Food Presentation Gets a Modern Facelift
Attention Caterers and Restaurant Owners: Did you know that the catering industry is now a $1.7 billion/year business? Given these National Association of Catering Executives statistics, it is no wonder that new methods of catering and diversified styles of food presentation are on the rise. In this dynamic, competitive milieu, you have a unique opportunity to rise to top of your foodservice game. Stay up-to-date with the latest service styles and keep your ear to the ground – and your eyes on the prize – for food presentation sensations that are turning heads in 2019.
Creating a Wow Factor
The success of your business, as always, depends in large part upon your understanding of the costs, efficiencies, and logistics of planning a catered affair and how to orchestrate each event to resounding success. How you plate your menu offerings and decorate your tables are another known success strategy in the biz.
In recent years, however, food presentation has experienced a modern-day facelift, and it is creating a ‘wow factor’ that has now become the point of differentiation between services. Standing out from the crowd by presenting classic dishes in novel ways or by concocting tomorrow’s next pièce de résistance is the recipe for culinary stardom, as well as a key to customer satisfaction.
New in Catering and Foodservice Styles
So, what is on the menu and playing field for 2019? Here are some of the innovative food service additions tantalizing taste buds and whetting consumers’ appetites:
- Interactive culinary kiosks: (aka performance stations or action food stations) where an appetizer, main course, or dessert is prepared tableside or in front of guests’ eyes. Examples of these chef-attended stations include grilling stations, carving stations, sushi carts, fondue carts, flaming desserts, crepe-pancake-omelet stations, as well an increasing diversity of food bars, i.e. pasta bars, taco bars, burger bars, gourmet coffee bars, and more. Adding fanfare and excitement to guests’ dinner, freshness to your food, and diversity to your business, actions stations are a great way to put on a show and reap the rewards as customers clamor for more.
- Pop-Up Restaurants: Literally popping up anywhere and everywhere, pop-up venues are a contemporary phenomenon allowing foodservice pros to try out new culinary concepts and recipes and make long-time dreams come true. These short-term experiments can last for a few hours or a few weeks or months, with locations as varied as the imagination allows. Some current locales include summer beer gardens, winter wine fests, rooftop restaurants, weekend beach barbeques, and more.
- Tasting Menus: To really show off what your chefs are made of, tasting menus are the way to go! Once the exclusive domain of fine-dining establishments, the process of serving guests 5-8 mini courses featuring your eatery’s signature dishes is now a popular crowd-pleasing service style.
Top 2019 Food Trends
Of course, no synopsis of the state of the food industry would be complete without a word from the people who head the businesses themselves… Here is what some caterers and restaurateurs forecast for the year ahead:
Wedding Food Trends: In the words of Food for Thought caterer Joel Chaiken: “Couples are looking for more interaction, more conversation, and more engagement amongst their guests. Dinner is a chance to bring your friends and loved ones around the table to truly share your experience, so we’ve seen a shift toward less formal, more conversational seating and service styles. Many of our clients ask for tavern-style seating—either glammed up or farm style and rustic—to bring guests closer and build a buzz of conversation. Settings like these are perfect for family-style dinners and are ideal for the ever-popular farm-to-table menu.”
Dessert Trends: Expect high drama desserts to create a stir, predicts Ken’s Creative Kitchen Marketing Coordinator, Jacqueline Matera: “More and more we are seeing couples shy away from the typical wedding cake and go for a more memorable dessert presentation. We continue to see dessert installations like doughnut walls and cupcake towers, pie and cookie tables…”
Premium Produce News
Did you know that fresh vegetables are trending? Indeed, presenting premium produce in a creative way can breathe new life into what has become standard food fare. Challenge your chefs to create new twists on classic dishes and add color and flavor to your customers’ favorite vegetable recipes. You can also plate the produce already appearing on your menu in new and interesting ways or consider importing out-of-season vegetables that customers will find hard to locate anywhere else.
Update Your Menu with New Twists, Flavors, Colors, and Textures
Now that you know that breaking old traditions and serving foods in exciting and fresh ways is an important trick of the trade, here are some more delicious tips on how to add color, texture, taste, and pizzazz to your menu. Your chefs can also upgrade your restaurant or catering business by using their imagination to treat guests to a one-of-kind, adventurous culinary experience. Best of all, it does not have to cost a lot of money or add much prep time, yet the return on your investment could be substantial.
Some novel ways to present and serve recipes include:
- Wake up traditional salads with exotic flavors, dramatic colors, such as a side serving of crunchy garlic breadsticks
- Transform your meat burgers into guilt-free, no-carb, low-fat turkey burgers served in a whole-wheat pita wrap
- Cater to the growing population of customers who adhere to special diets by adding vegetarian entrees, gluten-free side dishes, heart-healthy seafood, and dairy-free dessert options to your menu
- Upgrade your coffee and tea menu with trending specialty flavors and gourmet varieties
- Be playful with color, not only in the foods your kitchen staff prepares but also in the decor, ambience, and serving ware you provide
- Stand out by serving unusual portion sizes, from mini to maxi
- Keeping in mind that people ‘eat with their eyes,’ follow expert advice dished out by the Art of Plating, encouraging cooking professionals to craft the look of each dish for maximum visual effect. For example, overlap elements on a plate to create a scaling effect; splash colorful sauces on a white plate background; create ‘food wells’ to serve and accentuate salad dressings and condiments; fan foods out in an accordion fashion.
Food Plating Ideas
Now that we have the basics down about the importance of presentation, here are some current and trending plating ideas that are gaining popularity across the globe. Serving standard recipes on unconventional dishware can also make your offerings stand out. Some trending examples include mac’-and-cheese served on a skewer, soup shots, muffin-cup chicken pot pies, rum-‘n-coke test tubes, and bite-sized versions of just about anything.
If you want to create an iconic dish and achieve culinary notoriety, think ‘future’. Futuristic food presentations, see below, are not only eye-catching but also highly memorable and likely to be the ‘talk of the town’ at your next catered event.
Some other plating ideas include:
Free Form Plating: Treat plating like painting on a blank canvas. Consider sugar art, food strewn in haphazard fashions, watercolor florals, and even hand-painted designs and decorations. Anything goes!
Food on Wood: Some chefs are featuring their signature dishes on a background of wood or stone slats, using the effect to create a back-to-nature, rustic vibe.
Futuristic: For a head-turning spectacle and eye-catching futuristic designs, serve your foods directly on sleek and shiny serving ware made of metal, glass and steel or add shards of glass to your serving plates.
Edible Gold: Always looking for something new on the horizon, plating with edible gold fixings including gold leaves, glittery condiments, and 24-karat dustings are making an impression with those who enjoy epicurean delights.
In Savoy Summary
Visually stunning food is in, with the trend showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Fortunately, this presents an excellent opportunity for chefs, bakers, foodservice owners and culinary students to ‘strut their stuff’ and wow both customers and industry peers with their culinary creativity and skills. So, shoot for the stars, make your edible dreams a reality, and who knows? Images of your masterpieces may soon be going viral on social media sites, Instagram or Pinterest.