The food revolution that swept America’s tables all the way to the White House has reached the kitchens of the country’s hotel and resort ballrooms and banquet spaces. Chef-led, millennial-driven, and embracing the issues of sustainability, sourcing, wellness and diversity, the 2017 food & beverage trends show an increasingly complex and sophisticated market.
“Today’s hotel and group banquet guests have new and highly diverse dining requirements and demands,” says Mike Schugt, president of Teneo Hospitality Group, the leading professional group meeting sales organization bringing together 300 hotels, resorts and destination management companies worldwide with professional meeting and event planners. “Luxury and independent hotels are well-positioned to provide customized culinary solutions to planners, as they are less restricted by brand corporate procedures and purchasing requirements. This has resulted in an explosion of culinary creativity, and has made local sourcing of ingredients much easier, providing chefs detailed knowledge of how vegetables are grown and how animals are raised.”
Teneo recently addressed food & beverage trends at its Annual Summit, partnering with guest Executive Banquet Chef Stefan Peroutka of The Venetian and The Palazzo in Las Vegas. A native of Austria who has cooked in several acclaimed restaurants in Europe and the United States, Chef Peroutka brings the same creative vision and commitment to excellence to group events. “I believe that a key factor to longevity and success in this industry is based on a simple concept that I refer to as an ‘HONEST Food Program’,” said Chef Peroutka. “It is built on delivering fresh and real ingredients that are prepared with proper technique and passion, always setting out to preserve the integrity of all ingredients used. This is the basic concept to building great culinary programs.”
Top 10 Group Food & Beverage Trends
Trend #1 Local and Sustainable
Sourcing and using locally-raised meat and produce is the most productive way to meet the changing requirements for healthy dining while reducing a hotel’s or resort’s carbon footprint. Chefs are assured of fresh ingredients and much more intensive knowledge of the food they are buying and serving. Says Chef Peroutka, “Increasingly, group meeting and banquet guests want to know where their food comes from, how it is raised and fed, and they have a right to that information.” For example, meat from grass-fed cows, raised without hormones is far healthier and tastier. By buying locally, a chef can assure guests from personal knowledge that their dinners come from animals that have been naturally and humanely raised. Indeed, animal welfare is a growing concern, especially among millennials. Buying from local farms will also greatly reduce transportation costs and emissions.
Trend #2 Natural, Minimally Processed Foods
Creative chefs throughout the country are leading a movement to educate and excite their customers about experiencing foods as close to their natural state as possible, and not overly seasoned or processed. As healthier, plant-based ingredients replace processed food and awareness of the dangers of sodium, sugar and saturated fat grows, Americans are demanding healthier food at meetings and banquet events.
Trend #3 New Cuts of Meat, Non-traditional Fish, Meat Versus Plant
Animal-based proteins will assume a more secondary role in 2017 as chefs respond to guest’s individual diet preferences for more sustainable and healthier eating habits. Look for a greater use of vegetables, seeds, nuts and legumes as part of the protein intake at group dining events. Since some fish have become scarce, more abundant species such as mackerel, rock fish and skipjack are now trending as healthy protein sources. To make food more sustainable and affordable, chefs are using a variety of cuts of meat - not just breasts, shoulders, and legs, but the entire animal.
Trend #4 Healthful Snacks
New and healthier snacks are coming on the market, impacting both what is offered at hotels and resorts, in meetings, and what individuals purchase or prepare for themselves. Planners have long seen the need for energy-boosting break-out items such as fruit, nuts and yogurt. These will be joined by seaweed and plant-based snacks, and smoothies made with nut-based milks rather than dairy.
Trend #5 Ethnic-Inspired Breakfast Items
An increasingly diverse American population now consumes a breakfast that goes well beyond bacon and eggs, and international attendees bring their own preferences. Many Europeans start the day with a variety of breads and charcuterie from prosciutto and salami to pâtés. Middle Easterners enjoy spreads and salads, while Latin Americans prefer spicier breakfast entrees with meats, eggs and empanadas. In 2017, look for fruits such as pomelo, star fruit, mangosteen, red bananas, pomegranates and Asian pears for breakfast. Hot and flavorful cereals such as congee mixed with vegetables or even spicy Korean kimchee makes a flavorful change from bland oatmeal. Popular breads will include pita, nan, flatbread, and tortillas for build-your own breakfast burritos.
Trend #6 Bolder Flavors
The phenomenal success of Siracha sauces and wide exposure to spicy ethnic foods such as Thai and Indian cuisine, make today’s guests far more adventurous diners, particularly among millennials. With an international mix of conference attendees, planners must explore ways to incorporate these items on restaurant and conference menus.
Trend #7 Hybrid Cuisine
Hybrid Cuisine evolved from the fusion food trend, which sometimes resulted in dishes that were more confused than fused. Hybrid cuisine is all about respecting the craft and traditional techniques of two culinary worlds and combining items into a harmonious well balanced dish. For example, it could be as simple as Korean fried chicken combined with a daikon Kimchee turned into a slider with miso mayonnaise.
Trend #8 House Made / Artisan Items
This trend is about creating a unique, individualized and memorable experience for guests - all produced and customized in house. This could be a small consumable item that is property-or event-specific … something a guest can take away with them, and which can later transport them back for a few moments to re-experience the event. This may be house-made snack mixes, gourmet popcorn, macaroons, or small jars of house-made jams, chutneys, mustards or infused seasoning salts.
Trend #9 Grab & Go with Mobile Apps
Like many current food trends, this is driven by busy, tech-savvy millennials. At conferences, attendees can use hotel or meeting apps to access interactive menus through personal mobile devices, ordering freshly prepared menu items for quick pick up without the wait. The apps can also be used to order to a vendor booth or break-out meeting space, for fast convenient service.
Trend #10 Cocktails, Mocktails and More
Beverages can make an event, and the emphasis should be quality and innovation over quantity. Many classic cocktails are making a comeback, including Manhattans, Side Cars and French 75s. America’s very own whisky, Bourbon, is giving Scotch a run for its money and gin lovers can now choose from a variety of tonics for their G & Ts. Talented mixologists are mixing their own infusions from fresh ingredients. Locally brewed craft beers and local wines enhance the overall dining experience and also contribute to sustainability.
Nondrinkers don’t want not be limited to simple water or chemically laden soft drinks. Planners can provide non-alcoholic beverages that are imaginatively presented. Fortunately, the current concern with health and safety has given rise to Mocktails, alcohol-free takes on mojitos, Cosmos, Martinis and Bloody Marys with infusions of fresh fruit and colorful garnishes.
"We are seeing a much more complex and challenging environment emerging within group food and beverage," says Teneo President Mike Schugt. "These changes will demand a creative, flexible response to guest demands, including an emphasis on flavor, health, and strict attention to sustainable farming & livestock practices, and dietary needs." While Mr. Schugt sees luxury and independent properties in the vanguard of this movement, he has no doubt that the entire industry will eventually step up to meet these new challenges. "This is an innovative, creative industry," Mike Schugt affirms. "We listen to our customers, ask questions, learn, and then lead the way."
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