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What to Expect from Fall Catering Trends in 2020

Fall is a time that is usually marked by moody color palettes and mulled cider bars, but this year will undoubtedly look different due to coronavirus. Many states have started reopening public spaces and rolling back gathering restrictions, but don’t be fooled — we are still very much in a pandemic and our events will surely show it.

Those that choose to carry on with their fall events will likely see shorter guest lists and onsite safety requirements, like temperature checks and physical distancing. However, that’s not to say a fall celebration this year needs to feel sterile and uncomfortable. 

Instead, we expect to see some new trends arise out of the pandemic that keep guests safe while preserving the fun and social atmosphere we’ve missed during spring and summer. Here’s what we’re seeing in the way of pandemic-friendly trends for the fall.


Photo courtesy Chef Louis Marfoglio, Daddino's Grand Ballroom

Food Trucks

By no means are food trucks a new trend, but they have been on the decline in recent years. We expect to see them come back with a vengeance, as it’s a safer way to distribute food — with physically distanced lines, of course. This is a great opportunity to embrace casual dining, allowing people to eat and mingle while still maintaining their personal space.

Chef Carts

These interactive carts bring the at-your-table restaurant experience to a catered event. Guests can watch chefs as they prepare beautiful, fork-friendly small plates. The chefs roam from space to space with a fully-loaded cart, which avoids the risk that comes from buffets, passed plates, and family-style dining. 

Chef Bars 

A non-mobile version of the chef cart, chef bars act like standard bar but serving food instead of beverages. Guests are served one at a time (with a properly distanced line) and, when it’s their turn, they can watch their meals being made from scratch. This option provides a bit more freedom than the chef carts, as the bar provides more space for ingredients and can customize orders to a greater extent.

Distanced Floor Plans 

In accordance with the 6-foot distance guideline, guest tables will be spaced out more within the venue. This will serve to keep guests further apart, as well as provide more space for servers and vendors to move about the space safely. Naturally, this may result in a restricted head count in a space, so this will need to be discussed carefully with guests.

Photo courtesy Shindig by Shaeffer catering.

Pre-Packaged Meals

We expect to see more requests for pre-packaged meals but upgraded to include premium ingredients and top-tier presentation. Think lavish boxed lunches that look as great as they taste. Since these are prepared in advance and delivered directly to the venue, there is less risk in spreading the virus. Although this may not be popular for weddings, these will be increasingly used for social and corporate events.

Circumstances aside, these trends can be implemented with creativity to make a major impact on guest experience. Selling is no longer about touting accolades or awards; it’s not about instilling a feeling of safety for our clients and their guests. If you can show that you’re able to create a high-quality product while maintaining safety regulations, your clients will feel safer and trust your brand to make the most out of the current parameters. 


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