Catering Services on the Rebound, Consumers Seeking Healthier Options

Though the recession brought a period of famine to the catering foodservice industry, the feast is at hand as growth initiated in 2010 will continue through 2012 due to aggressive expansion into the catering space by limited–service establishments, the return of business event–driven spending, higher wedding spending, and a moderately healthier consumer, according to "Catering Trends in U.S. Foodservice," by market research publisher Packaged Facts. 

"Self–standing catering operations dominate sales, but full–service restaurants, limited–service restaurants and snack and beverage concepts also contribute significantly. Driven by aggressive catering launches and expansions, our experts view restaurant–based catering as a growth area into 2012," says Don Montuori, publisher of Packaged Facts.

Catering revenue exceeded $14 billion in 2010 for an increase of 9% over a stormy 2009. Sales are expected to increase 9% and 7% in 2011 and 2012 respectively. Catering at foodservice and drinking places generated 75% of the catering market size, or $11 billion, in 2010, up 8%. Limited–service establishments are expected to lead catering sales growth through 2012 due to the segment’s ability to leverage moderate menu pricing structures, provide portable fare, and offer in-​house operations capabilities.

The recession brought declines in both corporate and consumer spending on catered events. However, Packaged Facts predicts that as the economy continues to recover, businesses will be eager to build revenues again and such eagerness may indirectly fuel the catering business through increased sales meetings, business travel, and convention attendance. Recovery will also spur consumers to entertain with more catered affairs. Weddings, graduations, births, funerals, and other milestones will return as catalysts for consumer spending on catering.

Meanwhile, consumers seeking healthier options have caused a significant change in catering, offering an advantage to companies that highlight the health benefits of their products. Key among these is Subway, which has long promoted the low–fat sub sandwiches on its menu as part of its marketing plans. Other caterers are also seeing a preference for healthier choices, with consumers opting for Greek yogurt, granola, and toasted nuts instead of bagels and donuts, for instance.

[Source:  "Catering Trends in U.S. Foodservice," Packaged Facts.  11 Jan. 2011.  Web.  18 Jan. 2011.]