'Mindsets are changing on meat': How event food is shaping up in 2023

Sustainability / 
Jim Chatwin head chef at the Royal College of Physicians’ Liverpool event venue, Spaces at The Spine Jim Chatwin Photo Credit: Image supplied

Jim Chatwin, head chef at the Royal College of Physicians’ Liverpool event venue, Spaces at The Spine, has more than 22 years' experience in professional kitchens – and has seen a lot of changes in event catering. Here he reveals his event menu trends for 2023...

In the last 10 years menus have become much more refined as not only event attendees but people in general have started to be more interested in eating healthy meals and good quality produce.

We have moved away from large dishes full of ‘wet meals’ such as rich curries and chicken sauce dishes as we have found that delegates expect a more refined offer from their event menus.

Today we create menus in a way that guests feel fuelled by default, instead of sluggish, and we must ensure each allergy and dietary requirement is carefully planned for. Ten years ago there weren’t as many options available if you were vegan or vegetarian; today diners are choosing vegan or vegetarian dishes even if they don’t follow those diets exclusively, but simply because they appeal to them or because they want to minimise their impact on the environment.

Our 2022 menus prioritised vegan, vegetarian and plant-based dishes by putting them at the very top, which isn’t something you would have even considered in the last decade.


Our plant-based and healthy options were up by 35 per cent in 2022. This is indicative of our clients, many of whom are medically minded and conscious of what their delegates fuel themselves with. Yet also, I believe 20 per cent of people chose those menus because they offered something different.

For example, our vegetarian cobbler which is also gluten free and contains applewood smoked cheddar is incredibly popular as are our sticky soya and chilli jackfruit buns. I don't think those that choose these options do so necessarily because they are vegetarian. A big trend we are seeing is people having one vegan day per week or one meal a day that is vegan purely because they don’t fancy eating meat or are applying a flexitarian approach to their diet.

Changing mindsets on meat

I think we will always see meat on menus, but the problem is its rising cost. Each week when I am ordering our ingredients, I can see the prices jumping up 10, 15, 20, 30 pence and sometimes even a pound on certain items. And that’s set to continue unfortunately. So we need to look at using smaller portions of meat and changing our mindsets about how our dishes are proportioned.

Meat always used to form the main part of the dish with a carb and a vegetable on the side. Perhaps in the future we will see vegetables being the main part of the dish with some meat and carbs on the side. This will certainly push the cost of the dish down and be a healthier option.

In addition to this, diners are becoming increasingly conscious of the impact eating meat has on the planet and, as shown by the trends we recorded at our venue in 2022. Non-vegetarian and non-vegan consumers might continue to alternate meat to plant-based options as the latter are becoming more and more attractive and varied.

Catering for allergies

We are dealing with more allergies now than ever before, but we are also much more prepared than ever before. Most of the time we know which allergies we need to cater for two weeks in advance, which gives us lots of time to prepare. I always get slightly concerned when there is an event and there are no allergens recorded, yet on the day you find out a delegate is allergic to strawberries or onions, for example. This happened to me recently at an event where the main dish was curry. A delegate said they are allergic to onions, which are in the same family as garlic, so I had to quickly come up with a different recipe. It can be tricky, but if you are prepared and know your allergens, it helps.

Shaping the future

As diners become more health-conscious and environmentally-minded, it will be important for venues to stay ahead of the curve and offer options that reflect these values. By offering vegan and vegetarian dishes, less meat overall, and healthy sustainable food, you'll be able to cater to a wide range of dietary needs while still providing delicious and satisfying meals. And by being aware of allergens and accommodating them, you'll ensure that everyone can enjoy your food without fear. So, if you're looking to stay ahead of the game in 2023, keep these trends in mind.

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