That is the verdict of two leading event caterers which have given their predictions for the year ahead and called on hospitality businesses to embrace the many opportunities the market is still providing by 'thinking outside the box' despite the difficult economic climate.
Giving his 2013 outlook, Neil Lodge, chief executive of Fosters Event Catering, admitted times remained tough but said there would still be money around for businesses looking to cater for a mass audience this year.
"We’re in a time when contract caterers have had to move away from the security of events due to the lack of discretionary spend and move into the more risky elements of cash catering," admitted Lodge.
“But by thinking innovatively and creatively, we’re able to use a combination of contract and cash catering to add value to clients and give ourselves the competitive edge. 2013 is going to continue to be challenging for us all but I remain optimistic about the future," he continued.
Bespoke food and drink group Rhubarb, which caters exclusively for a number of venues including the Royal Albert Hall and also operates restaurants, agreed the economic outlook would continue to dominate the market.
"The continuing uncertain economic forecast means that client’s budgets are going to remain tightly guarded and highly scrutinised in 2013," Gavin Goody, Rhubarb's head of marketing, said. "However, we are expecting a slight increase in the overall spend on dining and events throughout the year as positivity propagates and employment levels slowly grow."
To deal with the downturn, Rhubarb made the move early into fixed venue catering - an area it said would continue to grow for businesses that were able to handle the demand.
"Rhubarb continues to seek new opportunities in the fixed venue sector but at a prudent rate that enhances our events business. It can be dangerous for catering companies to overstretch themselves and focus on cash catering without a solid foundation," Goody warned.
Where Lodge and Goody agree is on the need for hospitality businesses to think creatively in order to get the benefit from banquet or event catering.
"We’ve been given an opportunity to really reflect on what we do and how we do it – this is an opportunity to bring revolutionary change to the industry," Lodge argued.
"As the restaurant scene in the UK has gained in popularity and quality our clients have increasingly requested these types of dishes in their event menus," Rhubarb's head of marketing added. "Popular desires are for 'Nobu' and 'experimental' cuisine, therefore we have created specific Asian and innovative menus based on these styles. We expect this to be a growing trend," he said.
Other trends which both firms expect to be popular and which hospitality businesses could take advantage of include the piqued interest in patriotism and British-themed food.
"UK pride has not diminished and will continue to be a strong theme in 2013," the Fosters Event Catering chief exec argued. "In 2013 the love of Queen and country will still dominate headlines with the anniversary of the Queen’s Coronation and of course the recent news of a new heir. At Fosters we’re currently developing our 2013 menus which have a strong focus on British Classics with a contemporary twist."
Rhubarb is similarly expecting to capitalise on patriotism with increased demand expected at traditional British sporting events such as the Henley Royal Regatta.
Trending: Canapé ideas for 2013
- Interaction - “In terms of innovation, themed canapé events are proving incredibly popular for events and customers are wanting to know and understand more about the ‘behind-the-scenes’ of the industry," Lodge said. "At Fosters we’ve created an interactive cocktail and canapé bar which customers can hire for events - guests literally couldn’t wait to have a go and test out their own culinary skills.”
- Colour - "From crossing cuisine boundaries to 'dude' food, we see this year being all about colour, vibrancy, pickling, preserving and curing," Goody said suggesting the following canapé options: "King crab, pomelo and vanilla oil on liquorice sticks and green tea noodles with crab, pink grapefruit and crisp Asian vegetables served with edible flowers which are making a comeback in 2013."
- Peruvian - "South American cuisine will continue to influence the food scene in 2013 with new ingredients such as cancha, the Peruvian popcorn gaining popularity," Goody said, suggesting: "grilled anticuchos skewer with Amarillo chilli chicken served with cancha."
- Japanese - "Japanese cuisine will become even more pronounced with on-trend ingredients at the moment including white miso paste, and for umami a sprinkle of furikake," Goody suggested. "The Japanese use furikake like salt & pepper adding a dash of umami to their dishes. This season’s hot ingredient is sudachi - a Japanese citrus fruit akin to yuzu. A delicious canapé suggestion including these ingredients is white miso glazed prawn with furikake."