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The Fall Catering Trends to Keep an Eye On

Although business is picking back up (and quite expediently at that!), this fall’s special events will still be in the shadows of COVID-19 as the colder months are projected to be unpredictable, and safety remains a top priority. But, ever the creatives, caterers have pulled out all the stops to ensure their top-notch quality doesn’t sacrifice guests’ health and wellbeing.

As we navigate the months to come, stay vigilant about your standard operating procedures to limit risk and foster a clean environment for your team, clients, and guests. When in doubt, take the safe route!

Of course, safety doesn’t necessarily mean resorting to boring boxed lunches. Here are a few catering trends to expect in this fall’s events.

Leslie Price from In Any Event designed seating “pods” for a recent Dr. Seuss themed baby shower. Photo courtesy In Any Event  

Extra elbow room

We might be gathering in person again, but social distancing is still very much a buzzword for caterers and venues alike. Err on the side of caution and ensure there is an appropriate distance between guest tables, not just for their comfort but to keep serving lanes clear as well. A little bump here or there may not have been a cause for concern pre-COVID, but caterers must be mindful that each individual guest carries their own sense of risk and worry.

A quartet of temperance cocktails from the Swizzle Competition during the 2020 Catersource + The Special in Las Vegas. Photo courtesy WASIO Photography.

Zero-proof beverages

Mocktails have been on the scene for a few seasons now, but 2021 has really seen the trend take off for those disinclined to consume alcohol. But, for sober (or sober-curious) guests, there shouldn’t be any reason they are stuck with the basic choices of water, lemonade, and iced tea! Zero-proof cocktails are made with non-alcoholic spirits, juices, and flavoring agents to deliver the same complexities as a traditional cocktail without any buzz (or regrets).

Intentional serving styles

With safety at the forefront, open buffets, lavish spreads, and family-style serving won’t be coming back any time soon. Food stations continue to be a popular addition, but be mindful to prevent long, crowded lines. Plated meals remain the safest choice to adhere to pandemic guidelines. Expect to see caterers take it the extra mile with creative ways to enclose individual servings for an added layer of protection, like using cloches, sealed jars, or small grazing boxes for each guest.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble Parfait  from Tuxedos and Tennis Shoes Catering & Events. Photo courtesy NXT Creates

Desserts for one

Instead of sharing slices from the same cake or putting out an all-you-can-eat dessert display, individual sweets are a great way to ring in dessert hour while managing risk. Single-serving cakes, pies, tarts, and other tasty treats are sure to make guests smile while also presenting an area to get creative in packaging. A chic acrylic box with a cupcake inside or an upscale take on a to-go box filled with chocolate truffles can also double as a favor!

We’ve come a long way since last fall, and, as an industry, we’ve learned a lot throughout the experience. So let’s look ahead to a season marked by warm colors, cozy environments, and a feeling of togetherness. 

Meryl Snow

Owner, Feastivities Events, Philadelphia, PA and Senior Consultant, Certified Catering Consultants

With nearly 30 years in the special event and catering industry, Meryl Snow is the co-founder of Feastivities Events and the creator of The Triangle Method.  As a Senior Consultant for Certified Catering Consultants, Meryl travels throughout North America training clients in the areas of sales, marketing, design and branding to help businesses get on their own path to success.She is the author of Booked It! and Cha-CHING!

Meryl Snow

Catersource Advisory Council Member

Founder of