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Catersource + The Special Event 2024

This was our first time hanging out at Catersource + The Special Event at the Austin Convention Center where event producers, vendors, and caterers all descended to check out new trends and services that are lighting up the event world in 2024. Macadamias are all the rage; AI is coming; and sustainability is top of mind. We attended parties and panels, roamed the exhibitor floor, and mingled.

Day One was an exciting Food Tour of Austin. We knew Austin had grown…but wow! has it developed in the past five years! We visited a distillery, learned about Sotol, a spirit made from Chihuahuas desert plants commonly known as spoonflower, and had the best food of our visit at Bangers.

Day Two was filled with panels. Our favorite panels included Norma Charette White’s LEVERAGING YOUR AUTHENTICITY TO CLOSE SALES OPPORTUNITIES, Christie Osborne’s HUMANIZING AI: HARNESSING MARKET RESEARCH TO BOOST MARKETING PERFORMANCE and Dana Buchanan’s 20 WAYS YOU CAN ACCOMPLISH ZERO WASTE EVENTS where we gleaned many useful nuggets on how to get the feedback you need to improve your services while taking the emotion out of it, how to use Google trends to adjust our SEO and get ideas, and how to use AI through ChatGPT, Discord, and other apps to streamline business.

Over the following days attended many talks on improving sustainability and came away with a list of resources including: Cup Zero, Sustainable Events Forum, Muse (Members United for Sustainable Events), and MeetGreen. One of the cooler installations we saw at the trade show was a system implemented by the Austin Convention Center to deal with water bottle waste. You could pick up a bottle of water for a deposit, then return the bottle to a rack with unlimited refills. The center washes out the bottles and replenishes them continually throughout the event. Several exhibitors boasted bamboo and compostable products from cutlery to cups to clamshells and trash bags.

Day Two and Three we attended more conferences on marketing, zero waste, and awkward chatting while networking (so nice to know it isn’t just us), roamed the floor, chatting up various vendors from various event production companies and organizations.

Catersource + The Special Event advertised an instagram scavenger hunt to create photos and post, one of which was: post your favorite booths. Definitely the Atomic Booth (see below) was the most colorful, graphically interesting, and bold. We found the floor to be smaller and more sparse of vendors compared to other trade shows we attended, but it’s possible that the Art of Catering, which is completely separate, rounded out the offering of booths and we just did not see. Because The Art of Catering is completely separate, we also missed out on all the exquisite food concoctions and menus from the latter. But the Opening Night party and final ACE Gala boasted many different food vendors entertaining our palates.

The emphasis on Catersource is definitely food: what’s served, how it’s served, and by whom (staffing agencies like Indeed Flex and Qwick were present), so if you are in the events arena where food is of the utmost importance (think weddings and festivals), then this is the trade show for you.

PopUP CleanUP is an event cleaning company. We have worked food festivals with more than 10,000 people and private fundraising dinners offering scullery and bussing services. If you have a large scale event that needs professional services, fill out an

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