At the beginning, middle and end of the day, we’re all here for the food. The business is great, the people are wonderful, the event design is gorgeous, the service is flawless… but our business is centered around food. And as we all know, over the past decade, consumers of food and service have become way more educated about what they’re eating, why they’re eating it and, above all else, how it tastes. In restaurants, high-end dining has lost its stuffiness, and selling great street food is as desirable as eating somewhere that’s earned four stars. And all of this affects our customers– they know what they want when they go to dinner, and they know what they want to be served at a catered event. For better or worse, the term for that sort of customer is a Foodie, and they’re an ever-growing portion of our clientele.
This week’s New York magazine profiled an extreme (a pretty light word) case of Foodie-ism. Diane Chang, 27, spends most of her expendable income on going out to eat, making lists of restaurants and dishes she wants to try. She works in marketing, and she’s not connected to the food industry in any professional capacity, but she eats, and eats, and eats. She reads Yelp and critical reviews, disdaining both; she revels in being disappointed with hip restaurants; she seemingly exists to eat food and think about nothing else but the food.
After reading this article, as someone who writes about and thinks about food and catering for a living, I wanted to say, “Girl, get a life!” But I was also curious about her passion, and I realized that although this article may be a one-person trend story, there are aspects of her passion that I identify with. Now, I’m of Diane’s generation, and I’m friends with a pretty urbane crowd around the country, and I’m pretty sure none of my friends know anyone remotely like Diane– but a good number of us are really into getting a really good meal. On the weekends and when I travel, I like to eat well, and I research restaurants before I decide where to dine. My boyfriend and I watch old episodes of No Reservations if there’s nothing else on tv. I’m a sucker for foie gras and I think a medium-rare lamb lollipop is divine, and I’ve gotta say that I’m still looking forward to doing a bone luge. (A bone luge is where you down a shot through a hollowed-out marrow bone, after consuming the marrow. It’s a little bit stupid, ridiculously decadent, and laughs at all that is sacred about cuisine, but I’m sure still appeals to at least half of the Catersource audience.)
So, if I’m not a Foodie, then at least I’m excited by food. When I’m looking through menus on caterers’ websites, I often feel my stomach growling and I wish I’d packed something better for lunch. I’m super intrigued by what caterers are offering with cuisine– you’re on the cutting edge as much as Diane’s New York to-do list, but with catering, no one’s putting you on a checklist to be crossed off. Especially with younger people like Diane who might be involving you with their wedding, caterers are a one-shot deal. You’re involving the client with the planning of the menu, so how do you impress them while still remaining accessible? How do you make sure they recommend you to their Foodie friends and stay away from renting out the private room of a restaurant? Some Foodie trends, like gourmet comfort food, lend them better to catering than others, but eventually you may have a client who will ask for marrow bones for a wedding, followed by bottle service of Chartreuse.
And I also realize that part of this story is very specific to major metropolitan areas, but I know enough about American cuisine and I’ve watched enough Travel Channel to know that Foodie-ism has been seeping across America for a while, from people who are your customers, rather than just your staff.
Have you ever catered events for any extreme Foodies like Diane? What was the experience like? I imagine she would be a more challenging client than most, but that the end result would be pretty rewarding. Do you wish you had more Foodie clients, or is it a trend you wouldn’t mind seeing disappear? Let me know in the comments, or send me an email at email@example.com. I’d love to hear your stories and the resulting menus!