incorporate rich dark tones, shades, and colors.

Catersource: What are the major bar trends for 2023? 

JA: Rental companies are receiving increased requests for upscale, customizable bar options that make a statement at events. The bar requests include traditional multipiece bar setups and the increasingly popular, newer style of bar facades. These bar facades fold open and go around the perimeter of traditional 6- or 8-foot tables. They feature high-end faux finishes and removeable panels that can be switched out to create multiple styles and designs to match an event theme.

Unique and colorful glassware is also in demand. Caterers are looking for ways to be creative and replace the traditional water goblet or wine glass with something different, colorful, and memorable.

Rentals by Curated Events Charleston | Venue by The Sanctuary| Photography by Aaron + Jillian| Flowers by Out of the Garden. Photo courtesy Curated Events

Rental operators continue to experience a high number of requests for lounge and soft seating arrangements as part of bar and dining setups. These include multiple seating and standing options combined with traditional highboy or high-top cocktail tables and lower lounge seating areas.  

Catersource: How can catering companies remain on trend as we move into the new year? How has the industry evolved over the past year? 

JA: Communication between business partners is paramount as we move into 2023 and as the rental industry evolves. Many companies–both in event rental and catering–continue to experience challenges with sourcing labor for their events. This challenge requires a deliberate increase in pre-event communication between caterers, planners, venues, and event rental companies. Overcommunication is crucial in the time leading up to events because it eliminates costly mistakes and second runs of equipment to job sites without adequate staffing to complete the task. 

Developing strong partnerships with select rental companies will help catering companies remain on trend as we move into the new year. It has never been more important to stay within your capacity to overperform for an event industry partner.  We are seeing catering companies looking for event rental partners that they know they can count on to deliver on time and without regular issues. Subsequently, there has been a strengthening of relationships between industry partners and providers. In markets where a caterer might have worked with multiple rental companies in the past, they now rely primarily on one trusted company to provide rentals. This has directly led to greater collaboration and confidence throughout the year and extends to better purchasing decisions to satisfy customer demand and stay on trend. 

Catersource: How has the supply chain issues affected the rental industry? 

JA: While there has been some improvement with the supply chain issues, the rental industry is still seeing longer waiting periods for new equipment to arrive, and uncertain delivery dates from some distributors. This uncertainty has resulted in some customers placing orders further in advance to reserve existing equipment due to the fear of not having it available.

The supply chain challenges have also led to the re-emergence of boho style designs for events that showcase a variety of unconventional colors, bold styles, and equipment. More events are including a mix of existing rental options, fabrics and materials.

Catersource: Any additional comments/trends in catering rental to add?  

JA: It is extremely positive to see the strong return of in-person events and increased demand for rental products. Caterers and event planners can rely on rental companies to be a trusted partner in contributing to the overall success of events now and in the future.  


James Auerbach

Vice President, Event Segment & Rental Industry Workforce Development, American Rental Association

James Auerbach joined the ARA in November 2020 after spending the past 25 years in the event rental, event planning/production, and hospitality industries. During his career, he managed businesses of various sizes from small owner-operated companies to large corporate or private equity-owned businesses. When he’s not working to support the event rental industry, Auerbach loves spending time with his wife, two kids, and two small dogs — Bella and Arnold Schwarzenegger.