Catersource is part of the Informa Connect Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Catersource + The Special Event Take On the Trends

Check out the top 10 event trends seen during Catersource + The Special Event

Staying on top of event trends can be daunting, especially since they’re constantly evolving (regardless of how long they stick around). 

“Event trends are a little more difficult to come by right now because the biggest trend is ‘How do we deliver?’,” David Merrell (AOO Events) said during his Catersource + The Special Event session, Current Trends in the Event Industry. “The trend is to get your business back and operating.”

Fortunately, Catersource + The Special Event (held this past March in Orlando, FL) was the perfect one-stop-shop to hear (and in some cases see) the trends that event planners are talking about. Here’s a look at what’s trending, and what you should keep an eye out for during your upcoming events.

All photos courtesy WASIO Faces unless otherwise noted

Getting wild

It’s become increasingly popular for animals to get their own invitations to events. Whether it’s for photo ops, entertainment, or even as the bartender, today’s events are truly getting wild.

A duo of llamas posed for pictures outside of Kavas Tacos + Tequila during the Opening Night Party. 

Animals have always been popular photo opportunities at events (as evidenced by the llamas who posed for pictures during the Opening Night Party), but animals are also starting to become more integral to the event itself. For example, some events are setting up puppy play areas where guests can get away from the stress of an event and instead enjoy a little animal therapy. Animals can also make for great event décor (as we saw on the Catersource + The Special Event tradeshow floor in the Pzazz Productions booth).

Animals are even starting to pop up as bartenders (as we saw during the Opening Night Party) in the form of beer burros; and we can’t forget about the growing popularity of animal wedding attendants (one company, Furever Us, offers pet care services during events). Regardless of where this trend goes, there’s no denying that it’s an awfully cute one.

Bringing the outdoors in

Biophilic design (a design concept that incorporates natural elements) is growing in popularity at events as a way to bring the outdoors in.

“We’re regaining connection with the natural world,” said Kristin Banta (Kristin Banta Events) during her session Design to Impact 2023.

Biophilic design (a design concept that incorporates natural elements) is growing in popularity at events as a way to bring the outdoors in. Shown: The Floral Design Lab during Catersource + The Special Event.

A few examples of this could be seen throughout the week at Catersource + The Special Event, specifically in the Floral Design Lab (which was part of the Event Escape activation) where florals were incorporated into a sitting area and even on a lamp. 

Jazzed up entertainment

According to a recent article from Special Events magazine, the demand for bigger and bolder entertainment is growing exponentially, and fortunately for us, Catersource + The Special Event didn’t have any shortage of entertainment. 

Strings on Fire took the stage during the Closing General Session where electric guitar and electric violin joined forces.

Electric violins

According to the article, roaming— and sometimes dancing—violinists are on the rise. These performers will dress up in their glitziest outfits and weave in and out among event attendees, often dancing or playing over pop tracks, as we saw multiple times throughout the conference (Connect Live, both the Opening and Closing General Sessions, and the Opening Night Party). 


The VarieTEASE burlesque dancers (from BlueLaLa Entertainment) performed during Connect Live.

Stage performances

Of course, stage performances will always be great entertainment. Burlesque shows (including brunches, bingo nights, and more) continue to grow in popularity (as we saw during Connect Live) and live art demonstrations are popular, according to BizBash, as they not only provide event entertainment, but they can lead to event decor once the particular installation is complete (as we saw during the Opening Night Party and the Closing General Session).

Attendees to Catersource + The Special Event were challenged to sleuth out miniature Volkswagen buses on the conference’s tradeshow floor.

Interactive stations

Playful interactive games and activity stations bring out everyone’s inner child and competitive side, according to the Special Events article. During Catersource + The Special Event, attendees were challenged to sleuth out miniature Volkswagen buses on the tradeshow floor. 

An immersive beginning

Immersive entrances are trending upward to “wow” attendees from the very first touch point, whether it’s smoke, lights, greenery, a tunnel, or some sort of F&B offering.

“Give them content and interactivity from the very first moment that they walk in,” said Banta during her session. “Make them walk through something, engage with something.”

