Catering and Event Planning Trends for 2020

What will inspire  event themes and design in 2020?
What menu inspiration will chefs use as they create new and fine tune traditional favorites?  


Wellness is a still a top trend in catered events for 2020.  It is important to people to continue their commitment to the diet and lifestyle they follow.  We are designing menus in the following ways with this trend in mind:

Plant Based Foods:  In 2020 we will be designing menus with more plant based foods than ever!  These menu items are a tasty solution for vegan guests as well as vegetarian guests.  Other guests aren’t 100% vegan or vegetarian, but they do enjoy these items for the overall health benefits such as lower cholesterol and saturated fat.  The goal is to add in healthful plant based menu items, all throughout the menu, that are as delicious and satisfying to eat, with the eyes and with the palate.  

Photos courtesy of Cameron Mitchell Premier Events

Some ingredients with a starring role in 2020 to swap in for a healthier choice: 

Meat Swap: Jackfruit: this comes off the jackfruit tree and is a very hearty tree and easy to grow making it good for the planet.  The texture has a stringy consistency making it a popular plant based substitute for shredded chicken and beef or pulled pork. It is also full of nutrients and fiber.  We will see it on menus as Jackfruit BBQ, jackfruit cake (think crab cake, but not), rice bowl topping, jackfruit ‘non’meatball and much more.   

Dairy Swap: Oat Milk: this dairy free alternative will be everywhere in 2020.  It is rich in essential vitamins and fiber and is a plant based tasty ingredient on coffee bars, ice creams, savory dishes to add creamy texture and more!

Protein Swap: Pea, mung beans, hempseed, beets, chickpeas and avocado are some of the top swaps to add protein, gaining popularity and helping to avoid items that are more commonly an allergen like cashews and soy. 

Cocktails:  Ingredients such as bee pollen, teas, hibiscus and matcha will be  found mixed in creative drinks at the trendiest events. Zero Proof Cocktails that are intentional, composed and thoughtful are also trending for 2020.  These will be a sought after offering on events as well.

Healthy Business Meetings and Conferences: There is a trend on not only including healthful menu options, but to balance this with physical movement. 

Some suggestions have been music and a group “dance” for one song to break up a session and add energy.  We added this at a meeting recently of event planners and it was so well received!  Allow time for breaks where people can get in steps and move, maybe there is a prize offered for who has achieved the most steps at a meeting.  The trend is emerging and event planners are finding creative ways, that make sense for the meeting and what attire attendees will be wearing, to add opportunities for physical movement.

Mental wellness.  Finding ways to create quiet spaces that reduce stress and calm are popular for breaks during meetings.  Soothing music, comfortable seating, teas, infused waters, screens with calming images are just some examples of how to add a destressing break during a meeting.

Experiential Interactions

Experiential interactions with an event is a continued trend that is evolving for 2020.   Some ways to incorporate this trend would be:

  • This will include demonstrations with or without attendee involvement, workshops and especially those where you can “get your hands dirty” and adding ancillary live events to attend and experience in creative spaces with more engaging opportunities throughout.
  • Champagne Hand Wall: a wall with curtained squares with gloved hands holding out champagne (or another offering) for the guests to take as they walk up or by.  
  • Simple Food interactions that include the guest squeezing a pipette into an item, or choosing a flavored spray and spraying it on their food to large helium balloons with small cloud cakes inside and guests pop the balloon, catch their cake and can enjoy as is or add a frosting are fun additions to an event!  Fun food bites falling from above softly attached to small parachutes for the guest to catch and enjoy add surprise, wow and delightful interaction as guests mingle through the event.
    Cake Balloon Station. Photos courtesy of Cameron Mitchell Premier Events
  • Interactive cocktails are on the forefront for 2020!  Butterfly Tea Martini is a blue cocktail that when ordered the bartender adds lemon juice to it and as the guest stirs the drink turns purple!  The Szechuan Button is a bigger commitment!  Coming from an herb, this “button” may be added to a drink and when consumed releases a naturally occurring alkaloid that creates a tingly feeling or numbing feeling in the mouth that creates excess salivation that then feels like a cooling sensation in the throat.
  • Mosaic Picture Wall: Guests will create a physical mosaic wall at the event from live event photos or online hashtag photos in real-time.  Guests/attendees can take part in creating a large work of art by placing their picture on the wall and then overtime will reveal the overall image.  
  • Augmented Reality vs Virtual Reality on events: AR is a hardware filter that can be used with a smartphone and can be live in the real world with an effect layered on top of it like sound or an image.   VR totally immerses the person in a different reality and requires more gear.  By learning more about AR and how to add elements of it to events event planners can add new dimensions of creativity and experience.
  •  Instagramable food, beverage and experiences are very popular on events so incorporate this from the initial planning.  Have creative hashtags displayed for the guests to see so they can use what you want them to use.  

The Greater Good, Sustainability and Local Sourcing

The Greater Good, Sustainability and Local Sourcing: Continuing to lessen our footprint on Earth and offering sustainable practices and products is a trend that continues to grow, rightfully so.  Caterers are going after green certifications and highlighting sustainable practices and products on their websites.  

  •  Elimination of things like straws, plastics in general, and extra non-essential items are being removed from events or replaced with more sustainable options.  Companies are analyzing what is non-essential or easily replaced with a better eco-friendly option.  This is also touted on websites, social media and proposals to clients as it can be a determining factor when choosing a caterer.
  •  Sourcing and buying local is still a growing trend as well.  Complementing the sustainability mentioned above, supporting local business, highlighting the local flavors and products and creating the local experience is a trend that makes each market unique and interesting.   Craft products whether small batch spirits, beers, breads, sauces, coffees or other food, beverage and products add a special intimate touch to a menu by offering flavors, items and stories not commonly found with mainstream products.

The Look

Design and style play a huge role in events.  New trends are mixed with traditional favorites and unique preferences on events each year.  For 2020 we are seeing:

  • Bringing the Outdoors Indoors is a sensory altering 2020 trend.  Transforming an indoor event environment with elements from outside can alter the guest’s senses as they navigate the event.  Trees, outdoor furniture, greenery and floral walls, fountains, and other outdoor elements all help create the outdoor atmosphere to fit with or enhance a particular theme.  Combine these with subtle sound effects that lend towards that theme or fresh scents of beachy salt water or wintery birch and tobacco. 
    Living Garnish Wall. Photos courtesy of Cameron Mitchell Premier Events
  • Relaxed and comfortable design environment for events, with detailed composition, to keep the sophistication as a trend in 2020.  There will still be the elegant and lush events, but the approachable and relaxed elements are finding their way in.  This could be with aspects like fun dessert bars,  with the late night bites or with seating for a gala and adding comfortable seating with sofas or banquettes at dining tables.  
  •  Non-traditional venues are also on trend for 2020 and may need some creative transformation.  Using the trends above will help transform that space.
  • The Pantone color of 2020 is Classic Blue.  This choice installs a feeling of calm, connection and dependability as we enter into 2020.  In addition to classic blue, ocean inspired colors of blues, cooler greens, sandy colored neutrals and browns will be mixed in.