Seeing culinary trends through the eyes of chefs and properties that serve the meetings and events industry is always helpful when considering what to cover in the magazines I edit—Mountain Meetings and Colorado Meetings + Events. As someone who grew up with parents and grandparents who always had fairly sizable gardens and served tasty meats straight from the source (often raised by family members or local farmers and ranchers) and who lives in a mountain town and state that appreciates healthy, local foods, I’m excited to hear about the trends for 2017 identified by Teneo Hospitality Group at its annual summit. Teneo is a group meeting sales organization that brings together 300 hotels, resorts and destination management companies, including many beautiful mountain properties and experienced DMCs in the U.S. Mountain West.
“Today’s hotel and group banquet guests have new and highly diverse dining requirements and demands,” says Mike Schugt, president, Teneo. Luxury and independent hotels tend to have more flexibility in purchasing he notes, resulting in “an explosion of culinary creativity” and making “local sourcing of ingredients much easier, providing chefs detailed knowledge of how vegetables are grown and how animals are raised.”
1. Local & 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 have more intensive knowledge of the food they are buying and serving.
2. Natural, Minimally Processed Foods
Creative chefs throughout the country are leading a movement to educate and excite their customers about experiencing foods that are as close to their natural state as possible and not overly seasoned or processed.
3. More Varied Protein Sources
Animal-based proteins are assuming a more secondary role. Look for a greater use of vegetables, seeds, nuts and legumes as part of the protein intake at group dining events as well as more abundant species of fish such as mackerel, rock fish and skipjack and a variety of cuts of meat from the entire animal.
4. Healthy Snacks
Planners have long seen the need for energy-boosting breakout 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.
5. Ethnic-Inspired Breakfasts
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 to appear at breakfast along with hot and flavorful cereals such as congee mixed with vegetables or even spicy Korean kimchee as alternatives to oatmeal. Pita, nan, flatbread will add more options for build-your-own breakfast burrito stations.
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 millennials.
7. Hybrid Cuisine
Hybrid cuisine means respecting the craft and traditional techniques of two culinary worlds and combining them in a well-balanced dish. For example, it might be Korean fried chicken combined with a daikon kimchee and turned into a slider with miso mayonnaise.
8. House-Made Artisan Items
This can be a small consumable item that is property or event specific and possibly something a guest can take home or back to the office. Ideas include house-made snack mixes, gourmet popcorn, macaroons or small jars of jams, chutneys, mustards or infused seasoning salts.
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, ordering freshly prepared menu items for quick pick up without the wait. The apps also can be used to order for vendor booths and breakout meeting spaces.
10. Cocktails & Mocktails
Classic cocktails are making a comeback such as Manhattans, Side Cars and French 75s. America’s 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. On-property mixologists are creating their own infusions from fresh ingredients, and local craft beers and wines enhance the overall experience and contribute to sustainability. Nondrinkers shouldn’t be left out and limited to water and sodas. Alcohol-free takes on mojitos, cosmopolitans, martinis and Bloody Marys with infusions of fresh fruit and colorful garnishes are fun and delicious options.
"These changes will demand a creative, flexible response to guest demands, including an emphasis on flavor, health and strict attention to sustainable farming and livestock practices and dietary needs," Schugt says.
I don’t know about you, but if these trends hold true, 2017 should be a great year for attending meetings and events!