Guests walked through a lighted drape to access the indoor space from the outdoor space during the Opening Night Party. Photo courtesy WASIO Faces/SpotMyPhotos

During the Opening Night Party, guests walked through a lighted drape to access the indoor space from the outdoor space. 

Going mobile

Mobile activations are starting to trend as a way for companies to easily get in front of clients. “It’s a much more inexpensive way to get your marketing out there,” Merrell said.

 Mix on Wheels was set up throughout the week during Catersource + The Special Event where the vehicle not only housed a DJ booth, but also served as a great photo opportunity.

Beyond just driving someplace, these mobile vehicles can also be used for DJs and photo booths (such as those seen during Catersource + The Special Event), as well as for beer, wine, and coffee taps. 

Horsin’ around

Themes are becoming increasingly popular at events, everything from Roaring ‘20s to the zombie apocalypse are trending. “Everyone is asking for themes,” Merrell said. 

The CS+TSE 2024: Uncover Austin, TX Event Escape room invited attendees to create their own Texas-inspired keychain with the help of the Texas Leathercraft station from Sparks Agency.

One theme that has started to gain more traction is a western theme (which we saw in the CS+TSE 2024: Uncover Austin, TX Event Escape room).

“This is a big thing since Yellowstone came out,” Banta added. 

Say cheese

Forget the traditional photo booth setup that you have seen time and again. Events are now getting creative with their photo activations as a way to engage attendees through props, living photo activations, and more.

“We want guests touching things, and not thinking that everything is hands off to them,” Banta said. “We want guests to engage with the décor.”

The Opening Night Party offered several photo activations where guests could pose with props, fun backdrops, and costumed models.

The Opening Night Party offered several photo activations (in addition to the mobile photo booth) where guests could pose with themed backdrops and costumed models. 

Make it pop

“The word this year is bold,” said Michael Stavros (M Culinary Concepts) during his session Caterers Assemble! - Tantalizing Trends, Captivating Concepts, Inspired Interactivity.

Opening General Session keynote Marcy Blum got in on the Viva Magenta trend.

When talking about color, bold, saturated, concentrated (and even monochromatic) are trending.

“Get loud, get unexpected,” Banta said.

That preference for bold colors can certainly be attributed to this year’s Pantone Color of the Year, Viva Magenta (which could be spotted throughout Catersource + The Special Event).

“They tend to be on the pulse of what’s happening in the world right now,” Merrell said.

“Viva Magenta can really create a pop,” said Susie Perelman (Mosaic) during Merrell’s session.

Break the code

QR Codes are moving beyond just mobile tickets and digital business cards; they’re now popping up on dance floors, backsplashes, projections, on food, and in some cases, they’re even walking around (like the one from Champagne Creative Group that was spotted walking around throughout Catersource + The Special Event).

Champagne Creative Group had a walking QR code throughout Catersource + The Special Event. Photo courtesy WASIO Faces/SpotMyPhotos

“I love this because it’s not just used in digital business cards for easier connectivity, but these are now being incorporated into design beyond just utilitarian use,” Banta said. 

A wellness check

Many events are now embracing mindfulness and wellness through wellness retreats, guided meditations, and other wellness activities (which we saw in the Wellness Lounge, as part of the Event Escape activations).

“We’re taking a deeper look at how spaces have an impact on the way that we feel,” Banta said.

The Wellness Lounge, as part of the Event Escape, offered soothing music, beautiful scents, and comfortable seating. The space also hosted morning yoga, and an event therapy session with Charessa Sawyer and Sierra Reed.

So, how will you incorporate these trends into your next event? “

Trends should be relevant to the client, but we don’t want to incorporate trends just for the sake of incorporating trends,” Banta said. “Lean into it, dial it up, and give it your spin.”

Amber Kispert

Senior Content Producer

Amber is the Senior Content Producer for Catersource. Amber previously worked as a Communications Specialist for LeClair Group and a reporter for the Woodbury Bulletin, both located in Woodbury, Minn.  As a self-described "foodie," Amber loves to experience the world of food and beverages, and is excited to help share the stories of Catersource and the world's caterers.