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Experiences Are Mandatory in 2018

How we experience events is changing. See how two massive industries are encouraging collaboration to ensure guests get a truly immersive experience.


Industry events used to be boring. You’d dress up to sit at a table, eat a two-toned catered meal, drink sweet white wine, and listen to an aspirational speech drone on before driving home, hoping you could think of a reason not to attend next year. They’d call it a gala, or worse, a “night under the stars!” but it never quite felt that way.

The advent of Food Network and the like began to change the game. We became confident. We could entertain on our own….and make it fun! Then we got creative. Ambitious spreads of beautiful—and even sometimes delicious—food was the thing. We became discerning. Where is this lamb from? How was it raised? Is it local? And we started posting. Now everyone gets to see the impossibly perfect, nuanced herb crust on our artisanal black truffle and burrata pizza.

Then came millennial. A generation so over it, so bored with the status quo, arms crossed, can’t be bothered… and while their elder generations wondered when this group of upstarts would finally join the labor pool, those same kids reinvented the wheel, with results nothing short of seismic.

Discerning, focused clients understand the value of 360-degree event curation. The food must not only look and taste amazing—but follow a narrative that enhances the experience.

Enter the experiential marketing firms (many now lead by millennials), who reimagined the game, taking huge steps away from the self-congratulating galas. Instead, now creating immersive experiences that envelop guests completely in whatever world corporate America is promoting. It is no surprise why highly skilled hospitality minded catering and events companies have found symbiosis in this new paradigm.

Experiences are mandatory in 2018.

That means, of course, that catering must raise the bar too. We have to do something more than just provide a meal to keep you in your seat. The media is showing up, everyone is posting, the stakes are higher than ever.

Tray passing

We now see our food and beverage integrating into the DNA of these events. Discerning, focused clients understand the value of 360-degree event curation. The food must not only look and taste amazing—but follow a narrative that enhances the experience.

The entire process has become a full collaboration with venues, event planners, production houses, PR firms, and entertainment industry clients to create these new experiential events that are changing the way everyone wants to celebrate.

A line of tacos from The Copper Key Catering & Events

We see many of our partners, like Goya Studios, a raw event venue in Hollywood, CA transform into everything from an 80s post-apocalyptic trailer park, to a pre-historic cave meets luxury day spa for men. We are no longer putting out chafing dishes of well-prepared proteins/veggies/starch. The food and beverage programs are being themed down to a granular level—and the results are stunning.

House made fruit rolls ups

Track Marketing came to Los Angeles for a screening of Black Panther looking for interesting items that were just a step beyond movie theater concessions. House-made fruit roll-ups in mango-jalapeño and blueberry-ginger flavors, hot pretzels with Nutella, and s’mores bites fit the bill by being approachable while still raising the bar beyond the usual popcorn and Junior Mints offering.

Not just a place to sit but a place to sit, and experience

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences decided it wanted to step outside the box from their traditional set up for a pre-Oscar event. The “Welcome to LA Station” showed nominees from around the world the fun of our street food with duck confit sopes and K-Town sliders, to name a few. An avocado bar was a perfect complement and offered something that could satisfy every major dietary restriction in one stop.

The trendsetters in our industry all have one very important thing in common. They want to make sure their guests feel like they’re having a completely unique experience, and through food, creating a one-on-one experience with resonance.

Now, the ripples are felt in social and corporate events. More and more we see weddings, private gatherings, employee appreciation events, all asking for something new and different. And it’s the highly skilled catering and events companies, including The Copper Key Catering & Events, bringing it full circle and delivering this next phase to the masses.

Photos courtesy of the caterer

Want to learn how to combine trends, food, and experience? Catersource 2019 will have all the education you need! Click here for the latest show update.

Jessica Mills

Sales and Marketing Director | The Copper Key Catering and Events

As part of a large Italian family deeply steeped in food culture, Jessica Mills’ interest in cuisine has been part of her DNA since she was 17 years old. After working in the family business for years, Jessica moved into the Los Angeles catering scene in 2011, combining her professional experience with her personal passion as she works with some of the most well-known entertainment industry caterers in the business. Currently, she is the Sales and Marketing Director for The Copper Key Catering and Events in Los Angeles, where the vision of modern classic is expressed in new and innovative ways.