Catering for Change - by Nicole Sullivan
Hickory Food is a multi award-winning catering and events specialist, who cater for high-end private parties, bespoke corporate events and other prestigious gatherings across Scotland. Bruce Stevenson have worked with Hickory since 2009 and our Commercial Account Handler Nicky Fleming recently met with Hickory Account Manager, Nicole Sullivan. Nicole was happy to share her views on trends, expectations and evolution within the industry.
What is the corporate catering market like at present?
“The corporate catering market is more buoyant now than it has been for some years. A lot of companies are investing in building relationships and want to give back to their clients and staff. Hosting an event in the corporate world can say many things; congratulations, thank you, sorry to see you go etc. Getting your clients or employees out of the work environment can really boost their motivation, which can have really positive knock-on effects for a business. At Hickory, we have an abundance of amazing venues for our clients to choose from, with a lot of the unique venues around Edinburgh proving particularly popular”.
What are the current trends within corporate catering?
“The strongest trends are currently in health, vegan and fuel foods. People have now realised that what you put into your body fuels your mind and increases well-being. Nutrient packed foods that taste great, boost your mood and keep you pleasantly full are popular, particularly at conferences. Many clients are choosing to switch to plant-based menus whether it’s for sustainability, health reasons or simply animal welfare. Our menus have therefore adapted and grown with lots of exciting meat-free options and vegan meals. There are so many neglected foods that are packed with goodness but are sadly forgotten about. We try to make them the stars”.
“Our chefs spend a great deal of time catching up with trends around the world. Researching what is new and interesting allows our chefs to know exactly what is exciting for people. Often it is common sense - if a food lacks nutrients and benefits, why put it in your body? Of course, that doesn’t mean we don’t put a big spoonful of fresh butter in our mashed potatoes – we just believe in balance”.
What do Hickory clients expect?
“Our clients are looking for efficiency - they want to work with a company that knows what they are doing and have tried and tested ways of planning, creating and delivering. This means they can get on with enjoying the event, safe in the knowledge that everything is taken care of”.
“In private dining and in conferences, local sourcing and having an environmentally savvy approach are also key selling points. Our clients love to know we are doing our bit, and in working with us, so they are themselves. Personally, I love that clients are taking a keen interest in this now and it is music to my ears when someone mentions our ethical and environmental credentials. Up against strong competition, we are incredibly proud to have picked up an award for our commitment to the environment at The Scottish Environment Business Awards: The Vibes”.
“Here at Hickory, we work incredibly hard to ensure we are supporting our local suppliers. Now, that may sound like we are doing them a favour when in reality, they are doing us a favour! Not only do we have access to some amazing produce, it allows our chefs to meet the suppliers, visit where the food is made or grown and build a collaborative working relationship with them”.
You mentioned a balanced approach to nutrition. How does this go down with clients?
“We find at conferences, our fibre packed layered salad jars go down really well. A good mix of greens, carbs and spice make for an enjoyable lunch as you dig through each layer. With private or corporate dinners, we find that chatting about how to balance your meal enables greater satisfaction at the end of the event. When pulling together menus, we like to ensure that the starter, main and dessert work in harmony together. If you are having a lovely rich fillet of beef for your main, with delicious buttery fondant potato, it would be best to save some room by starting with a fresh, crisp and light starter. Chocolate is always a welcome feature within a dessert, however”.
How popular are private dining experiences?
“Private dining is still sought after but is positioned very much as a luxury product now. Private dining has evolved over the last year, with there being a keen interest in a more ‘family style’ dining approach - platters piled high with gorgeous meats and cheeses, melt in the mouth casseroles and fresh crunchy salads. I think clients have realised that dining is a great way to break the ice, get to know one another or simply catch up. Sharing style menus set a lovely tone at an event which live on in the minds of guests for years to come”.
Do things ever go wrong?
“As every industry event professional knows, regardless of our meticulous planning, not everything always goes to plan. The very nature of events means so many important elements coming together in perfect harmony. Our insurance with Bruce Stevenson protects our people, our customers and our venues against the ‘what if’s’. Fortunately, it’s not a policy we have to use often, but it’s a risk avoidance strategy that is definitely worth having”.
We'd like to thank Nicole for taking the time to speak to us. If you've enjoyed this article, read some more about Bruce Stevenson's involvement in the Food and Drink industry.