St. Louis-based Butler’s Pantry, a second-generation business founded in 1966, provides innovative and creative catering services for corporate functions, social events, NFP galas and weddings of all sizes. Located in Lafayette Square, Palladium Saint Louis is Butler’s Pantry’s premier event venue, accommodating up to 400 seated or 700 standing. A new addition in 2015, Joule, is Butler’s Pantry’s intimate event venue that is located on the same campus as Palladium Saint Louis.
Richard Nix Jr., president of Butler’s Pantry, says that all sectors are growing and clients want unique products. Over the past three years, Butler’s Pantry has experienced substantial growth of about 15 percent per year, he adds.
“Cookies, brownies and pick-up pastries will not cut it anymore,” Nix says. “Clients want wow-pop-visual, especially with the end of the meal. In 2016, petite sweets continue to be a popular wedding request, as brides and grooms request a variety of sweets as an alternative to the wedding cake.”
The bottom line? “Be open to listening, exploring and creating what your client wants,” the Butler’s Pantry president says.
Nix points out one unique trend in catering is what he calls “ala minute” baking. “Over the holidays, we provided several in-home experiences where our bakery team made dessert to order from mixing, rolling out, cutting and baking gingerbread people and allowing guests to decorate them right out of the oven, or to churning ice cream in home, or to flambé/Brule custards and meringue.”
Patrons are finding all kinds of interesting ways to entertain, he says, but no matter what type of meal service they plan they want it to be stimulating. At Butler’s Pantry, Nix says they have noticed a trend in stationed events over the last couple of years and expect to see that trend continue in 2016.
“Stationed dining allows a couple to showcase a wide variety of menu options to tell their story,” he says. “From hometown favorites and cultural dishes, guests are treated to menu items that are unique to the couple.”
Social and corporate events, Nix adds, can also benefit from stationed dining because they can offer food that pleases everyone, from vegetarian to cultural dishes.
Vegetarian and gluten-free are the top dietary recommendations made by caterers surveyed in the 2015 report by the ICA. According to Nix, dietary restrictions are an important development that the catering industry must watch and respond to. “Twenty years ago, we might serve a dinner for 500 and provide five vegetarian meals. Today, that same 500-person meal could be served seven different ways to accommodate dietary requests.”
Gluten-free is still the most requested specialty meal at Butler’s Pantry, he says, closely followed by dairy free and nut allergies. Butler’s Pantry also created vegetarian tasting menus that are available for catering because Nix believes that those will continue to be a healthy option requested in 2016.
As for weddings, Nix says his best guess is that 30 percent to 40 percent of brides and grooms now want to do something in place of or in conjunction with their traditional wedding cake. “The wedding dessert buffet has gone from assorted candies to cupcakes to pies to Italian pastry to donuts.”
Another unique way that couples are incorporating desserts into their wedding is to provide a to-go bag for guests. As guests leave the wedding, they receive a bag full of cookies, a slice of cake, brownies or cheesecake. “I think you get the point,” Nix says. “The sky is the limit when it comes to finishing a meal and making a final impression.”
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