'Tis the Season: Holiday Menu Trends

Though it may seem far, far away (especially in this heat), holiday season is fast approaching. And with this festive time of year comes one thing in particular: holiday event menus.

If you're not feeling in the holiday spirit quite yet—don't worry! We spoke with experts in creating unique menus, director of sales and marketing, Denise Smith of By Design Collective in Denver and chief sales and marketing officer, Steve Sanchez of The JDK Group in Harrisburg, to gather some inspiration for fresh takes on festive flavors.

Comfort foods are still a crowd pleaser during the holiday season. One of JDK’s most requested items is a Miniature BLT. Photo Credit: The JDK Group

Comfortable classics

Let's start with the basics: What are you going to serve at your holiday events? Smith shared that her team enjoys taking comfort foods to the next level. After all, for many caterers, the holidays take place in a colder time of year, so nothing warms up guests like a cheesy raclette station or Greek braised short ribs, two takes on classics that Smith recommends. Sanchez agrees that comfort food never seems to die in the cold winter and mentioned some popular requests are poutine stuffed potatoes, miniature BLTs, and roasted airline chicken breast with tomato butter sauce, parsnip, and parsley hash.

Brand your buns

No, seriously: Smith said one of the popular features of their corporate event menu is branded food items. Using a branding iron, they sear a company's name or logo into all sorts of items, including pita, chips, and—of course—sandwich buns. This makes a more routine corporate event feel tailored to that specific audience.

Surprise guests with interesting presentations, like this suspended asparagus. Photo Credit: By Design Collective

Get guests involved

Though most caterers now offer some kind of interactive station, corporate holiday parties are the perfect time to really experiment. These events may not be as entertaining as weddings or other more personal celebrations, so guests will be looking for some excitement. Try something with visual elements like fire, lights, ice, or bright colors—Smith mentioned that her guests enjoy a sautéed donut station. The JDK team loves to get theatrical when it comes to food presentation. Some of their favorites are smoked tray passed food where the server opens a dome and smoke rises for the guest to enjoy a miniature appetizer. Sanchez mentioned action stations continue to be popular for us which provide a picture-perfect moment for guests and allow our culinary team the opportunity to put on a show!

Don't shy away from heights and color in presentations of small bites; they look less repetitive when there are a lot of visual elements. Photo Credit: By Design Collective

Market your menus

The most recent holiday branding campaign at JDK is the #HolidayHero campaign. They created a custom brand and theme design, separate landing page, marketing materials, online ads, and digital/social marketing pieces that are used target new and existing clients.

Our advice for this holiday season: be exciting. Caterers at holiday parties have to compete with all of the other memorable events in a very condensed week, so don't be afraid to be bold!

By Design Collaborative and The JDK Group are proud members of the ICA. For more information, visit internationalcaterers.org.

Join us at Catersource 2019 in New Orleans and learn all about hot food trends! Click here for the latest information. Registration opens mid-September!

International Caterers Association

For motivated caterers, International Caterers Association is a resource that provides Education, encourages peer to peer Relationships and Inspires creativity while embracing all segments of the catering industry. For more information, visit internationalcaterers.org

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